This ultimate guide to clean eating for beginners can jumpstart your journey towards a healthy relationship with food while achieving that slimmer physique without deprivation. Are you in?
I started clean eating when I was pregnant with my twins. I wanted a healthy pregnancy to ensure that they get the best head start possible.
Not only did clean eating changed my life, but it also enabled my twins to get the best head start on their lives too!
I went from barely able to walk for 10 minutes straight without feeling tired at the beginning of the pregnancy to staying active throughout my twin pregnancy without any ordered bed rest.
I ended up carrying my twins to full-term and delivered them at above-average twin weights. My fear of leaving them behind in the NICU after my birth recovery thankfully did not come true.
Eating specific clean foods also enabled me to lose weight quickly a year after giving birth to the twins. I was able to lose 10 pounds in the first month and effortlessly dropped 4 dress sizes in the following six months.
Clean eating is how we strive to eat as a family now… with a few cheat days here and there to keep it real!
Why clean eating is good for you
It’s not a diet
Clean eating is not a fad diet. It is a healthy, sustainable eating habit and a way of life.
Eating a clean diet naturally cleanses and detoxes your body. Instead of reacting to processed foods that throw your body’s hormones out of balance, you are nourishing your body with natural whole foods filled with essential vitamins and minerals.
Processed foods such as refined sugar and white bread can cause inflammations in the body, resulting in fatigue, weight gain, digestive issues, and even chronic pain. Fill your body with whole foods that are naturally anti-inflammatory and eat minimally processed foods can lead to a lower level of inflammation in your body.
More time and more energy
Another unexpected side benefit of cleaning eating? The amount of time and energy saved!
Ever feel overwhelmed by all the choices at the supermarkets? If you make the decision ahead of time to eat a clean diet, it eliminates the many food choices and stress that comes from having to make decisions as you encounter food items on the shelves.
In addition to the amount of mental energy saved, your physical energy will also skyrocket if you’ve been depriving your body of the proper nutrients it deserves.
What is clean eating?
Eat real food
The concept of clean eating is actually surprisingly simple: eat whole foods that are natural, unrefined, and minimally processed. When you fill your body with wholesome, nutritious foods, you’ll notice a change in your health and wellness that you won’t ever miss going back.
What clean eating looks like may depend on individual interpretations of the word “clean”. For some folks, that may mean that only foods with no additives are acceptable.
However, there are some food additives that are beneficial to the body, such as added calcium or vitamin D in milk. Whereas trans fats added to foods to extend their shelf life may increase cholesterol levels and lead to potential health problems.
So, it’s best to avoid the “all or nothing” approach and consider the types of additives added to the food wisely.
Check Ingredient Labels
A clean eating diet should also not completely eliminate foods that are prepared or packaged. Given our busy modern lives, it can be difficult and impractical to make everything from scratch.
The trick here is to read the ingredient list and pick items that contain ingredients you can pronounce and understand.
Remember, clean eating should not feel like a restrictive diet. Following fad diets like keto, low carb and paleo that exclude eating entire food groups can cause unpleasant symptoms such as the “keto flu” or low energy.
Find a balance
Clean eating is about eating a balanced diet full of nutritious, wholesome foods.
The goal of clean eating should be to develop a healthy attitude towards food and eat in a nourishing way that is sustainable for the rest of your life.
Foods to avoid when eating clean
In general, you’ll want to avoid processed foods as much as possible, including commercially prepared convenience foods. Stay away from boxed convenience meals (frozen or not) and fast food.
For canned products, check ingredient labels and avoid ones that contain unhealthy artificial ingredients.
Avoid all soda/soft drinks, and fruit juices that may have added sugar or other artificial ingredients, such as high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners.
How to get started with clean eating for beginners
Before you embark on the clean eating journey, it’s important to take stock of what you have in your kitchen and be fully aware of your current eating habits.
Commit to eating clean by clearing out all the unhealthy “dirty” foods in your pantry and your refrigerator.
The most effective way to do this is by completely taking out all food items in your pantry and your refrigerator and thoroughly examine the ingredient label of each item.
Through this process, you’ll identify a list of the “dirty” items you’ll need to replace (such as a “clean” spaghetti sauce) or simply toss away unhealthy junk foods.
Not only will you gain precious storage space from clearing out the “dirty” foods, but you’ll also likely clear additional space from throwing away foods that have expired.
Keep only the items that are healthy and “clean”, and more importantly, items that you have plans to use or eat. Often times, we make impulse purchases that we have no plans to use.
Once you have taken this important first step on clean eating for beginners, and your refrigerator and pantry are clean, it’s time to go shopping for real food!
Related Post: 12 Must-Have Healthy Pantry Staples
What do you eat on a clean diet? For starters, eat more fresh, wholesome vegetables and fruits. Eating more healthy foods can crowd out the unhealthy stuff.
For prepared or packaged foods, read their ingredient labels carefully to avoid preservatives, added sugars, or unhealthy fats.
If your budget allows, choose your animal proteins from ethically raised farms – these animals are less likely to have been injected with antibiotics and hormones, or fed grains instead of grass.
How to start clean eating on a budget?
Want to get started eating clean but concerned that it may put a dent on your wallet?
While it’s true that buying junk food can be much cheaper than buying healthy groceries at the supermarket, there are many tips and tricks to saving money when eating clean.
Buying fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables can reduce your grocery bill. As well as purchasing the same fruits and veggies offseason in the frozen foods aisle.
Getting store brand products saves you money, whether you are shopping at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.
Another store with quality and economical clean eating groceries is Thrive Market. It’s a convenient and budget-friendly online store if you like your natural and organic groceries delivered to your door. Learn more at my Thrive Market Review here + my shopping list for healthy weight and get $20 in shopping credit.
For more easy grocery budget hacks, check out my detailed post for Clean Eating On A Budget.
Can clean eating help you lose weight?
Have you ever heard of the expression “Get Fit in the Gym. Lose Weight in the Kitchen“? From my personal experience, weight loss is 90% diet and 10% exercise.
Clean eating is a healthy and natural way to lose weight. So having a list of healthy foods is the first step to getting to a leaner, fitter body.
Tips for success eating clean
Make your life easier by taking care of what you eat ahead of time.
By taking the time to plan out exactly what you are going to eat, you can consciously make healthier choices and aim for nutritionally balanced meals throughout the week.
Stocking up so that you are surrounded by readily available healthy foods also helps to prevent you from making last-minute, impulsive choices that may sabotage your healthy eating efforts. This is a key step for cleaning eating for beginners.
By planning your meals in advance, not only are you saving time, money and energy but you are also reducing stress around mealtimes, allowing you to relax and thoroughly enjoy your food and company.
Once you have a meal plan, you are then able to make a grocery shopping list base on that plan.
When you know exactly what groceries are needed to make your meals, you save time in the supermarkets by doing more targeted shopping and are less likely to wander around junk food aisles.
You can save even more time when cooking your meals with easy meal prep hacks. For example, batch cook your sauces and soups and store them neatly in meal prep containers for use later.
Another time-saver is to purchase pre-cut, ready-to-cook vegetables. You simply toss these ingredients into your cookware and add flavoring spices.
For more details on how you can meal prep like a boss and put dinner on the table in 10 minutes, check out these simple Clean Eating Meal Prep Tips and Ideas.
Clean eating recipes for beginners
Here are some easy clean eating recipes for ideas and inspiration:
Hopefully, this ultimate clean eating guide has answered most of your burning questions on how to eating clean.
The most important keys to healthy clean eating for beginners are:
- keep a balanced diet of vegetables and fruits, proteins, and carbohydrates.
- Carefully source prepared or packaged foods by checking that their ingredient labels don’t include added sugars, unhealthy preservatives, and fats.
- Keep it simple and practical by planning ahead and go grocery shopping with your list of “clean” foods
And remember to allow yourself to indulge in none-clean foods here and there (I recommend rewarding yourself with cheat days once a week).
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