The idea of clean eating can be overwhelming, especially if you aren’t used to eating this way. Trust me, I can totally relate! I grew up eating processed foods out of cans and boxes. Then, as I learned more about fitness and nutrition, I realized that if I wanted results, I had to do more than just work out. The other very important half of the equation is eating correctly so your body has the fuel and nutrients it needs to transform after those workouts! At first, switching to a clean eating lifestyle was way out of my comfort zone. I was so overwhelmed and asked myself “What am I supposed to eat, then?!” I want to explain what exactly a clean eating approach to food is and also some tips to help you get started.
Basically, clean eating is food that is selected and consumed the closest way to possible to nature. Clean eating is a lifestyle, not a diet to abandon once you reach your goal. As you think about preparing and eating your food, think about how you’re working on improving your quality of life, one meal at a time.
The DO’s of Clean Eating:
- eat small meals 5 or 6 times (every 2-3 hours) a day that includes a mix of lean proteins, fresh fruits and veggies, and a complex carbohydrate (see shopping list below). This keeps your blood sugar even, helps you keep your energy levels up, and keeps you burning calories efficiently all day. Some people who start clean eating will say “But I’m SO HUNGRY!” I will always ask them if they are following this rule of eating small meals frequently throughout the day, and they usually aren’t. This is a big change from how we usually eat, so scheduling your meals in your planner or phone is a MUST if it’s not already a habit.
- grill or bake your meat
- steam, grill, bake, or eat raw your fruits and veggies
- Drink your water! Drink water first thing in the morning, drink it with all of your meals, and if you think you’re hungry in between meals, drink! Most of the time you’re not hungry, just thirsty.
- Read labels. Clean foods will have short ingredient lists with easily identifiable ingredients. If the ingredient list is long and contains things you can’t pronounce, it’s not a clean food.
- PREP! Know ahead of time what you’ll have for your meals–this is especially important if you’re working or away from home and need to bring food with you.
- Make a list of favorite meals your family likes and find ways to make them cleaner. You don’t have to give up the foods you love…just improve the recipes!
The DON’Ts of Clean Eating:
- avoid trans fats, anything fried or anything with high sugar content, especially added/artificial sweeteners –this includes beverages like cola and juice.
- avoid white flour (like in breads, pasta, rice), processed foods (like cheese slices and lunch meat)
- Don’t stress! If your meal isn’t perfectly clean, it’s OK! You’re trying and that’s all that matters! It will get easier as you go.
So you’re ready to head to the store! Here’s what might be on your shopping list:
- Fresh Fruits
- Fresh Veggies
- Lean Proteins like: chicken breasts, ground turkey, shrimp, salmon, white fish, canned tuna, tofu, tempeh, edamame
- Dairy: nonfat milk, almond or coconut milk, nonfat Greek yogurt, nonfat cottage cheese, eggs, part skim mozzarella
- Good Carbs: brown rice, quinoa, oats/oat flour, sweet potatoes, Ezekiel bread/tortillas (or whole wheat), wild rice/black rice/bismati rice
- Healthy Fats: almonds, cashews, walnuts, all natural almond/peanut butter, extra virgin olive oil, extra virgin coconut oil, unsweetened shredded coconut, chia seeds, flax seeds
- Seasonings & Condiments: honey, pure maple syrup, low sodium soy sauce, hummus, salsa, tahini, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, all natural mustard, dried thyme, dried rosemary, black pepper, cayenne, fresh ginger
Don’t forget to check out the recipe index on my site for recipes to help you get started on your clean eating journey!
And last but not least, indulge once in a while:
Read more about this rule in my post about cleaning out the junk