By now, I’m sure you’ve heard the term “clean eating.” It’s one of those words that’s become synonymous with being healthy.
But what does it mean to eat clean?
Simply put, clean eating means choosing whole, natural foods that are minimally refined. It doesn’t involve removing entire food groups from your diet, restricting calories, or depriving yourself. It’s about finding healthy ways to enjoy the foods you love. This might mean instead of buying packaged pre-made foods you choose to make these foods yourself. It might also mean you switch out certain ingredients in recipes to make them more “clean.”
Packaged and highly processed and/or refined foods often contain preservatives, artificial colors, and flavors. These are also the types of ingredients you want to limit if you’re striving to eat clean. It can feel like a lot of work at first, but eating clean gets easier and easier once you understand the basic concepts.
Here are 5 simple guidelines to get you started eating clean today.
1) Choose natural sweeteners
You can still have sweets while eating clean. A clean eating plan does not include high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. Cleaner options include natural sugars sourced from fruit, real maple syrup, and local honey. Dates and dried fruit are also great for adding sweetness to baked goods, or in no-bake snacks like these chocolate lemon energy bars.
2) Choose whole grains first
Whole grain foods, such as quinoa, brown rice, and oats are super healthy and should be part of a clean eating diet. A whole grain is one that includes all parts of the grain kernel (the bran, the germ, the endosperm). Whole grains are commonly bleached and ground down into flours and used in processed and packaged foods. Clean eaters choose grains in their whole state vs refined flour versions of the grain. Grains in their whole form are far better for your health than flour, because they provide more fiber and nutrients, like B vitamins and minerals.
3) Eat more greens
Everyone knows by now how important it is to eat vegetables, but eating a diet rich in greens is part of my personal healthy clean eating strategy. Greens are nutrition powerhouses. They provide fiber, minerals, and other important phytonutrients that you just don’t find in other vegetables!
4) Clean out your kitchen
An important first step when beginning to eat clean is to do a proper kitchen cleanse. This means cleaning out your fridge and pantry to make way for all the good clean food coming your way! Take stock of what you currently have in your pantry and toss any items that are highly refined or processed, or that contain high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated fats, dyes and artificial sweeteners. Join my Free Fearless Cooking Challenge and join thousands of others who have cleaned out their pantry and prepped their kitchens for clean eating.
5) Cook your own food
Think about some of the foods you buy pre-made or order in a restaurant and try making clean versions at home. Change up your favorite recipes by switching to clean ingredients. Replace the white flour for whole grain versions, use dates or fruit in place of sugar, replace corn or vegetable oil with heart healthy olive oil. I also like to add greens to recipes as a healthy upgrade. Stir baby spinach into soups and chili, add to casseroles, fold into an omelet or add to your stir fry! You can also use different types of greens in your salad and of course you can whip up a green smoothie for breakfast. At first this can seem like a lot of work, but I promise, the more you cook, the better you get at it.
What clean eating tips do you have for beginners or someone getting back on the wagon? Share with us in the comments.