Are you baffled by clean eating and wondering where to start?
When I first began eating clean, I was completely confused about where to begin. I had been raised with healthy foods, but after years of eating badly, old habits were tough to break. The good news is, I discovered 6 steps that guarantee a much smoother transition and help leave your old habits where they belong. In the past!
1. First, if you are not specifically following Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean Diet, you have to sit down and really define what clean eating is for you.What’s your definition? What does the word “clean” mean to you? Clean eating can be different for everyone. Everyone has their own interpretation. Here are my basics:
- Nothing white. No sugar, no white flour (bread, pasta, etc), no white rice. If it’s white, and it’s not a vegetable, I don’t eat it. (This requires lots of ingredients list reading!)
- No Alcohol. This was not a big sacrifice for me, since I’ve never been much of a drinker.
- Healthy Sources of Fats. Be sure that all fats you are consuming are from healthy sources. Fats such as olive oil, coconut oil and nut oils are wonderful.
- Lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean meats. If you really think about it, this is a HUGE variety of foods. You should NEVER feel hungry or deprived while eating clean. If you’re doing it correctly, you’ll constantly be satisfied, and after a couple of weeks, you won’t get all those bothersome cravings that you used to get. (Although, occasionally a treat is perfectly okay.)
2. Treat yourself. If you would like to treat yourself occasionally, first, define what the word “occasionally” means to you. Is it once a week, once a month or once a year? Be realistic. Just don’t treat yourself once per day or you won’t reach your goals. Then, decide what a treat is. And remember, a treat does NOT mean an entire week of binge eating. I know some people who reserve one entire day per week for eating whatever they want. I will treat myself at one meal per week, sometimes every two weeks. Others, prefer once per month. So figure out what that means for your day-to-day life, and then stick with it.
- Stock a clean eating pantry, and simply add lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats such as chicken breasts and fish to your fridge. Also consider frozen fruits and vegetables, just be sure to read the ingredients. Some frozen produce (especially fruit) will sometimes have added sugar. It’s great to stock your freezer with lots of clean eating foods so you’re not constantly having to run to the store for the fresh stuff. Also, consider make-ahead items like whole wheat pie crust so you can throw a nice clean eating quiche together last-minute on a busy evening during the week. Or make clean eating pizza dough ahead of time so you can throw a pizza in the oven when you feel like it. Prepare casseroles and other dishes that freeze well ahead of time. Preparation is key!
- Clean out every bit of food in your cabinets and fridge. Read the ingredients lists on everything. If you find anything with an ingredient you can’t pronounce or don’t recognize, that’s a pretty clear indication that it needs to go. Make a pile for garbage and a pile for donations. Be ruthless. Try to keep only those foods that have 5 or 6 ingredients in them at most. Ingredients you recognize. Ingredients you would buy individually like tomatoes or garlic.Throw out anything that says “fat free” (unless it’s a product like plain Greek yogurt).
- Now, make your grocery list. This first trip will be a big one since you are stocking up on everything, so budget accordingly. For ideas on what types of food to buy, you can start with this: Clean Eating Recipe Substitutions and this: Shopping List For Beginners.
3. Use your shopping day for prep time too. Don’t underestimate the value of prep time when it comes to sticking to your clean eating plan. It’s easier to stick with it if you have some chopped veggies ready to grab from the fridge. You can even marinate a few chicken breasts in individual zip lock bags a few days ahead of cooking. It’s like that old saying… “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Give yourself a chance and set some time aside to prep your food for the week.
4. Buy a cooler! A cooler (I use one on wheels and I LOVE it!) is one of the most valuable items you can own when eating clean. It’s vital to make sure you have your clean foods available when you need them. Simply pack your food the night before and in the morning, you can dump all your food and a couple ice packs into your cooler and go. It takes a bit of discipline to get into the swing of it, but once you do, your clean eating life will be sooooo much easier!
5. Give yourself time to adjust. While eating clean can be a huge change for some people, keep in mind that most recipes can be adapted to a clean eating lifestyle. You don’t have to give up your favorites (unless your favorite is Twinkies. Anyone know what those things are really made of? Ick!). Pizza, cookies, ice cream and even cake or doughnuts can be prepared with clean eating ingredients. Just browse around this blog for a bit to see what I mean. Obviously, you need to keep things in balance. If all you eat is clean eating donuts all week long, you’re not going to get healthy. But my point is that you should never feel deprived either.
So hopefully this will help get you started. I’m constantly learning new things about food in regards to clean eating. As long as you approach clean eating with an attitude of learning, you’ll do great. You won’t get it perfect right out of the gates, but if you keep trying, you WILL get there! Baby steps are fine, so long as you are really giving it an honest effort.
You can do this!
And don’t forget to check out my “Basics” section for some basic staples and information you’ll want to keep on hand.