Clean eating for beginners doesn’t have to be a big deal. In this article, we outline what you need to do to change your eating habits for the better.
So, you have decided to start living healthy?
Well, props for you!
Living healthy starts with clean eating (well, after a good sleep).
This starts by ditching stuff that’s not good for you in favor of those foods we were taught in elementary school to include in our balanced diet serving – lean protein, whole grains, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, and of course, plain water.
Essentially, clean eating is all about going back to the basics.
Here are a few tips on clean eating for beginners that should serve as a fool-proof guide for anyone looking to hitch onto the bandwagon.
- Put a Cap on your Processed Foods Intake
When it comes to clean eating, one of the first things you need to do is to purge what doesn’t work.
We all know processed foods are not healthy for us, but it is their delightful taste and addictive nature that makes it so hard to shun them.
Look, we are not suggesting to eliminate processed foods from your diet in totality – although if you can that would be great. We believe life is meant to be enjoyed, not living as robots with a bible on what we should and shouldn’t eat.
We advocate for the occasional treat every once in a while as everyone is entitled to spoil themselves. However, the issue is making processed foods a staple in our lives; that’s when we start veering off-course diet-wise.
It is also important to add that some processed foods are healthy for you. That’s right, the short list includes items like cheese, plain yogurt, packaged baby spinach, whole-wheat pasta, and a few select others.
- Go Whole Grain
The good thing about swapping refined carbs (for example white bread, sugar, and white pasta) for whole grains is that the latter contains more fiber, anti-inflammation phytonutrients, and antioxidants.
Moreover, if you are looking to shed the pounds and keep them off long-term, whole grains have been found to be more beneficial to this cause.
Whole grains are processed, sure, but these are grains that have been subjected to the least amount of processing – almost like in their just-harvested state. Think oats, wild rice, and quinoa.
Some food manufacturers are cashing in on the “whole grain” tag, but beware that not everyone stamped “Whole Grain” on them is the real deal.
One way to help you make the distinction is to refer to the ingredient list. Authentic products have whole grain as the first ingredient. The list of other ingredients should be as short as they come, and ideally not have any added sugar in there.
Whole-grain bread and whole-grain pasta, for example, are part of eating clean.
- Eat Meat, but Moderately
Some people mistake clean eating for veganism, but these are two totally different concepts.
Clean eating does not involve excluding meat in your diet, but it advises on eating moderately. This is because meat, especially red, is associated with a slew of health issues when consumed in excess.
The recommended daily protein intake per kilogram of body weight is 0.8 grams – that’s approximately 56 grams for the average American man or 46 grams for women.
The best meat is organic – think grass-fed beef or wild-caught salmon. Eating clean when it comes to meat also means cutting down on processed meats like cold cuts, sausage, and bacon.
If you want to avoid meat in its entirety, eggs, nuts, beans, and dairy (with simple ingredients and no added sugar) are good options to consider.
- Eat your Fruits and Vegetables
From a young age, we are advised to make fruits and vegetable part of our everyday diet.
And for good reason.
Fruits and veggies are the most beneficial foodstuff you could eat. They give our bodies nutrients to boost immunity, whereby the body’s ability to fend off pathogens and infections.
They reduce our chances of contracting chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, and cancer.
And they contain fiber which is good for you in a whole bunch of ways – from helping keep the microbiome (beneficial bacteria) balance in your gut happy, to reducing the risk of autoimmune diseases, etc.
Always insist on non-GMO and organic produce.
- Cut on Added Sugar
Clean eating for beginners involves limiting the amount of added sugar in your diet. This involves limiting all those sweet things you were told were not good for you – baked goods, candy, soda, the lot.
Keep an eye on the ingredient list of healthier foods like yogurt, cereal, and some tomato sauces to make sure they have no added sugar.
As well, avoid artificial sweeteners and table sugar whenever you can and instead opt for natural sweeteners.
Don’t worry about the naturally-occurring sugar in fruits and dairy. These are able to blunt the effect of sugar on your body’s insulin levels, thanks to the natural fiber, fat, and protein present in them. Plus, these do not contain empty, sugary calories but are indeed beneficial nutrition-wise.
- Cut out Sodium
The amount of sodium most of us are consuming these days is more than the recommended level. This is because, in addition to the regular salt we consume in our food, a large part of some people’s diet includes processed foods which are laden with sodium.
To minimize the amount of salt you consume, opt for coarse sea salt or kosher salt which contains less sodium.
Also, consider flavoring your food with natural herbs and spices, citrus and vinegar. These will help you minimize the amount of salt you use when cooking.
Follow this simple guide on clean eating for beginners and you should be all set!