I put together this beginners guide to clean eating because I know how frustrating it can be to have to research every single question instead of having it all in one place. I also know how annoying it can be to do all of that research, start eating clean and then find out there was something you were missing.
I started eating clean when I was pregnant with my first son and diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. I knew that having GD increased my risk of becoming diabetic in the future, so I immediately made a change.
When I began clean eating, I immediately found that I had way more energy, wasn’t as swollen, and stopped gaining so much weight. Ever since then, I’ve been hooked!
So here it is…
The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Clean Eating
What Does Clean Eating Mean?
Clean eating is a super simple concept. It’s not even a diet; it’s a healthy lifestyle approach to food and how you prepare it.
Instead of focusing on the idea of eating more or less of specific things (for example, less calories or more protein), clean eating is more about being mindful of what happens to your food from it’s origin to your plate.
To put it simply, clean eating is about eating lots of whole, real foods — veggies, fruits, whole-grains, animal and plant-based protein, nuts, seeds and oils.
It also means that what you eat should be as close to nature as possible — minimally processed, not packaged, etc.
This is why cooking at home and finding good ingredients are so important.
Why Eat Clean?
You’ll live longer
Study after study has shown that consuming the foods that clean eating consists of can lengthen your life-span. A recent JAMA Internal Medicine report found that each additional 28-gram serving of whole grains per day was associated with a 5% lower risk of dying from any cause. And in a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found that increasing your produce intake to more than 569 grams per day reduces your risk of mortality by 10%.
High-fiber fruits take longer to digest and can instantly boost your energy while providing critical vitamins for the evening ahead. Other pick-me-ups include quinoa, almonds, eggs, kale, citrus fruit and a good-old-fashioned glass of water- all things that are a part of a clean diet.
Processed and junk food, on the other hand, are known to quickly drain your energy and leave you feeling sluggish. And no one wants a food coma when there is work and/or kids waiting for you!
You’ll build muscle & burn fat
The lean protein that is a part of clean eating builds lean muscle mass and boosts metabolism. You already know that muscle makes you stronger, but did you know that it also helps you burn fat throughout the day?
Losing weight starts in the kitchen, and if you are not already eating clean the switch is going to make a big difference in your body.
Remember, you cannot out-exercise a bad diet- so eating clean is key!
Here is my own clean eating weight loss journey:
How to Begin Clean Eating
Clean out your kitchen
The first thing you are going to have to do is clean out your kitchen. Go through your kitchen and donate or toss any foods that are not clean.
If it’s there, you’ll eat it- if it’s not, you wont. Simple.
Re-stock your kitchen
Replace all the unhealthy items you tossed foods from a healthy clean eating grocery list.
- Limit processed foods. (Remember that not everything that comes out of a box, bag or can is bad for you. For example, baby spinach and chickpeas are “clean” packaged foods.)
- Go for whole grains instead of refined grains. (The packaging will tell you it’s whole grain)
- Up your veggie & fruit intake.
- Avoid sweets like soda, candy and baked goods.
- Look for foods without sugar as an ingredient, or make sure it’s listed towards the bottom, which means less of it is used in the food.
Eating clean is ten times easier when you are prepared. Take a few minutes on Sunday to plan all of your meals for the week.
You can even take it a step further and prep all of your meals for the week on Sunday (or whatever day works for you).
Make a list & stick to it
Don’t end up with pop tarts in your cart. Just avoid that aisle completely.
Don’t drink your calories!
The only thing you should be drinking is water or fruit infused water.
Clean Eating Essentials
High Quality Protein Powder
Protein powder is an easy way to sneak protein in, especially after an intense workout. However, you need to make sure you get a protein powder that not only has a good amount of protein, but also does not have a ton of added sugar or weird ingredients.
I highly recommend IdealFit protein powders because they have 20g of protein, taste great and do not have any carbs/sugar/fat.
Protein Bars for On the Go Snacks
If you are on the go a lot and always running around (hello mom life), I highly recommend carrying FitJoy bars in your bag.
They are a convenient and tasty option when you aren’t able to have fruits/veggies or any sort of whole food.
FitJoy bars don’t contain any grains, artificials or GMOs. So when you need a healthy snack on the go, this is a great option!
They even have “fun size” options that really fit in any bag and are great for moments when you just need something to hold you off for a bit. Or even post workout when you just need to make it home to eat dinner, but want your protein right away.
Portion Control Containers
Learning about portion sizes is super important. You definitely want to work towards eating within healthy portions. When eating clean, diet is as much about quantity as it is quality.
Portion control containers make portioning out your food WAY easier.
There is a container for proteins, fruits, veggies, healthy fats and healthy carbs. All you do is fill them with the correct food and you’ll have one healthy portion.
The set also comes with the calculation so you’ll know how much of each portion you should have every day.
If you use this throughout your day, you’re not going to overeat.
Meal Prep Food Storage ContainersMeal Prep Containers
Meal prepping is the best way to stay on track when it comes to clean eating, especially if you lead a busy lifestyle.
When you meal prep, you know exactly what you’re going to eat for every meal. You also have everything already prepared so you are way less likely to stray from your plan.
It also saves you money because you’re not eating out all the time.
Meal Prep Lunch Bag
If staying on track while you’re at work or out & about is your concern, this lunchbox is perfect for you!
It’s insulated yet small enough to fit in a regular sized fridge while holding enough of your meals to get you through a few hours.
You can pack your breakfast, lunch and snacks all in to this bag.
It also comes with a shaker bottle that you can use for a shake, infused water, or any supplements you may be taking.
This is the best priced and sized meal prep bag I have found and is great quality.
100% Pure, Raw & Unfiltered Sweetener
Giving up sweets is hard, trust me- I know!
But you can still make cleaner versions of sweets to hold you off and satisfy your cravings. However, that means using clean ingredients.
This honey is 100% pure, raw and unfiltered. It actually comes from bees, unlike most of the processed honey you’ll find in the grocery stores.
It’s great to make clean desserts or even to sweeten your coffee!
Common table sugar is a big no, but this is a great replacement with great flavor.
Simple Clean Eating Recipes
- Clean Eating Breakfast Recipes
- Clean Eating Lunch & Dinner Recipes
- Clean Eating Snack Recipes
- 24 Delicious Clean Eating Meal Prep Ideas
- Top 8 Clean Eating Dessert Recipes
Simple Clean Eating Meal Plan
Changing your diet is a big step, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed. But don’t let that feeling stop you from doing something SO good for you!
To help you with the transition, I’ve put together a printable 21 day clean eating meal plan that will make your life much easier.
It includes 21 days of pre-planned clean meals that the whole family can enjoy. It also includes your weekly grocery list, recipes for every single meal, and a space to journal.
This will ease you in to clean eating until you feel ready to take the jump and make your own meal plans!