I recently got sent this question on my Tumblr blog:
"I'm going back to college next week and I wanted for advice on eating healthy and also meal prep? Because I know I'll be busy this year but I still want to eat well and stay away from processed foods!"
And I get asked variations of this question pretty often... with all the information (and misinformation) out there, trying to eat healthier can feel like
There’s a billionty different diets out there, because there are a billionty people who want your money. The more confusing and overwhelming they can make nutrition seem, the easier it is for an author to convince people that they need to buy his or her book/meal plan... But really there are just 3 basic rules for eating clean (courtesy of Michael Pollan):
1. Eat Food
This means veggies, fruits, lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains. When you go food shopping, stick to the perimeter of the store - this is where they keep all the refrigerated stuff that can’t sit on shelves for 3 years… So that means it’s real food. Real food has a short ingredient list, and all of them are pronouncable.
Instead of chips, enjoy sliced crunchy veggies with some nut butter or hummus to dip them in. Instead of soda, drink sparkling water with a splash of juice (and literally read the the ingredient lists of everything because even water can have added aspartame/artificial flavors). Greek yogurt is also a fantastic portable snack that’s high in protein, as long as it doesn't have artificial ingredients (Trader Joe’s, Chobani, and Fage are all clean brands I know off-hand). Beans are really cheap sources of protein and fiber, and frozen veggies are also cheap and packed with nutrition. As far as grains go, keep it whole grain as much as possible. Look for "100% Whole Wheat" or "100% Whole Grain" on your pasta, breads, etc... And stuff like oatmeal and quinoa counts too!
2. Not Too Much
Honestly the most important thing here is to stay tuned into your body during and after eating. If you find yourself often eating until you feel uncomfortably full, slow down. Even in the chaos of being a student, try to take time to enjoy your food.
3. Mostly Plants
Plants are so freaking good for you, and naturally have flavor. Literally the only reason we’re not all coo-coo for cucumbers or growling about how great strawberries are is marketing. There’s no money put into advertising for veggies or fruits, so we forget that they’re real food with real flavor. If you approach every meal with the mindset of adding as many colors (and therefore as many veggies and fruits) as possible, your meals will be extra tasty and clean eating will quickly feel very easy.
In terms of food prep, I personally don’t do much. I’m a ridiculously lazy cook, so everything I make only involves chopping and throwing in a blender, a pot, or a bowl. I make protein shakes with fruit, protein powder, and greek yogurt. I make veggie soups with chicken broth, toasted sesame oil (olive oil works too), beans, and whatever veggies I have in the fridge. And I make a fricking ton of salad. About twice a week I'll chop up a cornucopia of fresh veggies and fruits in a giant bowl. Then I just throw a portion of that in my lunch container, plus some form of protein (chicken, beans, salmon, etc), and I’m good to go.
So basically, eat the rainbow and enjoy your food.