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How to Eat Clean for Beginners
Everyone wants to be healthy. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have the endless energy and of a toddler and the motivation to follow your passions? This is achievable, and one of the most important thing to understand is that what we fuel our body with matters. Anyone can adopt a clean eating lifestyle, and the best part is you DON’T need to feel deprived. Let me explain how to eat clean for beginners.
What is Clean Eating
Clean Eating is a series of lifestyle choices regarding what you eat. Its the simple concept to how you approach food, what you choose to eat along with how you prepare it. The basic principal involves choosing whole foods that are closer to nature instead of processed in a factory.
Foods to Eat More Of
- Fruits and Veggies – especially leafy greens
- Whole Unprocessed Grains like quinoa, amaranth, brown rice etc
- Legumes / Beans
- Healthy Fats – like olive oil, avocados
- Nuts and Seeds
Why Eat Clean
The reality is that our food supply is full of ultra processed foods. Lots of man-made chemicals, pesticides, and genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) that don’t support our bodies. When you give your body nutrients from whole unprocessed foods that are closer to nature then it will being to work optimally, the way it is supposed to.
Do you have intense cravings for junk food and think that you can never give it up? Unfortunately this is intentional by food manufactures. Food companies have special scientists who’s ONLY job is to come up with the perfect flavor and texture of addicting salt or sugar that will keep you coming back to buy more. The consequence is that these foods are harming our health and keeping us from reaching our potential.
If you are trying to lose weight then think about it this way. You can’t out-exercise a bad diet. BUT once you start giving your body the nutrients and fuel that makes it work properly you will have more energy that you can spend at the gym (or doing other kinds of exercise).
Clean Eating basics
What are the Rules of clean eating
- First thing to understand is that its NOT about rules.
- There are no calorie restrictions or other never do rules.
- Clean Eating is more about getting creative and enjoying food.
- Its about feeling good about what you put into your body.
When it comes to the approach, take this quiz first.
- If you are easily addicted to foods then going cold turkey on quitting the junk food might be a better approach.
- Otherwise its possible to gradually push out the bad stuff as you eat more good stuff.
Cook Your Own food
Face it, there is no way around it. You will have to get in the kitchen and cook. For some this may sound extremely intimidating, but don’t worry I’ll share bunch of tips further down to make feel much more manageable. Fast food and conveniently packaged foods are full of ingredients we can’t control, so you are just going to have to get in the kitchen at least a few hours a week.
Eat Seasonal & Local
One of the very best ways to get lots of nutrients is to eat seasonally and locally as much as possible.
We are NOT going to give up junk food and replace it with the same boring chicken salad for dinner everyday. Get creative! If you have a favorite dish then go look up a healthier version and make it yourself! Have a craving for some brownies? Go bake some!
Don’t get into a rut for what to eat for dinner. Google is your best friend, you can find tons of delicious “clean eating” recipes. If you like books better than check out some cookbooks from the library or go to the bookstore and pickup some interesting cookbooks.
Be Mindful of Drinks
- Keep hydrated with Water.
- I suggest avoiding both tap water and plastic bottled water. We use AquaTru
- Don’t drink you calories – stop drinking of sodas and juices.
How to Begin Clean Eating
Read Food Labels
One of the most important things we can do when trying to eat healthy is to Read Food Labels. Once we’ve gotten into the habit of looking at the food labels we need to decipher them. I will admit that it can be quite overwhelming when you start out, but I’ve got you covered.
Ask yourself these simple questions every time you buy packaged food with a label on it
- How many ingredients does it have?
- Can you recognize the ingredients?
- Would you cook with these ingredients in your kitchen?
- Are there claims on front of the package? Sometimes these are just marketing tactics to make you think something is healthier than it really is.
- The shorter and more simple ingredient list the better.
- The more ingredients the more processed and further from nature the food is.
- Any long and confusing ingredients are likely chemicals used to make the food taste better, look better or have a more palatable texture.
- Certain terms like “natural” and other marketing hypes like “sugar-free”, “low fat”, “high fiber” are just marketing tactics and shouldn’t be taken to mean that the product is healthy or good for you.
- Note these ingredients banned in Europe and other countries.
- The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Additives. The research shows these 12 to be the top worst ingredients that we should avoid.
The Pantry Principle: how to read the label and understand what’s really in your food
Clean your Pantry
You really have two options when it comes to stocking your pantry with “clean” foods.
- When something runs out, replace it with a better version.
- Toss out everything (donate as much as you can to food pantries and neighbors/friends) and start from scratch
There isn’t any right answer so do whatever is right for you and your family.
Avoid the following:
- Anything with lots of ingredients you can’t pronounce
- High fructose corn syrup and anything else masquerading as ‘added sugar’
- Trans fats. Don’t use shortening or canola oil
- Processed Breakfast Cereal loaded with pesticides.
- “artificial” and “natural” flavors. Natural flavors are not made in nature, they are still manufactured in a plant
- Artificial Colors – these are banned in Europe and can affect behavior.
- BHA, BHT, EDTA, Sodium Benzoate, Nitrates, Nitrites and Monosodium Glutamate.
Restock with the following:
- Healthy oils like olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, sesame oil etc.
- Quality Dark Chocolate
- Nuts, seeds and dried fruits (raw almonds, cashwers, walmnuts pumpkin etc)
- Lentils and dried beans
- Whole grains like quinioa, spelt, barley, bulgar, brown rice.
- Dried spices and fresh herbs.
- High Quality Breads
Cold & Frozen
- Whole Organic Milk (or nut milks like almond, hemp milk etc)
- Pasture raised eggs
- Pasture raised meats (butcher box is an excellent option)
- Fresh seasonal produce including lettuce, carotts, celery, root veggies, onions, garlic, mushrooms)
- Organic Frozen vegetables (frozen has been shown to contain more nutrients since they are frozen right after harvest)
Make a Menu Plan
Menu Planning is super important. Do NOT skip this step or you might set yourself up for failure.
- Write a list of at least 5 recipes. If you don’t already have 4-5 recipes in mind then go find some on google or in a cookbook.
- Write down all the ingredients you need as well as supplies for breakfasts and snacks.
- Go shopping.
- Put your weekly menu somewhere visible so you will remember what you planned.
This is a lifesaver. There are so many options to make eating clean easier.
Take 1 hour on the weekend and chop and prep all your produce and other ingredients. For example, if you plan on having salads then wash and dry the lettuce and store in a container in the fridge with a paper towel. Chop up any veggies and store those in separate containers. Not having salads, that’s fine too. You can chop onions, peppers, mushrooms meat and other items on the weekend so on the weekday all you need to do is warm up a saute pan, throw in the chopped veggies and you’ve got yourself a stir fry.
Other things you can prepare on the weekends include grilling/baking some chicken or other protein, cooking a batch of brown rice or other healthy grain.
Know that you’re planning on serving dinner with some rice or quinoa a few times this week? Go ahead and cook enough on the weekend and store it in the fridge. On cooking night all you need to do is reheat or add to your dish.
Making a soup or a casserole? Double or triple the recipe and freeze the extra in single serving containers. Boom – you’ve got a quick lunch for another day or a dinner to defrost for an off night. Consider that you are already using the pan and all of the dishes to cook this meal anyway. If you double or tripling the recipe its not much more work and next time you have this same dish you won’t need to dirty up any dishes or do the work slaving by the stove. Note – I would save batch cooking for recipes that you absolutely know that you love and want to eat often.
If you haven’t heard of freezer meals then you might be living in a hole. This was my lifesaver when I had 2 small kids and a 40 hour job. I had my mom watch the kids and I made about 20 meals and put them in the freezer. On the weekdays we added the contents of the freezer bag to the slow cooker and let it cook for 6-8 hours. Then I would come home to a completely cooked and ready dinner!
Here are a few of my absolute favorite resources:
The Family Freezer
Once a Month Meals
Dd you know, you can load up a bunch of mason jars with salads, throw them in the fridge and then enjoy fresh salads all week? YES. Its very simple and takes only a few hours on the weekend. Once you know what you want in your salad
- Add Dressing to the bottom of the jar
- Add grains, proteins and other chunky foods
- Add fixings like nuts, raisins, cheese etc
- Add the lettuce
- Add a small wad of paper towel for the moisture level
- ENJOY tomorrow or within a few days.
18 Mason Jar Salads That Make Perfect Healthy Lunches
Phew, are you overwhelmed yet? Hopefully I was thorough enough to give you the idea that “Clean Eating” is not that hard. There aren’t any hard rules to follow, the “junk food police” aren’t going to come knocking on your door if you eat a bit of ice cream. Instead focus on getting in the kitchen and exercise that creative brain power of yours. Its all up to you and there is no limit to the amount of inspiration recipes and ideas out there. Here’s to your improved health after learning how to eat clean for beginners!