How to Eat Clean for Beginners
Everyone wants to be healthy. How amazing would it be to have the endless energy of a toddler and the motivation to follow your passions? This is achievable! First it’s important understand 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. Lets get to explaining what clean eating is and tips that even a beginner can follow.
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What is Clean Eating
Clean Eating is a series of lifestyle choices regarding what you eat. It is how you approach food, what you choose to eat and how you prepare food.
An important piece is choosing whole foods. Whole foods are any food that can be found in nature and not created in a factory.
Eat Whole Foods
- 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
Focus on Whole Foods
Why Eat Clean
The reality is that our food supply is full of ultra processed foods. Food produced in factories are created using man-made chemicals and crops sprayed with pesticides. Chemicals and pesticides are bad for our health and not what our bodies need to function.
Imagine the life-force of lettuce freshly picked from the ground. This lettuce was grown with energy from the sun. Compare this to a highly processed hamburger containing many unpronouncible ingredients. Which will support your body and give you the energy you want?
Do you have intense cravings for junk food and think that you can never give it up?
The bad news is that food manufactures want this to happen. Many companies actually hire special scientists who’s ONLY job is to come up with the perfect texture and flavor using the addicting qualities of salt or sugar. This is what makes you want to keep eating and buying more.
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. Changing you eating habits has to be a part of the change. Eating foods that actually nourish your body allows it to let go of excess weight.
Clean Eating Basics
What are the Rules
- First thing to understand is that its NOT about rules.
- There are no calorie restrictions or other never do rules.
- Its about feeling good about what you put into your body.
- Clean Eating is more about getting creative and enjoying food.
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. This might sound intimidating, but don’t worry. I will share a bunch of tips to make this more manageable.
Remember that fast food and convenience foods are full of ingredients we can’t control. Yes, it is easier to pull a frozen microwave dinner out of the freezer, but what if you had homemade ready to warm up dinners to pull out of the freezer? Its possible to do with just a few hours a week in the kitchen.
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 check out some cookbooks from the library. You could also head to the bookstore and pickup some interesting cookbooks.
Be Mindful of Drinks
- Keep hydrated with Water.
- Bottled Water vs Tap Water. Why Neither is a Good Choice
- We use AquaTru
- Don’t drink you calories – stop drinking soda and juice.
How to Begin Clean Eating
Read Nutrition Labels
One of the most important things we can do when trying to eat healthy is to Read Food Labels. Once you are 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? Marketing tactics often make us think something is healthier than it actually 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.
- Avoid terms like “natural” ,“sugar-free”, “low fat”, “high fiber”. These don’t automatically make the food healthier.
- 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.
- Food Ingredients Banned In Europe + How to Ditch Them
The Pantry Principle: how to read the label and understand what’s really in your food
Clean your Pantry
You 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 and start from scratch. Donate as much as you can to food pantries or neighbors/friends.
There isn’t any right answer so do whatever is right for you and your family.
Avoid These Processed Foods & Ingredients
- Foods with ingredients you can’t pronounce.
- Processed Breakfast Cereal loaded with pesticides.
- High Fructose Corn Syrup and other ingredients that are “added sugar”.
- Trans Fats – Don’t use shortening or canola oil.
- “Artificial” and “Natural” flavors. Natural flavors are not made in nature, they are still manufactured in a plant.
- BHA, BHT, EDTA, Sodium Benzoate, Nitrates, Nitrites and Monosodium Glutamate.
- 9 Solid Reasons to Ditch Artificial Food Colors
- 6 Disturbing Facts About Non-Organic Potatoes
Clean Eating Shopping List
Lentils & Whole Grains
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, carrots, celery, root veggies, onions, garlic, mushrooms)
- Organic Frozen vegetables. Frozen vegetables frozen right after harvest can actually have more nutrients than fresh.
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 prepare all your produce and other ingredients.
As an example lets say you plan on having salads every day of the week. You will wash, dry and chop lettuce and store it in a container in the fridge with a paper towel. Next chop up any veggies and store those in separate containers.
You don’t have to eat salads. Chop things like Onions, Peppers, Mushrooms and Meat on the weekend. On weekdays you will only need to warm up a saute pan, throw in the pre-chopped veggies and you’ve got yourself a stir fry.
Other weekend preparations include grilling/baking chicken or other proteins. Cook batches of whole grains like brown rice or quinoa and store in the fridge.
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 the fact that you are already using the pan and all of the dishes to cook this meal. Doubling a recipe is not much more work, and next time you won’t need to dirty up dishes or do the work.
I recommend using batch cooking for recipes that you love and want to eat often. Otherwise you will have a freezer full of food that nobody wants to eat!
This was my lifesaver when I had 2 small kids and a 40 hour a week job. Grandma watched the kids for a few hours while I made 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
You can load up a bunch of mason jars with salads, throw them in the fridge and enjoy fresh salads all week. It’s very simple and takes only an hour or less on the weekend.
- 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
Clean Eating for Holidays & Parties
Non Toxic Green for St Patrick Day, Easter and beyond.
Non Toxic Chocolate Bars for your Loved One on Valentines, Mothers day or any occasion.
Less Toxic Ideas for Halloween handouts.
Simple Steps to Implementing Clean Eating
Top 8 Secrets to Healthy Eating in 2023
- Start with a menu plan.
- Stock your pantry with healthy whole foods. (see recommendations above)
- Prepare foods on the weekends.
- Batch cook – put extras in the freezer.
- Consider making freezer meals.
- Try some salad jars.
- Get into a habit of reading ingredient labels.
- Learn what ingredients to avoid.
- Look for local seasonal foods.
- Check for farmers markets in your area.
- Make a healthier version of your favorite food/dish.
- Look for “clean eating” recipes on pinterest or google.
- Acquire some new cookbooks, or find some at the library.
Phew, are you overwhelmed yet?
My goal was to give you the idea that “Clean Eating” is not that hard. There are no hard rules and 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 your creative brain power. Its all up to you and there is no limit to the recipes and ideas out there. Here’s to your improved health after learning how to eat clean for beginners!
Thanks again Pauline for a lot of good info that is organized and easy to read. Welcome back!