I did not start out eating clean. It was a gradual shift over several years. The more I was curious about my food and the more I learned about the food I like to eat the easier it became to make better food choices. Clean eating is a lifestyle choice. I LOVE food and I love to eat GOOD food. It makes me so happy. I try my best to make all the right choices however, I also allow for certain indulgences… Nobody’s perfect!
Clean eating is NOT a diet. Eating Clean means revamping your diet, and stripping it of nutritionally devoid foods, meaning no processed, artificially flavored, artificially sweetened, artificially colored, fatty, fried, sugary refined unnatural items, and buying whole foods. Clean Eating isn’t a short-term fix like a “diet” it is meant to be a lifestyle change. If you want to be successful at eating clean, you MUST redefine your relationship with food, and continue to improve your eating habits over time. Since we have a new year ‘fresh start’ coming it is a perfect time to begin. The problem with New Years’ dieting resolutions is that they usually revolve around good intentions. I’m much more interested in making a plan.
*Affiliate links provided for your convenience. Please see full disclosure for more information.
Clean out your pantry:
The 1st step is cleaning out your pantry of all of the foods that are not whole foods or products that are processed. We are all human and are prone to slipping back into old habits and falling off the healthy train. Unless you change what’s in your cupboards, the chances are you’ll find temptation chasing you sooner or later.
Schedule it into your planner if you need to. Read food labels for added sugar and other junk ingredients that don’t belong in a healthy kitchen. Take a garbage bag and go through your pantry and cabinets and dump the junk. Systematically clean out items that you know are your downfall, and get rid of products that are overly high in sodium, sugar or artificial colorings and preservatives. That’s not to say you can’t leave a few treats — however, be honest and only allow those treats that you know you can maintain control over.
Re-stock your fridge and pantry with whole foods:
At least as important as eliminating junk foods is restocking those cupboards with healthier alternatives. Other considerations include selecting whole grains whenever possible; most restaurants offer a substitution of brown rice for little to no extra cost. Reducing your consumption of red meat, salt, and sugar should also support your efforts. Instead, opt for poultry and fish as your primary sources of protein and flavor your meal with real herbs and spices. Swapping out sources of saturated fats like butter for unsaturated fats like olive oil can also give all sorts of benefits, such as the lowering of your LDL, or “bad”, cholesterol levels. If you know you like to snack (and who doesn’t!), you can also explore healthier snack foods like nuts, whole-grain crackers, vegetable chips, etc. You may even find that your taste buds enjoy the break from plain old potato chips. Try making fresh kale chips for a salty crunchy treat. They are fast and EASY to make and enjoy! Get the printable recipe here.
Eat vegetables and fruit
Fresh is always best. The cleanest way to eat these vegetables and fruit is to grow your own. Obviously, we don’t all have the means to do so, so try to buy organic produce. If you can’t afford to buy all produce organic, check out the EWG’s Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen lists. Try to buy those on the Dirty Dozen list organic as often as you can, as these have the most pesticides. You can find these lists here. But there’s nothing wrong with having an arsenal of frozen and shelf-stable backups at the ready. In fact, it’s a smart way to make sure you can always feed yourself and your family a healthy, a clean meal—even when your day falls apart.
Bonus: When you eat whole foods and low sugar foods you drastically reduce your cravings for the sweet and salty treats!
Here you can find the ultimate clean eating grocery list, foods that will put you on the path toward the positive change you deserve.
Eat Whole Grains
Whole grains are full of fiber, nutrients, and protein. Stay away from processed refined white flour and rice. Unless you have celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or another reason to cut back, you don’t want to miss out on the health benefits of whole grains. You’re getting fiber, a healthy plant-based protein, vitamins, minerals, and a variety of phytochemicals that will improve your health. The side hull, bran and germ contain fiber and are not removed in whole grains as they are with white rice. Whole grains are also rich in thiamine, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and selenium. Try quinoa, wild rice, brown rice, oats, and buckwheat. Read about the benefits of whole grains here.
Again, these are full of fiber and other nutrients essential to a healthy diet. Make sure you are buying dried beans and soaking them overnight to rehydrate them rather than buying them canned. Canned beans are very high in sodium because salt is the main preservative used. Watch out for salt (often MSG) and sugar coated nuts and seeds. Buy raw nuts and prepare them yourself to your taste. Read about the health benefits of some of your favorite nuts, here.
Eat Organic Grass-fed Beef, Free Range Chicken and Turkey, Cage Free Eggs, Wild-Caught Seafood
These animal products do not contain any growth hormones or antibiotics which is essential to clean eating.
Eat healthy fats
Healthy fats usually refer to monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. What makes them healthy is that, among other heart-health benefits, they help reduce LDL cholesterol, the kind that clogs your arteries. Research also shows they can benefit insulin and blood sugar levels, decreasing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Among these healthy fats are avocados, cheese, olive oil, nuts, whole eggs, dark chocolate, chia seeds, coconuts, coconut oil, full-fat yogurt and fatty fish.
Water is the number one beverage of choice when trying to eat (and drink) clean, with zero calories and sugar. Try to drink at least 2 liters of water a day. Dehydration can often time be mistaken for hunger. You can drink herbal tea brewed from tea bags. You can flavor them with fruits for a refreshing cooler.
Bonus: drinking cold water first thing in the morning can help give your metabolism a boost!
You might also be interested in 3-day detox to get rid of bloat and sugar cravings.
No Low-Fat, Reduced Fat or Light Foods
When companies remove fat or calories from a food they need to fill it with sugar, chemicals, additives and other fillers to keep the same taste and texture. When low-fat food is manufactured, carbohydrates are often added to replace the calories lost from fat. A low-fat doughnut may have as many, or more, calories than its “high-fat” counterpart, and you’ll have to eat two of them to feel as full. In fact, the body’s metabolism literally turns dietary carbohydrates into fat. Real ingredients not only taste better but are better for you as well. Some low-fat yogurts have twice as much sugar as the original yogurt.
Reduce or Eliminate Added Sugar
Make sure your sugar intake is from natural sugars only. Naturally occurring sugars are found in milk (lactose) and fruit (fructose). Any product that contains milk (such as yogurt, milk or cream) or fruit (fresh, dried) contains some natural sugars. Your sugar should come mostly from milk, fruits, and vegetables. If you are using added sugar, make sure it comes from raw organic honey, agave nectar or maple syrup. But be careful, one tablespoon of honey has 17 grams of sugar! Keep in mind women should only intake 20-25 grams of sugar a day and 37 grams a day for men. No artificial sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup!
Food for thought-Sometimes it helps if you visualize how much sugar you’re actually eating, so here’s a tip for you. Every four grams of sugar that are listed on the nutrition facts panel is equal to a teaspoon of sugar—or about one sugar cube.
Think about that the next time you give your kids a granola bar…even the organic ones have a good amount of sugar. I would never let my daughter eat sugar cubes…but I have to admit she must be having a few throughout the day. Ugh! So, I started making her granola bars with dates. So easy! I love this 5 ingredient no-bake granola bar recipe from the Minimalist Baker. They are super filling, yummy and when I add mini dark chocolate chips my daughter gobbles them up!
No Fast Food or Frozen Dinners
Not much to say here…fast food and frozen/prepackaged meals are high in calories, fat, sodium and sugar but low in vitamins, nutrients and fiber. These “food-like products” are full of chemicals and artificial ingredients that we weren’t meant to digest. Just don’t.
Let’s cook! My favorite tools I use to make life easier when preparing food for my family. I love, love, love this garlic press! I love it so much that I have bought it for family and friends who love to cook as well. It makes little bits of garlic to use in any recipe in 3 seconds and clean up is another 3 seconds under the faucet! The Joseph garlic rocker is an amazing tool to use every day in the kitchen to simplify your cooking time when you don’t have any time to lose.
I always feel like I am playing beat the clock at the end of the day with dinner, bath, reading, and bedtime to accomplish. We are not only short on time but also short on space. So space saving products are always my friend. I have slimline collapsible measuring cups and a colander so you can stow them away easily in a cabinet that shares space with ALL of its cooking colleagues.
Another simplifier and space saver is stackable bowls (who are neighbors with the colander). Stainless steel nesting bowls are easy to find any size you need, they stay neat and tidy in the cabinet and are pretty much indestructible!
Bonus: these bowls can also be serving bowls in their simple elegance. Can you say “Hello, movie night popcorn!”
What is your favorite tool you use to benefit your health? Please comment and share!