Are you ready to tackle the whole clean eating thing, but aren’t sure where to start?
For the busy mom just trying to survive the day, between baseball practices, piano recitals, homework sessions and piles of laundry, keeping the family fed with healthy nutritious food can seem overwhelming. Have no fear, I’m about to help you out with some simple tips to learn how to transition to a clean eating lifestyle. By taking some initial baby steps now, you can slowly begin to make small changes, and my guess is that you’ll even begin to like it!
The key for beginners is to accept the basic premise that clean eating is not a “diet” and it shouldn’t be about restrictions, deprivation, or meticulous calorie counting. If it were, no one would be successful for very long!
At its root, clean eating is the premise that you try to eat whole foods in the least processed form possible. There’s no doubt about it, clean eating can be a challenge. You’ll find, however, that a transition to a clean eating lifestyle can reap both physical and emotional benefits, including fewer cravings for processed foods, better sleep habits and fewer health-related illnesses, not to mention losing inches off your waistline.
Here are 7 simple steps, in no particular order, that you can incorporate to get started this week:
7 Tips For Beginning Your Clean Eating Lifestyle
1. Plan your meals.
The first step in beginning a clean eating lifestyle is to plan for it. Being intentional with meal planning increases your chances of staying on track, and decreases the likelihood you’ll end up at the drive through window!
Take a weekend day to spend a little time meal planning, then pack your lunches (and snacks!), portion out your food in advance, and keep in grab-n-go containers in the refrigerator for the week. You’ll be all set come Monday morning as you scramble out the door!
2. Decrease/eliminate added sugars.
Numerous studies (like this one, and this one) have linked excessive sugar to the rise of obesity and other related illness, which by now really isn’t a surprise, but added sugar can sneak into your diet when you least expect it, so pay attention!
The obvious culprits are baked goods, soda, and candy, but sugar lurks in other places, too. Sauces and gravies, ketchup, salad dressings, fruit juices and granola bars, all include added sugar. It may be quite difficult to avoid these foods 100% of the time, but whenever possible, look for whole food alternatives (like swapping out a real orange for your morning fruit juice), to keep the sweet stuff in check.
3. Cook your own food.
What’s the surest way to know how “clean” your plate is? Cook your own food and eat at home. Not only does home cooking help balance your nutrient intake, you’ll be able to control your portions, it makes for some quality family time, saves you money, decreases your portion sizes, and sets a great example for your kids.
If you’re thinking, “I have no time for that, Laurie”, think again (and refer back to tip #1). It’s all about a shift in your mindset. Preparing a few home cooked meals in advance will reap dividends, so trust me and try it. Fear not and stress not – if you’ve prepped over the weekend, everything will be ready as you walk through the door after a long day.
4. Become a label reader.
Part of being a clean eater is the careful selection of the foods that you bring into your home. Go for the closest to a whole (unprocessed) food as possible, or better yet, foods that don’t have a label at all (i.e. fruits, veggies, chicken, meat, and fish). For the stuff that does come packaged in some way, the fewer items on the ingredient list the better.
Take a jar of peanut butter as an example. A “clean” version of peanut butter should include one ingredient: peanuts (and maybe a little salt). If there are items on the ingredient list you can’t pronounce, that’s a sign you should look for a better alternative.
Note also that the order of the ingredient list matters. The items with a higher concentration will be listed first. Many foods are labeled as “natural”, “less fat”, or even “heart healthy”, but if you are a savvy consumer who makes it a habit to read labels, your ninja-like label reading skills won’t be fooled.
5. Don’t drink your calories.
Water is the number one choice and its benefits are numerous. Tea or coffee are OK, too, but just watch for added ingredients which cause an increase in your fat and sugar intake. Soda? Sorry, clean eaters just say no. Alcohol? Your judgement, but in moderation it’s probably fine. Just know though, if you have weight loss goals, every little bit adds up.
6. “Clean up” some of your go-to favorite meals.
Swapping whole grains for enriched flour, ground turkey for ground beef, and making your own home cooked version of frozen dinners are all great strategies to help you transition to a clean eating lifestyle. Start with one recipe at a time. Soon, you’ll get so good at this you won’t even miss the “bad” stuff anymore.
7. Follow the 80/20 rule.
No one expects 100% perfection. Aiming for a diet where about 80% of the time you are eating natural whole foods and 20% of the time you indulge is a great way to ease into a cleaner eating lifestyle. Focus on the positive benefits of your new habits, and you will find the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, and what you used to consider an “inconvenience” will come more and more naturally.
It’s about balance.
Being proactive about your nutrition and your health helps you live in balance. You’ll spend less time being stressed out about what to eat, you’ll spend less money because you’ll be eating at home more often, and
you’ll be prepared because you’re armed with a plan for the day.
Plus, you’ll sleep better at night knowing you are fueling your body (and your family) with great food and great habits that can be sustained throughout your life. Implementing some or all of these clean eating lifestyle tips will put you well on your way to a healthier, happier you!
Feel free to Print/Save/Pin this clean eating “cheat sheet” as a reminder of the 7 tips above (click to enlarge).