Healthy living. Clean eating. Toxin-free life. Fitness.
These are all words or phrases many have heard throughout their adult years. However, what does it all mean? There is SO much information out there, how do people get started to even learning more about having a healthy life? Should they follow a well-know diet or exercise program? Or, maybe they should find the best-selling health food book by a celebrity chef?
The options to starting a healthy life are limitless, and in my opinion, OVERWHELMING. I first started to learn about what different foods did to my body about 5 years ago. There was all of this untapped information (at least, for me) about the toxins in the foods we consume, and what wiser replacement choices were for them. This ignited a spark of sorts inside me, and I have been “hungry” to learn more about food and nutrition ever since.
Temptations drag you down, but you have to get right back up to fight them. I found myself slipping back into my old soda and processed foods habits for a time. Right up to around 2 years ago when I became pregnant! This is a surefire way for any mommy or expectant mother to kick their clean eating rears in gear. Something odd happens in our souls when we realize there is another life completely dependent on what we do and consume. As mothers, we always want what is best for our children, and at the top of list should be what they eat.
So what I wanted to give to you was my take on the basics to clean eating. With all of the information about eating clean out there, take this simple list as a starting point. My hope is after you have read this you will know a bit more about making wise food choices when planning your meals, grocery shopping, and even when eating out.
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I personally found all these tips to be extremely helpful when I started to eat healthier or “clean”. The overall advice I can give you is to take it one step at a time. This is not about dieting or anything temporary, this is an overhaul. It is a mindset–a lifestyle change if you will.
Make this your own. If there are certain foods you research which concern you, keep up your investigation, and then decide whether they are worth it. Take these clean eating tips, and everyday, choose to fuel your body clean!
1. Get Rid of the Junk
This may not sound nice or professional, but it really is accurate. When I say junk, I mean junk food. Get rid of things you know are bad for you. Let me preface that this does not have to be your life FOREVER. It is simply preparing you for an eating overhaul. “Out of sight, out of mind” right?
Toss out the “food” items that are your temptations when you feel like snacking. Purge the refrigerator of soda, and the freezer of old ice cream and frozen TV dinners. Scour your cupboards for canned spaghettios, cookies, or chips. If they are unopened, donate them to a food bank, but if not, in the trash they go! If you are going hardcore and have a baking weakness, trash the refined flours and sugars in your pantry.
Down the road, you may bring some of these things back into your kitchen. That is totally OK. However, you have to start with a “clean” slate. After you have consistently been eating clean, some of these items may no longer be a temptation if they are in your cupboard or fridge. However, by then, you may no longer want any of these “foods” because you have found cleaner, healthier alternatives.
Remember, this is not a temporary fad diet. This is a mindset, lifestyle change, and food overhaul.
Don’t have to time to read the entire post or just want a quick list? Check out my FREE Purge Your Kitchen Checklist + Bonus List!
2. Find 10 “Clean” Recipes
Our minds are very creative, and with the seemingly ENDLESS information available, we can find ways to make supposed “boring” foods so tasty! Pinterest is one of my favorite ways to find great recipes with the bonus of fun pictures! Type in keywords or phrases such as clean eating recipes, whole food recipes, Paleo, Whole 30 or Keto. Any of these options or others you may think of will give you so many options of mostly easy recipes that are clean.
Other people prefer actual cookbooks to recipes online. If you still have bookstores in your area, they are sure to carry some great options, and of course, Amazon carries a plethora of cookbooks. Some of my favorite clean eating-type cook books are Clean Eating Cookbook & Diet, The Whole30 Cookbook, Practical Paleo, and The Keto Diet: The Complete Guide to a High-Fat Diet.
Think of things you like to eat, and more likely than not, there will be a healthier alternative or way of cooking up that recipe. For example, I love Chicken Parmesan! So, to make this recipe a bit healthier, I will not bread the chicken, instead it is covered with dried oregano and other spices, and those are what make up the crust. I also replace traditional spaghetti noodles with “zoodles” which are spiralized zucchini (I then lightly fry them in coconut oil).
Start by finding 10 recipes which include 3 for breakfast, 3 for lunch and 4 for dinner. If you find more that you want to try out, more power to you! 10 is just a smaller, more manageable number when you are beginning to eat clean. Most of the recipes I look for are family friendly so the recipe will account for more than 1 mouth to feed. There is always room to double the recipes for leftovers or if needed to feed a big family.
3. Read Labels
In our day and age, reading labels is a MUST, and I am not exaggerating. These labels may be simple such as on a Raw or Organic honey jar, there are no ingredients listed because the front label is pretty self-explanatory. Other products seem to have an ingredient list a mile long because the food is mostly or purely manufactured. These are the items you should probably steer clear of because most are not real food anyway!
Reading labels has become a habit that I don’t even realize I do when I go grocery shopping. It has become second nature to mostly shop in the produce and meat sections of the store where there hardly are no labels. I tend to stay away from most ingredient lists that have words I can’t pronounce because a lot of those are usually additives or chemical processes I do not want to invite into my body. A few other ingredients I stay away from are anything with the words “partially hydrogenated” and “high fructose corn syrup”.
As an example for canned or jarred items to be aware of: I like to make my marinara sauce from scratch so I can jar large batches, but if you want to buy them from the store, try to find a marinara without any added sugar. It doesn’t need it, but manufacturers keep producing them with added sugar and possible other additives. Canned food is starting to get better because companies are canning more organic/non-gmo products that are canned in non-bpa lined cans. I usually select tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes with those organic/non-gmo/bpa-free lining labels to make my marinara batches so that I am in control of what is put in my food.
When eating clean, unless it is absolutely essential, we usually don’t need many products from the dry food aisles (healthy cooking oils being an exception). So a lot of times, reading labels can be altogether avoided. After you have gathered your clean eating recipes, you will bee to notice that clean eating relies heavily on fresh, whole foods. These will mostly come from the produce, meat and sometimes the dairy sections of your grocery stores. They will make your forget of our “need” to shop in the processed or manufactured food sections of the store, AND, as an added bonus, whole foods are often more affordable!
4. Find “Clean” Alternatives
Alternatives are not necessarily exact replacements for foods you may know and love such as bread or pasta. I alternate pasta in dishes like Chicken Parmesan or Meatball Marinara with zucchini “noodles”. If bread is a must for you, stick to organic/non-gmo, whole-grain bread (like Dave’s Killer bread) so that there are still nutrients present (unlike white bread). Another option for bread-eaters is to find recipes for breads made with other flours made from almonds or coconut, and make them at home.
You may also need to find alternatives specifically for food sensitivities or allergies. For example, a lot of alternative pastas to the kind made with wheat are made with corn. But, some people cannot eat corn so this would not be a good substitute. If they can eat rice, there are rice pasta options available at many stores.
There are a wide variety of clean-eating baking cookbooks for all my baking mommies out there (My Paleo Patisserie is a good one). It can take a little adjusting because so many traditional baking ingredients are either bad for you or have no nutritional value whatsoever (I guess that’s the point..). Coconut oil, ghee and even applesauce can replace butter, a variety mix of flours (Coconut, Almond, and/or Rice flours) can replace refined flour, and refined sugar can be replaced by a number of alternative sweeteners such as honey, coconut sugar, or raw can sugar.
Again, this is an eating overhaul and lifestyle change. There are always new ways to alternative recipes you love, but it is even more exciting to discover new recipes that are “clean” from the get go. These can be easier to manage because you never have to worry about finding an alternative for any ingredient.
5. Plan Your Meals
I cannot emphasize how crucial and extremely helpful meal planning is. You are in new territory now and so some of the recipes you picked may have ingredients you have never before used. However, since clean eating focuses on using whole foods, there is more prepping than actual cooking, so we have that going for us. By planning out your meals, you no longer have to stress every night to getting dinner cooked for your family. The meat will have defrosted during the day, and everyone (if they can handle a knife) can help with cutting and prepping a delicious salad. Easy peasy, even though, I KNOW, everyday is not always smooth sailing.
Everyone grocery shops a little differently, but we probably all write out a list before we shop. And, since you already have a nice list of new, clean-eating recipes to try out, all you need to do is add the ingredients you don’t already have from those recipes onto your list. Simple, right?
The biggest reason, for me, to plan out my weekly meals is so I can stay on track. Oftentimes when I get busy and forget to write my meal plan, I end up ordering out or going to the store to buy something I can zap in the microwave. Pre-planning CAN help you with clean eating choices, and it especially helps so you don’t spend extra money on junk food.
6. If Possible, Eat Organic & Non-GMO Foods
This one can be tough, because a lot of times Organic/Non-GMO foods can be more expensive. However, there are some whole foods that are worth spending more money on. Check out these lists from Produce Retailer where they enclose the “Clean 15” and “Dirty Dozen” lists about certain produce items. The “Clean 15” list lays the 15 produce items that contain the least amount of pesticide residue on them. The “Dirty Dozen” list shows the 12 produce items which contain the most amount of pesticide residue.
These lists do not talk about GMOs which stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. Research the lists further to check which items contain GMOs or not because these can be even more dangerous than pesticides. There are a lot of foods out there which may not contain any GMOs but are not labeled. Because of this, a lot of people tend to shop at a farmers market so they can speak directly to the farmer who grew the crops. This is the most surefire way to find out exactly was is in your produce and meats because the farmers or ranchers can tell you exactly what they used.
One of the big keys of clean eating to get rid of the toxins in your system. If we continue to pump our bodies full of pesticides and lab-manipulated food, then we are not truly cleaning the body. “You are what you eat” is how the saying goes, and GMOs especially can change certain things in the body’s chemistry. When we eat meat that eats food which is genetically modified, that in turn is transferred to us. The same goes for meat or produce that are grown with hormones, antibiotics or GMOs.
The choice is ultimately yours when it comes to foods you purchase for your meals, and I KNOW some of these foods can be expensive. Do your research if you are unable to buy foods that are always Organic/Non-GMO. Find out which ones are the most and the least dangerous for you and your family’s health.
One Last Tip
If all of this information is still too much for you, simply start by sticking with whole grains, produce, and meat cooked in healthy fats, steamed, and flavored with spices. Avoid processed, manufactured foods and flavoring your foods with unhealthy fat, sugar-filled condiments. Following even these short tips can put you well on your way to have a cleaner, healthier life.
I hope either my long list or short was helpful to you. Let me know if there are other tips that have helped you on your clean eating journey. 😀