Clean Eating: Part One

I’ve been asked by several people to give a more detailed look at how I go about clean eating. Short backstory: In February I decided I really needed to get my consumption of sugar under control because it was controlling me. I have always been a yo-yo dieter, and I wanted to nip that in the bud once and for all. A little more backstory: I had back surgery last fall, and since that time my mindset about my body has done a 180 degree turn. Prior to my surgery, I used to look in the mirror and only see the things about myself I wasn’t happy with… postpartum softness, legs that could look a little more toned, imaginary underarm cellulite. Even as you’re reading, you are probably visualizing those things about your body you don’t “like”. Let me tell you there is nothing like the relief of chronic, debilitating pain to transform your thinking… When I look in the mirror these days, I see nothing but a strong(er) woman who’s lived a bit of life and is so THANKFUL to be able to walk, run, lift, bend, and dance. It has been relatively easy to change my way of eating because:

I’m doing it because I love me, not because I hate me.

Taking care of myself by how I eat and stay active is a joy because I am grateful for my body. I can’t do every. single. thing I used to do before having kids or surgery, but I am increasingly aware of what I can do and how my food choices make me feel.

I could talk to you about this for hours. But to make this long story short (and get to some great recipes), food and exercise are now the opposite of punishment. I am paying attention because it makes me feel good. Eating clean is something I enjoy because the pressure of “trying to fix” is gone. It is simply about listening to what my body likes and doesn’t like. Yes, I’ve lost weight and my clothes fit better… which was the original goal. But this is becoming a lifestyle and way of thinking that is so much bigger than weight loss.

Let’s get down to it… What I eat. I’m one for simplicity and you will see that I eat a lot of the same ingredients – just combined in different ways. I focus on lean meats, vegetables, fruit, and as few processed ingredients as possible. Then the goal becomes very clear:

Make the healthiest choice 95% of the time.


Prime example: When my husband wants Chinese takeout, I just skip the sauce and ask for steamed veggies and plain chicken. A slice of melted cheese (because I still love dairy) and some home ingredients make this a full, delicious lunch.

I don’t eat perfectly all the time. At the beach this past weekend, I ate sour cream doughnuts and enjoyed every. single. bite. But, I am not bound by sugar cravings and snacking like I used to be… and for those reasons, I can still indulge in special treats!

I have talked about this a lot on my Instastories, but I do a lot of meal prep at the beginning of the week. It helps me make good decisions in those spur of the moment choices when it would be tempting to pick up something processed.


I roast a lot of vegetables. This is a GREAT tutorial from my friend Lindsay about roasting pretty much any vegetable. I used EVOO, S/P, and cinnamon for the sweet potatoes; EVOO, S/P, and garlic powder for the brussels, and just EVOO + salt for the mushrooms. Sliced fruit is always part of my prep.

The no-sugar-added oatmeal bite are for the kids… Although not gluten-free, they are a great way for the kiddos to snack. Mix 2 cups of whole grain oats, 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce, 1 cup natural nut butter (whatever kind you like), 1 tsp vanilla extract, and one beaten egg to hold it all together. Scoop by the tablespoon on a pan lined with parchment paper, and bake for 10-12 mins at 375 degrees.


I do a lot of salads for lunch. Focus on whole ingredients and then just go crazy mixing and matching!


A few things you can use to spice up your normal salad: Sesame seeds, hemp seeds, slivered almonds, raw Brussel sprouts in place of lettuce, heirloom tomato mixes, fresh fruit, red cabbage, Everything But the Bagel seasoning from Trader Joe’s, and specialty cheeses like feta or goat cheese.


I use this recipe for homemade, clean balsamic vinaigrette a lot! Very easy and stores well in a jar in the fridge. The clean chicken salad you see above in the third picture can be found here.

The last thing I’ll share for this post is a blackened salmon Caesar salad my family loves! IMG_4625

This clean Caesar dressing is AMAZING. We eat a lot of salmon for dinner, and this is such a great recipe to have in your back pocket. I’ll share a few more salmon recipes as we move through this little clean-eating series!

Thanks for following along! If you’re on Instagram, I’d love to see what you’re meal-prepping and cooking. Use the hashtag #refiningcotten, and don’t forget to stay tuned to Instastories for real-time recipes put to work!


3 thoughts on “Clean Eating: Part One

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