Tag Archives: Clean Eating

Clean Eating: The Basics

Since my big declaration on Thursday included a guideline that I would eat two clean meals per day / 5 times per week, I thought it would be good to write about clean eating.  When I started researching the various opinions about clean eating for this post, I was surprised to see there are so many different opinions on the subject.  How can so many people differ on a topic that seems so simple?

What I actually found is the experts differ on strategy, but not on these basic principles:

  • Say no to:
    • Refined sugar
    • Added Sodium
    • Processed foods
  • Say yes to:
    • Lean Protein
    • Complex carbohydrates, like brown rice, oatmeal, whole-grain pasta
    • Fresh fruits and veggies
    • Healthy Fats
  • Don’t go more than 4-5 hours without eating (some say 3 hours, some say 4-5 hours but none of them believe it is healthy to go beyond that)
  • Stay within your daily nutrition quota for fat, fiber, carbs, sugar, sodium and protein (thank you, Mayo Clinic!)
  • The benefits of clean eating are: more stable blood sugar (say good-bye to the afternoon crash!), healthier skin and teeth, increased energy, and healthy weight (with controlled portions, of course)

The most popular clean eating strategy seems to be The Eat-Clean Diet by Tosca Reno.   The principles of this diet are:

  • Eat 5-6 small meals per day
  • Eat breakfast every day
  • Lean protein plus complex carbohydrate at every meal
  • Eat enough healthy fats
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Carry a cooler packed with clean eats
  • Depend on fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for complex carbohydrates
  • Stick to proper portion sizes

Most of these rules are basic for anyone trying to lose weight or be healthy (especially water and breakfast!), but it is still overwhelming to start a lifestyle change with a set of rules.  The thought of carrying a cooler with me everywhere I went was a deal breaker for me when I bought this book last year (however, the book does have a lot of good information and meal recommendations).

The good news is what I mentioned earlier in my post is really what clean eating is about – focusing on unprocessed foods and getting your daily nutritional needs taken care of.  There are no strict guidelines on how often you have to eat or pairing certain foods together.   I am a person of moderation, which is why I try to eat most meals clean but not all of them.  Sometimes I will get into a pinch and need something quick or my travel schedule will restrict my options (or sometimes I just want a bagel or something nice and sugary).

When I first started learning about clean eating, it sounded like chicken and vegetables every night.  Thanks to the two cookbooks from Clean Eating magazine, that is not the case for me!  (no, they aren’t paying me to say that – I just love the cookbooks THAT much!).  The Gracious Pantry also has a very good menu plan.  If you check it out, you will see there are actually a lot of great foods you can eat!

Why am I relying on Weight Watchers to shed those last 15 pounds if clean eating is so wonderful?  Portion control is what I struggle with the most.  WW forces me to measure my portions.  If I simply relied on eating unprocessed foods, I would be polishing off a bunch of homemade tortilla chips with a bowl of guacamole every night.

Well, enough heavy topics for the weekend!  Have a great Saturday! I am headed to the Juvenile Diabetes walk at the Mall of America this morning.

What is your experience or opinion of clean eating?  Do you have any exciting plans for the weekend?

(disclaimer: I am not a doctor or nutritionist.  This post represents my interpretation of the information I’ve gathered.  You should consult with a doctor if you have health concerns).

Salmon Patties with Sauteed Squash & Zucchini

This is what tonight’s dinner looked like in the cookbook:

This was my outcome:

Sooooo….. not my most successful culinary attempt.  It still tasted pretty good but I included a few suggestions in the recipe below that I think will ensure a more successful attempt for anyone else.  :-)

(The musical pairing with tonight’s cooking routine was Brandi Carlile.  A nice dose of Mumford & Sons or Fine Frenzy might also go well with this dish.)

Salmon Patties with Sauteed Squash & Zucchini.  Serves 4.  Hands-on time: 30 min.  Total time: 30 min.

Nutrients per serving (1 patty and 3/4 cup vegetables): Calories 210. Total Fat 4.5g. Sat Fat 0.5g, Carbs 30g, Fiber 6g. Sugars 6g. Protein 16g. Sodium 340mg. Cholesterol 25mg.


  • 1 medium yellow onion, half diced and half thinly sliced, divided
  • 1 (6-oz) can salmon packed in water, without bones or skin, drained.  I used tuna instead of salmon since neither of us are big fans of salmon.
  • 2 egg whites, whisked.  I used Egg Beaters egg whites for convenience.
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat bread crumbs
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and grated.  I used baby carrots since I got them on sale and also bring them as a snack to work.
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro, divided.  1 tbsp will go into the patties and 1 tbsp will go with the sauteed vegetables.  
  • Olive Oil cooking spray
  • 2 medium yellow summer squash, thinly sliced, or 12 baby patty pan squash, cut in half
  • 1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • Additional fresh herbs or green onion curls for garnish (optional).  I was too lazy to do this and didn’t miss the garnishes.  

STEP ONE:  In a large bowl, mix together diced onions, salmon, egg whites, mustard, bread crumbs, carrot and one tablespoon cilantro.  Using your hands, form mixture into four large patties, each about four to five inches in diameter.  I made four patties and think they would have cooked better if I had made them smaller and made five patties.

STEP TWO:  Heat a large nonstock or cast-iron pan over medium-high heat for one minute.  Mist with cooking spray.  Place all four patties in pan and cook for two to three minutes on each side or until lightly browned.  Remove patties from pan and set aside.  We set ours on the table while we cooked the vegetables and they were cold by the time we ate them.  I would recommend putting them in the oven on a low heat to keep them warm while the vegetables are cooking, or cook the vegetables in a separate pan at the same time.  The second suggestion would also be a time saver :-)

STEP THREE:  Wipe out same large nonstick or cast-iron pan with paper towels, then heat over medium-high heat for one minute.  Mist with cooking spray again.  Add squash, zucchini, and thinly sliced onions.  Saute for about two minutes, then add one tablespoon water.  (The water will help steam the vegetables and cook them more thoroughly.)  Cook for another five minutes or until squash and zucchini are tender and onion is translucent.  When vegetables are just finished cooking, add remaining tablespoon cilantro and mix.  Remove from heat.  Season with salt and pepper.

STEP FOUR:  Serve one patty with three-quarters of a cup vegetables.

The Clean Eating cookbook has additional suggestions that go with each recipe.  I skipped over it when I put my grocery list together and wish I would have paid closer attention because it sounds so good:

Cookbook suggestion: Eat these delicious patties unadorned, or dress them up with a simple fruit sauce.  Combine one-quarter cup no-sugar added fruit preserves (strawberry or raspberry works best) with one-quarter cup water.  Cook preserves in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until thickened and warm.  Remove from heat and drizzle over patties.  Yum, why didn’t I see that earlier?  

Roasted Eggplant & Kale Penne

Today was one of those days where the last thing I wanted to do after work was cook.  Luckily, Matt took control of dinner prep tonight because this dish was worth it!  Ok, I haven’t had a dish from Clean Eating that hasn’t been delicious so I feel like that is just stating the obvious.

(yes, we went overboard on the kale but I don’t regret it)

The dish itself was really good, but I wasn’t a fan of the prep.  The cooking times listed in the recipe were true (about 30 minutes), but it is the type of dish where parts are prepared separately and mixed together at the end.  We have a small kitchen and our counter space is limited so this can test our patience with each other (especially toward the end of the work week!).  Overall, the meal was still worth the dirty dishes.

I was, however, a big fan of the leftovers!  Hooray for lunch tomorrow and Saturday!  By the way, in case you’re wondering (and even if you aren’t), Snapware is great.

Roasted Eggplant & Kale Penne (with toasted pine nuts & feta).  Serves 6.  Hands-on time: 30 min.  Total time: 30 min.

Nutrients per serving: Calories 215, Total Fat 8g, Sat. Fat 1g, Carb 34g, Fiber 7g, Sugars 2g, Protein 8g, Sodium 216mg, Cholesterol 1.7mg


  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • 1 eggplant, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil, divided
  • Sea Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 8oz whole wheat penned (we used a low carb white pasta because it is what we had in our cupboard)
  • 1 bunch kale, stalks removed
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (time saver: use a garlic press)
  • 2 oz reduced-fat feta cheese
  • 1 tbsp torn fresh oregano leaves (we didn’t use fresh and it still tasted good)

STEP ZERO: I am adding this in because we always end up spending more time on pasta dishes than expected because we forget this step.  Start boiling your water now!

STEP ONE: Preheat oven to 400F.  Spread pine nuts on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, careful not to burn (we slightly burned ours and they still tasted great!), three minutes.  Remove from baking sheet and set aside.

STEP TWO: Drizzle eggplant with one tbsp oil and season with salt and black pepper.  Toss to combine.  Spread eggplant out in a single layer.  Roast in oven at 400F, stirring once, until soft and starting to brown, about 15 minutes.

STEP THREE: Meanwhile, cook penne according to package directions, until tender but firm.  Reserve half-cup cooking water and drain pasta.

STEP FOUR: Chop kale roughly.  Heat remaining tsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add crushed red pepper and garlic and cook for one minute.  Using tongs, fold in kale and season with salt and black pepper.  Add one tbsp water and cook, stirring occasionally, until kale wilts and becomes soft, about three minutes.

STEP FIVE:  In a large serving bowl, combine penne, eggplant, kale, pine nuts and quarter-cup reserved cooking water, adding more if necessary.  Top with feta and oregano and serve.

Let me know what you think if you cook this meal!

Quesadilla with homemade green salsa (30 min total time)

I have been in love with the Clean Eating cookbooks since I received the first edition from my best friend, Colleen, as a Christmas gift.  I bought the second edition two weeks later AND subscribed to the magazine.  ”In love”, “obsessed”… same thing.

Matt and I made the Quesadillas with Green Salsa from Clean Eating 2 in January.  The picture on my facebook page received so many comments I thought it would be an appropriate first recipe to share on Fitscally Responsible.  I add in commentary where I think the recipe could be improved for taste or for speed.  Enjoy!

Deliciousness topped with greek yogurt & homemade salsa

Turkey Quesadillas with Green Salsa (we used Chicken instead).  Serves 2. Hands-on time: 25 min. Total Time: 30 min.

Nutrients per serving (1 quesadilla and 1/3 cup salsa, without greek yogurt):  Calories 314, Total Fat 6g, Sat Fat 1.5g, Carbs 40g, Fiber 4g, Sugars 8g, Protein 21g, Sodium 469mg, Cholesterol 20mg


  • 10 oz tomatillos (4 to 6), husked and rinsed.  If you’re like me and have no idea where to locate these in the grocery store, they are green and can be found in the fresh veggies section. 
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, halved lengthwise and seeded.  My suggestion would be to leave the seeds in to add more taste to the salsa but take them out if you’re going to add jalapenos to the quesadilla.  Seeds = more kick!
  • 1/4 white onion
  • 15 small tender sprigs of fresh cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • fine sea salt, to taste
  • 2 whole-wheat tortillas (9 or 10 inches each)
  • 2 oz shredded low-fat Colby and Monterey Jack cheese blend or Mexican cheese blend (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 oz cooked skinless turkey breast, shredded (about 1/2 cup).  We used chicken.  Tip to make adding meat quick: add canned Chicken in water; Costco’s Kirkland brand is pretty good.
  • Additional ingredients we added: sliced red & yellow bell peppers, greek yogurt and jalapenos inside the quesadilla.

STEP ONE: In a medium saucepan, bring 3 cups water to a boil over medium-high heat.  Add tomatillos and cook for 5 minutes.  Add jalapeno and cook until tomatillos and jalapeno are tender, about 2 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer mixture to a blender.  Add 1/4 cup cooking liquid (the water used to cook the tomatillo & jalapeno), onion, cilantro and garlic and puree until smooth.  Season with salt and set mixture aside to cool.

STEP TWO:  Arrange tortillas on a work surface.  Sprinkle cheese on half of each tortilla, leaving a 1-inch border at the edges.  Arrange turkey over top, dividing evenly, then fold tortilla half over filling.  This is what my quesadillas looked like before I folded them (yes, it was a little fat after I folded it!):

STEP THREE:  In a large nonstick skillet, cook quesadillas over medium heat, covered, until golden brown on the bottoms, 3 to 4 minutes.  Carefully turn over and cook, uncovered, until golden brown and cheese is melted, 2 to 3 minutes.

STEP FOUR: Serve with salsa.  I added plain nonfat greek yogurt on top as a sour cream substitute, which I HIGHLY recommend.  I highly recommend greek yogurt as a sour cream substitute in most cases :)

Please let me know what you think and leave any suggestions in the comments!