Getting started with clean eating can be overwhelming.
I remember when I first ventured into this space about seven years ago. I felt like I was learning a new language!
I would watch food documentaries and take actual notes. Then I would take those notes to stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, and talk with their employees to be sure I was buying the “right” things.
I thought it was fun! But, I also felt very overwhelmed.
At times I felt like I would never get it right.
It seemed like every time I turned around the “rules” would change.
One minute, coconut oil is good for you. The next it’s not.
Some people avoid carbohydrates like the plague. Others say at least 55% of my daily calories should come from carbs.
I’m sure you’ve all been there.
Most, if not all, of us know that we should eat healthy.
Yet, most people aren’t doing it.
When I ask people why they aren’t, most say it is because they don’t know where to begin. It is so overwhelming and takes so much effort, that they’d rather not try.
I agree, getting started is often the hardest part.
So, today I want to share 10 ways you can begin eating clean. A diet that is grounded in whole foods nutrition, plant based, and nutrient dense!
- Clean out your pantry: I know you’ve heard the saying, “If you build it, they will come”. The same holds true for your pantry — if you stock it with unhealthy food, you will eat! Therefore, use our guide to stock your pantry with healthy, nutrient-dense foods, and get rid of everything else!
- Cook your own food: Once you have all healthy ingredients on hand, the best way to control what is actually going in to your food is to actually be the person who prepares your food! This gives you the power to limit the amount of salt, sugar, and fats that go into it!
- Read labels: Most “clean” foods will not come packaged. However, sometimes things like nuts, meat, and certain veggies may come in packages. Therefore, it is important to read labels to look out for any preservatives, added sugars (or worse yet, fake sugars!), or unhealthy fats. For example, some food may be labeled as “Sugar Free”, but still contain loads of artificial sweetners that are not good for you!
- Eat whole foods: Whole foods are foods that have not been modified, processed, or refined. They contain no added sugars, dyes, fats, or salt to enhance their shelf life. They have not been created in a manufacturing plant. Rather, they are foods in their natural state – fresh fruits, vegetables, proteins, whole grains, dried legumes and beans. These foods carry more nutrients and are higher in fiber, improving the health of your body.
- Avoid added sugars:In general, do your best to avoid added sugar when you are trying to eat clean. Naturally occurring sugars in fruits are high in fiber and easily digested, so these are great options to curb your sweet tooth. On the other hand, added sugars and sweetners like high fructose corn syrup are highly processed and high in fructose, which is linked to obesity, diabetes, and cancer. If you are finding that you are still struggling for sweetness, you can sweeten your foods with natural sugar sources, like honey or maple syrup.
- Drink water: If you have an addiction to diet soft drinks, you aren’t alone. A recent study found that approximately half of the US adult population reports drinking at least one diet soda each day. Sugar-sweetened drinks like fruit juices or sodas are linked to a host of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. However, water contains zero additives, sugars, or artificial sweetners. Further, it can keep you hydrated and help you maintain a healthy weight. It is the cleanest beverage you can drink!
- Omit refined carbohydrates: Refined carbohydrates are highly processed and striped of nutritional value. They are linked to obesity, inflammation, insulin resistance, and fatty liver. By contrast, whole grains promote gut health and reduce inflammation. Therefore, rather than white bread, white pasta, and white rice, choose whole grains in the form of sprouted grain bread and steel-cut oats.
- Meal prep: Some nights get so busy that the thought of preparing a healthy meal can seem daunting. That is why I find that it is helpful to prep ahead of time when I can. Simply spending 20 minutes on a Sunday afternoon chopping veggies and cooking meats can save so much time and headache during the week. It can also help keep you on track with your nutritional goals!
- Limit added fat and salt: Clean eating means eating foods in its most natural state. Therefore, additives like fat and salt should be avoided. Not only are they devoid of nutrients, but they add additional calories and are often hard for your body to digest.
- Take small steps: Give yourself GRACE! This is a marathon, not a sprint! You may find it helpful to avoid making too many changes at once. If not, you may find yourself getting frustrated. Worse yet, you might slip, and be so hard on yourself that you give up on clean eating all together! This is too important to let yourself do that!! Therefore, allow yourself time to adjust. Pick one new thing and give yourself at least a week to implement it. Then, move on to something else. Keep going until this becomes second nature to you.
You’ve got what it takes to eat a healthy, clean diet!