Why Clean Eating Should Be Your First Step To Losing Weight For Women Over 40
About 3 years ago, I had a wake up call about my body and realized I needed to make some major changes or I would not be here for my kids. Let me give you some background. I used to be pretty active in high school and college – I was on my high school rowing team, I ran track my freshman year in college, and became a group fitness instructor in grad school. Exercise has always been a part of my life. Healthy eating, not so much :> I would eat well and then “fall off the wagon” several times. Things all came to a crashing halt, though, after a routine day of exercise.
I couldn’t move. I did my regular cardio and weight routine at home and then about 2 hours later I was in bed with a low grade fever, aching joints, and basically felt like I had the flu. This pretty much happened every time I would try to exercise, even if it was just a simple walk around the neighborhood.
So I stopped exercising. Unfortunately exercise helped keep my chronic anxiety and mild depression away and helped me to be a sometimes better eater.
So when I stopped exercising, I was miserable and if I asked my family, I’m sure they would say I made them miserable as well.
So after about 6 months of staying in bed and not wanting to go anywhere or do anything with my kids, I decided to make some changes.
I had tried to make changes to my diet and exercise before with Weight Watchers, Atkins, South Beach, Whole 30, etc. You name it and I tried it. The problem was that I am not a crash course, dive right in kind of girl, and it was hard to maintain in gains I made with my personality. Not to mention trying to change the habits of my 3 kids and husband as well.
So I decided on 2 things:
1. I would only try to change myself.
2. I would make one small change at a time
And so began my journey into habit change and clean eating. After many classes and certifications, I started with what many experts say is the best way to permanently lose weight and improve your health:
Start small and clean up your diet.
And that is how my journey to clean eating and exercise began again. I am now back to exercising 30 – 60 mins, 4-5 times a day, on average. Some weeks I do nothing, some, I’m lucky if I squeeze in 15 mins. But I listen to my body and work if I’m in a good place mentally and physically and stop when I need to take a break.
It’s not easy and I definitely don’t look like a fitness model, but I feel better and love what I do.
And I want that for you. I believe in you and that you can lose weight get to a healthier lifestyle. I want to make it simple for you and not overwhelming. I hope this guide will help you do that.
So I hope this guide will help you get started with one of the steps that I took – clean eating. On with the show….
What Exactly Is Clean Eating (i.e. Isn’t This Just Another Diet?)
- Eating clean is not a diet – it’s a way of life
- Eating clean is generally part of a diet program- paleo, ketogenic, Atkins, Weight Watchers, DASH, Mediterranean – all of these diets use clean foods as their foundation
- All you need for a clean eating meal is a healthy protein, vegetables, and a healthy fat. This can be as simple as half an avocado and some grilled chicken on a bed of greens.
- clean eating is eating food in its most natural state. It comes from the ground or a plant (fruits, veggies, oils, oats, rice, quinoa, etc), it eats from the ground (cows, chickens, pigs, etc). Yes, oils and some fats like dairy are listed in clean foods as they are minimally processed.
- It’s a scale – some minimally processed foods (dairy, oils) and everything else has just one ingredient to fully organic and self – sustaining farm. Choose your level!
- foods with the least amount of ingredients possible. Earth grown foods are best!
- aim to eliminate processed foods from our diets, and foods with added chemicals and artificial colors and sweeteners.
- Organic doesn’t mean clean (organic gummy bears and chips, anyone?)
- Minimally processed and as close to nature as possible
- Free from additives, colorings, flavorings, sweeteners, and hormones.
- Some sweeteners are ok – again, it depends on how far you go on the spectrum – honey, stevia, maple syrup are good but white sugar and other artificial sweeteners are not
Clean eating is a diet that focuses on natural, mostly unprocessed foods. When we talk about diet, we’re not talking about the latest and greatest weight loss program. In this case, we’re talking about a way of eating. The focus with a clean diet is on fruits, vegetables, meats, and gains in their most natural, unprocessed form.
Instead of eating pizza, pasta, bread and fried chicken, a clean diet consists of meals like steamed broccoli and grilled chicken, omelets, homemade chili or steak, baked potato and a side salad. In essence, it’s going back to how we used to eat before there was a fast food restaurant at every corner and grocery stores packed with processed foods and meals ready to heat and serve.
The idea behind clean eating is to get back to consuming fresh, mainly unprocessed foods that contain their full nutritional value. As an added bonus they aren’t stuffed full of preservatives, additives and flavor enhancers. The main reason for choosing to stick to a clean diet is to eat healthier.
How “clean” you make your diet is up to you. Some proponents of this way of eating insist that you should only consume completely unprocessed foods. Others are comfortable enjoying things like butter, cheese, cured meats and cultivated vegetables like Sauerkraut. How far you take it is up to you. Even cleaning up your diet just a little by cutting out fast food burgers and creating freezer meals will help.
Fill up your plate with plenty of raw or cooked vegetables. Cook up some rice or bake a potato and round it all up with a little fruit and cheese for dessert. Find a couple of go-to meals you like and build your weekly meals around those dishes.
It’s hard to find healthy snacks that fit your clean diet while you’re out and about. Keep some fresh and dried fruit along with some seeds and nuts handy for emergency snacking. When it comes to drinks, water and herbal teas are your best friend. Black coffee is another good choice. Just be careful about adding sweeteners and creamers.
It may take you a little while to get used to the “real” taste of food after eating foods that are laden with sugar, salt and flavor enhancers. Once your taste buds adjust, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how delicious real food is. And your body will thank you for the change to clean eating as well.
Why Should You Eat Clean
Giving up your favorite junk food isn’t easy. Who doesn’t love pizza, cake and ice cream? Sometimes we all need a little extra motivation to make the switch to eating clean. Here are three good reasons why you should give it a try.
You Feel Better And Have More Energy
Clean eating is all about eating real, un-processed foods that are good for you and your body. It’s not easy, but the results will be almost immediate. You’ll start to feel better and have more energy throughout the day. You may even find you’re sleeping better and don’t have to rely on those 3 cups of coffee in the morning to get you out the door.
That’s because you’re giving your body the nutrients it needs to run at its best. Instead of going on a sugar or caffeine high and subsequent crash, you’re getting what you need to feel great and have as much energy as that Energizer Bunny.
You Look Better
Real food is much better at providing you with the vitamins, minerals and other micro nutrients than anything in pill or cream form can. Don’t be surprised to see thicker, shinier hair and clearer, firmer skin.
Processed food is designed to trigger us into eating more than we should. Add to that the fact that it is not very nutrient dense and it’s no surprise that most people on a “Western Diet” are overweight.
Going back to a more natural way of eating will help you lose those extra pounds which not only makes you look better, you’ll be a lot healthier as well – which is much more important than looking good.
You’re Setting A Good Example For Your Loved Ones
Eating better and getting healthier doesn’t just impact you. You’ll also be setting an example for those around you. Your spouse and children will be much more likely to grab a healthy snack if you lead by example. Just think of the impact this could have on your family. Not only will you make sure you’re around and healthy for a long time, but you’ll also be influencing them to make healthy choices now and for years to come.
That’s some pretty good motivation to help get you started. Give clean eating a try and see these benefits and more for yourself. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is and how great real food tastes.
- You could lose weight (you can lose up to 4-5 lbs around the WAIST!)
- You will feel satisfied & ditch the cravings
- You will sleep better and have more energy
- You will increase your fitness levels
- You can strengthen your immune system
- You can reduce inflammation
- You will have great skin
- We are what we eat – it makes up our cell membranes, bone marrow, blood, and hormones. We lose billions of cells each day that must be replaced. – reference
- You will eat less calories. Clean foods have more fiber and water to help you stay and feel fuller for a longer period of time.
How To Get Started With Clean Eating
When you first get started eating clean, you have two options. You can go cold turkey and give up all the junk food, sugar, processed food etc. all at once, or you can opt for a more gradual change. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach. Pick the one you think will work best for you and give it a try.
If giving everything up cold turkey doesn’t work for you, you can always switch to a more gradual approach and vice versa. Please don’t beat yourself up if you make gradual changes or slip up here and there, particularly in the beginning. The important thing is that you are doing something to eat things that are better for your health and your body.
The first thing you have to decide is what exactly clean eating means for you and your family. Some of the basics include no processed food, organic produce, chicken and grass-feed beef whenever possible. Buy the best quality eggs you can. Decide what you want to completely cut from your diet. White flour and sugar are easy. But it’s up to you if you want to include whole wheat flour or cut out wheat completely. What about other grains? What are you and what aren’t you ok with?
Next, you can do one of two things.
- You can go through the whole house and toss everything that is no longer on your approved food list. For some of us going cold turkey works best. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself feeling crappy and fighting a headache for a few days. It’s your body adjusting to the cleaner food and detoxing from all the junk you’ve been eating up until this point.
- If throwing away all this food is more than you can bear, consider donating what you can to a food pantry. Or eat what you have but not let any more processed and junk food enter the house. Next, cut out all white flour and sugar. Gradually make more and more changes to your diet until you reach a level of clean eating you’re comfortable with.
Don’t forget about drinks. When you’re thirsty, stick to water. Sodas and energy drinks are a big no-no. Everything in-between is up to you. Does coffee fit into your clean eating plan? If it does, make sure you give up the sugary creamer and stick to plain, organic coffee. Herbal teas are a great alternative as is lemon water.
No matter how you get there, you will be amazed at how much better you’ll feel once you switch to eating real food that’s good for your body. Don’t be surprised to find that you have more energy and a mental clarity you didn’t realize you were missing.
- Slowly change your diet – change one food or one meal at a time or jumpstart with a clean eating challenge. After the challenge, modify it to meet your lifestyle one meal at a time.
- Shop the perimeter of the store
- See where your at on the clean eating spectrum and start making better choices.
- Ex – “I don’t normally eat breakfast” – make a smoothie, overnight oats in a jar, or toast with peanut butter and a banana on top will work
- Ex – “I eat fast food in the car or at my desk” – make a food swap each time you eat out – water for soda, a side salad for french fries, a small hamburger instead of a large one
Tips For Success With Eating Cleaning and Getting Lean
What To Buy in the Grocery Store
Here’s the secret to sticking to a clean diet – make sure you always have something in the house that makes it easy to fix meals and snacks. It’s easy to get tempted by fast food, takeout or even the convenience food section at the grocery store when you’re hungry with no easy to prepare food in the house. Here are some staples you should keep on hand for quick and easy clean meals.
Pantry Items or Dry Goods
Having things like rice, oats and corn meal or grits on hand helps whip up quick and filling side dishes and breakfasts. Keep your pantry stocked with potatoes, onions and garlic and you can whip up some quick dishes with just a few things from the fridge.
We like to keep corn tortillas, tortilla chips and popcorn on hand for quick snacks that aren’t bad for us. And speaking of snacks…nuts, seeds and dried fruit are perfect for snacking and make great additions to oatmeal in the morning. Wrap it up with some seed or nut butters and you’re good to go.
If you’re including whole grain products, keep whole grain flour and pastas on hand in the pantry. You can bake up some quick breads; make homemade bread and other baked goods with the flour. And of course pasta, sauce and some vegetables always make for a quick weeknight dinner.
Eggs and Dairy
Always keep plenty of eggs in the fridge. Go ahead and boil a dozen or so and keep them on hand for easy snacking. Eggs are such a versatile ingredient and they can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Depending on how much dairy you are including in your clean food diet, stock the fridge with butter, raw or whole milk and some Greek yogurt and cottage cheese. We also like to keep a few hard cheeses for quick and easy snacking.
Fruits and Vegetables
Let’s get down to the stuff that makes up the bulk of our diet – fruits and vegetables. Aside from things like carrots and potatoes, there aren’t a lot of shelf stable vegetables out there. Stock up on plenty of frozen and canned vegetables to use whenever you run out of the fresh stuff.
Another great thing to keep on the counter is a growing salad bowl. Lose leaf lettuce is pretty quick and easy to grow. Give it a try for fresh, organic produce from you window sill.
When it comes to fruit, apples are your best bet for shelf stable food. We also like to keep a variety of frozen berries in the freezer for quick smoothies.
Meat and Fish
Let’s wrap this up with a few things from the meat and fish department. Canned tuna is a good option to have on occasion. You can make tuna salad, or add it to pasta sauces or even as a pizza topping. We don’t have it often but it’s a good ingredient to have on hand.
When it comes to meat, you won’t find my freezer without some grass-fed ground beef, ground turkey and a few bags of chicken breast. They are all versatile options when I’m out of fresh meat or can’t find anything decent at the grocery store.
- Buy foods with less than 5 ingredients
- Buy foods that use ingredients that you use at home
- Buy foods that have ingredients you can pronounce
- Buy organic as much as possible – I have a love/hate relationship with organic farming. It’s a great idea in theory but as a farmer I know it’s, one, hard to sustain, and two, there are a lot of loopholes that organic farmers can use to claim “organic” products but still use non-organic chemicals on their crops and animals. The best bet is grow it yourself. If you can’t do that then go to a farmer’s market, food co-op, or small local farm to buy your food. If you can’t do that then get what you can, within your budget, at the supermarket.
The foods you eat and buy on a clean diet are very different from what you’ve probably been eating so far. So many of us are used to pantries, fridges and freezers slammed full of processed convenience foods and since those are off the menu, grocery shopping will become a very different experience. Here are a few tips to help make grocery shopping easier when you switch to a clean food diet.
Shop Local Or Grow Your Own Produce
When you eat clean a big part of your diet will be made up of produce. The best way to get or fruits and vegetables is to grow them yourself. You can go all out and plant a garden, or start small with a few herbs and a perpetual salad bowl on your counter. Nothing beats “grocery shopping” in your own back yard.
The next best thing is to find local grown produce. Visit your local farmer’s market. Get to know the farmers in your area, or see if there’s someone in your neighborhood that gardens and is willing to barter or trade for fruits and vegetables. When you are able to find free or inexpensive produce locally, consider canning or freezing what you can’t use right away for later in the year.
Getting most of your produce this way will make it even quicker and easier when you head to the grocery store.
Shop The Perimeter Of The Grocery Store
Much of what’s found in the center isles of your local grocer is “food” you’ll no longer be buying or eating. Shop mainly around the perimeter of the grocery store, sticking to produce, meat, dairy and the frozen department (for fruits and vegetables that aren’t in season).
Stay out of the center isles to avoid temptation as much as possible. Grab the few items you need there and head to the cash register. Don’t even look at the candy in the check out line.
Go In With A Plan
It helps to go shopping with a list. It will keep you focused and you’ll make sure you won’t forget anything, particularly when you’re cooking new recipes. It also helps keep you from cheating since you can’t really buy what’s not on the list – unless it’s toilet paper, and then by all means buy some even if it isn’t on the list.
Don’t Go Hungry
Another helpful tip that works much better than you may suspect is to never go to the store hungry. I’m sure you’ve heard this one, but do you stick to it? It’s much easier to say no to frozen pizza or that box of doughnuts when you’ve just had a yummy veggie wrap. Go shopping after a meal or at least have a substantial snack before you head to the store. It will do wonders for your willpower.
How To Lose Weight Fast With Clean Eating
Switching to a clean diet that consists of real food, plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean meat and whole grains will put you on the right track to a healthy weight. But there are a few things you can do to speed things up. This is particularly important if you have a lot of weight to lose or are pre-diabetic.
Watch The Sweeteners
Clean eating cuts out all white sugar and artificial sweeteners. Natural sweeteners like honey, agave syrup and maple syrup are usually allowed though. While they are fine to use in moderation, be careful about not going overboard. Replacing your sugary treats with “clean” versions that contain just as many natural sugars won’t help you lose the weight and isn’t good for your blood sugar.
Careful With Carbs
One of the best ways to lose excess weight is to curb carbohydrate consumption. Fill your plate with low carb, non-starchy vegetables, add a few berries and go easy on the potatoes.
Tracking carbohydrate consumption for a few days can help you get a feel for what clean foods are high in carbs and how lowering your carbohydrate intake makes you feel.
Plenty of Protein And Healthy Fat To Stay Full
With sugars and carbs out of the way, what should you eat? After all a big salad will only satisfy you for so long. Make it up with plenty of lean protein and healthy fats. Both take a longer time to digest and will help you stay full.
Include things like chicken, low fat cottage cheese, Greek Yogurt, ground turkey etc. with each meal or snack. Nuts are another great option full of healthy fats. Be careful of portion sizes though. The same holds true for healthy fats like cold-pressed olive oil or avocados.
Don’t Forget The Water
Often we think we’re hungry when we’re actually thirsty. Try drinking a glass of water first. Not only will it fill you up with zero calories, staying well hydrated also makes it easier for your body to process body fat into energy your body can use. In other words, drink your water and melt that fat right of your body.
Move Around More
Eating the right type of food in appropriate portions will make a huge difference when it comes to your weight. But so will moving around. We’re not talking about heading to the gym each day or gong for a 5 mile run. While those are great options, even moving around just a little more can have a positive impact.
Go for a short walk after dinner, park a little further away at the mall or dance around the kitchen to your favorite music. Not only will this burn extra calories, it also puts you in a better mood and kicks your metabolism into high gear.
- Here are the facts on weight-loss and why diets do not work:
- 50% of Americans are trying to lose weight
- Two-thirds who lose weight on diets gain it back within 3 years
- 5% of crash dieters keep the weight off
- Portion control instead of counting calories
- Food labels aren’t always accurate – reference
- It’s creates too much stress
- Intuitive eating is better – follow your hunger signals instead – reference
- Eat on smaller plates and use smaller spoons.
- Get a multivitamin
- Get a probiotic (I like Align)
- Eat refined carbohydrates like bread, white rice, and pasta with some protein. The protein will help the carbohydrates take longer to digest.
- Eat up to 3 servings a day of whole grains and limit fruit to 2 servings a day.
- Eat more fiber filled carbohydrates like legumes (beans, chickpeas). These will keep you fuller longer.
- Move your body as much as possible or choose an exercise that you enjoy. Take the stairs, park far away, chase your kids, clean your house, etc.
- Make most of your meals/plate at least 50% plants and vegetables.
- Distract yourself from any cravings. Take a walk, watch a funny cat video, listen to some upbeat music. After 15 minutes, if you still have the craving, have a small portion of what you are craving or a healthier alternative. For example, if you are craving chocolate then have the 70% or more cocoa bar instead of the standard candy bar. Or I set aside one serving of a treat each night (my favorites are Lily’s chocolate or Lindt’s dark chocolate truffle balls).
- Read the food label.
- Start cleaning out your pantry and find a clean substitute for your favorite processed pantry food (more below). You can do this slowly or “Marie Kondo” it and clean everything out at once. Do what fits your personality and home the best. I personally find that slower is better with my family. It’s going to be hard enough to change yourself, trying to change your family at the same time can make life (and clean eating) unbearable.
- Cook more meals at home
- Follow the 80/20 or 90/10 rule – 80% of your meals/food are “clean” and 20% are for times when you can’t get access to a “clean” choice.
- Veggies are the new and improved comfort food! They are high in heart healthy fiber, which helps you feel full. They are low in calories, so you can eat away, without guilt! 2.5-3 cups are recommended each day for adults. Add veggies to your morning omelette to increase your daily dose of veggies.
- Benefits of veggies:
- vitamin dense
- veggie rich diet helps protect against arthritis, heart disease, stroke, dementia, cancer, and can even slow down the aging process
- veggies contain nutrients that improve resilience to stress
- Lay off the sugar – The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar daily for women. Eat fruit instead. Eat 1.5 – 2 cups per day. Choose whole fruit over fruit juice as the fruit has fiber.
- Go for whole grains like quinoa, oats, and brown rice. Studies show people who eat 3 or more servings of whole grains daily have a lower body mass index and less belly fat.
- Here are some meal prepping tips that I personally use on a weekly basis.
- cut/season meat, label baggies by date and meal
- smoothie bags – these are amazing! Throw your fruit into baggies, label with date, and freeze
- wash/chop/portion produce
- prep/portion your snacks, throw into baggies, and label
- lettuce – cut, wash, spin dry – store in a baggie in fridge with paper towel to keep fresh
How To Eat Clean on a Budget
One of the big concerns when people consider eating clean – or eating healthy in general is cost. Grocery prices have gone up so much in the past few years; it’s hard to find an extra $100 in the budget to spend on healthy food.
Find your local farmers market and scout out farm stores in the area. They are a great source of local produce, diary, and eggs and if you’re lucky, even meat. Since these items don’t need to be trucked in from across the country (or overseas), you’re getting fresh, high quality food at a decent price.
CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) boxes are another great source of local boxes. You buy a share of a farmer’s produce for the year and end up with a box of assorted fruits and vegetables throughout the growing season. Go to http://www.localharvest.org/csa/ to learn more and find farms in your area that participate.
Eat In Season
Eat the food that’s in season any given month. Again, it will be cheaper, both in the grocery store and at the farmer’s market, but also be fresher. Plus there are additional benefits to eating in season. The food tastes better since it is picked in its prime season and it’s better for the environment when food doesn’t have to be picked early and shipped across the country.
Make It From Scratch
We’ve lost the art of making things from scratch in the past few decades. We spend our hard earned money on sodium free, organic chicken broth instead of boiling up the bones from the chicken we had for dinner last night and making our own.
Learn to cook things from scratch. Cook your own beans, make soups and stews from scratch and make it a goal to learn to make one new homemade thing each week. Try your hand at baking bread or make some homemade barbecue sauce. Not only will you save money, you also get full control over the ingredients.
Grow Your Own
Turn part of your yard into your own personal grocery store. It is very easy to grow your own lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. Give it a try. You can even do this in containers on your patio if you don’t have much of a yard.
Growing your own produce is even possible in an apartment. Grow some herbs, have some sprouts sprouting and make a growing salad bowl. You can grow spring greens in a pot or bowl in the kitchen window and enjoy a nice bowl of fresh salad every few days.
As an added bonus you get outside and learn a lot more about where you food comes from and what it takes to grow healthy fruits and vegetables that are good for our bodies.
Buy In Bulk
Last but not least, let’s talk about buying in bulk. You can purchase staple foods like rice, whole grain flour and even dried beans and peas in bulk. See what your local grocery store has to offer, or see if you can get even better prices online.
Buying these items in bulk will save you quite a few dollars on your food budget and it makes weekly grocery trips easier since those things are already crossed off the list.
Please don’t let budget constraints keep you from eating healthier. Not only is it very doable on a limited budget, you’ll be saving even more down the road in avoided health care costs.
Buying bulk may save you money – reference (what clean foods are cheaper in bulk)
- Make a menu and a list
- Have a healthy snack before shopping
- Not everything has to be “clean” – get the best choice for your buck.
Easy Substitutions For Your Favorite Processed Foods
Congratulations… you decided to “eat clean” but what happens when you’re doing well for a few days enjoying new recipes? Then you start to miss your favorite processed foods. Packing a lunch is hard when making sandwiches isn’t an option. And how are you supposed to go without your favorite pasta dish? Below you’ll find easy substitutions for some of your favorite processed foods.
Eating clean usually cuts out any and all pasta. Rice is a quick substitute as is spaghetti squash. There are also “miracle noodles” available for purchase online and in some health food stores. They are mushroom based and usually come packed in water. To be honest, they are a bit of an acquired taste. By far the best and most versatile option is to use squash and zucchini as a pasta replacement. Use a spiralizer, a veggie peeper or just a knife and cut pasta shapes form the squash. You can eat it raw, or cook it in a dry skillet until your mock pasta is al dente. Serve with our favorite clean pasta sauce or top it with some tomatoes cooked in olive oil and garlic.
Wraps and sandwiches make the perfect portable lunch. If you’re wondering what you’re supposed to be doing without them, look no further than a leaf of lettuce or cabbage. They make great wraps and hold your favorite clean sandwich ingredients just fine.
Of course you can also bake some great gluten-free baked treats using eggs, and either flax seed or almond meal. Do a quick Google search for all sorts of quick and easy recipes to try.
If cold cereal is your breakfast of choice, look no further than a bowl of fruit and chopped nuts topped with a little almond milk. You’ll agree that it is much better than that same old bowl of corn flakes. Keep the ingredients ready in the fridge for a quick and easy breakfast.
If you get tired of that, then give eggs a try. They make great breakfast food and will keep you full for hours.
Did you know that you can make pizza crust from cauliflower? It’s a bit of work and slightly messy to eat, but boy does it hit the spot when you’re craving a piece of pie.
Depending on what you’re eating on your personal version of clean eating, corn tortillas may be a good gluten-free option. They make perfect individual sized pizzas.
Any time a craving hits or you feel like throwing in the towel because you’re missing some of your old favorites, do a search. There are some amazing clean food recipes out there for just about anything.
- Fruit Seltzer or fruit infused water instead of soda – you’ll cut out 39 grams of sugar
- Sprouted breads and tortillas instead of regular bread – they are packed with more nutrients and can be easier to digest than regular bread
- Avocado for mayonnaise – Avocado has more nutrients and less fat than mayonnaise
- Cacao Nibs and powder for chocolate – it has micronutrients, can lower your cholesterol, and make you happier
- Brown rice, cauliflower rice, or quinoa for white rice — brown rice because it is the whole grain unlike white rice, quinoa because it has more nutrients and is a complete protein, cauliflower because it is nutrient-dense as well, is low- carb, and is high in fiber
- Spiralized vegetable noodles for boxed noodles and pasta – They are nutrient-dense, low carb, and low calorie(so you can eat more!)
- Beans for meat – it helps the climate, and they are low fat and high fiber
Kitchen Essentials For Clean Eating
- instant pot/crockpot
- Food processor
- Measuring cups
- Food Scale
- Mason Jars
- Portion control containers, plates, to go containers
- Food chopper
- Mandolin slicer
- Zester and grater
- Cast iron pans
- Dutch ovens
- Salad spinner
- Cutting boards (one dedicated to raw meat, and one for veggies/other foods)
Clean Eating Away From Home
Eating clean at home is relatively easy. You cook what you want to eat and provided you have the right ingredients in your fridge and pantry you shouldn’t be too tempted by takeout and fast food. Things get a little more complicated when you’re away from home.
When You’re Traveling
Do your homework before you head out. What options will you have on the road and once you arrive at your destination? See if there are grocery stores close by and if you will have access to a mini-fridge (if you’re staying in a hotel).
Pack some emergency snacks in case you can’t find anything you can eat. Stock up on nuts, fruits, seeds and raw vegetables. If you can, pack a little cooler with other ready to eat food. Having water and herbal teas on hand will also help when you’re traveling.
When You’re Invited To Dinner
Depending on your relationship with the hostess, you may or may not want to mention your dietary restrictions. In either case it’s a good idea to have a substantial snack before you head out the door. You don’t want to arrive hungry and be tempted by all the “off-limit” food options.
Make the best choices you can. After that it’s a personal decision if you want to avoid most food or have some foods you wouldn’t normally eat in order to avoid offending the hostess. At the end of the day, a few bites of processed foods won’t kill you. Just avoid any known trigger foods and if you can, stay away from wheat and sugar.
When You’re Going Out To Eat
Research the place ahead of time, or if you have input in where you should go, pick a restaurant that you know has choices that fit into your eating plan.
Most restaurants offer their menus online. Start there and see what you can find that’s at least close to being acceptable. Then give them a call and see what they can do to accommodate you. You may be able to make some small tweaks in the menu to cut out foods you’re trying to avoid. Stating you’re on dietary restrictions or can’t handle certain ingredients will help. Of course it always helps to be nice to the person on the other end of the phone line and your server once you get to the restaurant.
One more quick tip. Anytime you head out, even if it’s just for a few short hours, carry a healthy snack with you. Keep some non-perishables like nuts and dried fruit in your purse along with some bottled water. No matter what happens, you’ll have your snack and can make it until you get back home to cook a clean meal.
Snacks To Take With You
- Berries or other fruit
- Apples or apple chips
- Kale chips
- Flax crackers with guacamole
- Yogurt or kefir with cinnamon
- A smoothie
- A green juice
- A handful of raw seeds or nuts
- An apple with tahini or sunflower seed butter
- Veggies and a dip (hummus, nut butter, or guacamole)
- Check the menu before you go so you can plan your meal ahead
- Do a search online for “Clean Eating in _________” Just fill in the blank for your area
- Ask for water with lemon
- Hold the dips, dressings and sauces or have them on the side
- Ask for an order (or two) of steamed vegetables
- Go al la carte and choose a clean protein, vegetables, and a healthy fat
- Opt for grilled, baked or broiled meats and fish instead of fried
- Choose whole grain options like quinoa, brown rice and sweet potatoes instead bread, rice or white potatoes
- Salad bars are perfect for building a clean meal on your own
- Feeling like a burger? Hold the bun and ask for lettuce instead
- Choose lean cuts when eating meat
- Don’t fall for portion distortion – take home the extras or share a meal
- Don’t be too shy to ask for special orders – remember…you are the customer!
How to Eat Clean With Kids
Eating clean is tough when you are the only one sticking with this particular diet. You’re not the only one who could benefit from this healthy way of eating. Why not get the whole family on board and become a clean food house?
It will be much easier to stick to healthy, unprocessed foods when there is no junk food in the house to tempt you. But how do you go about getting the whole family on board?
Have a Family Meeting
Start by calling a family meeting and laying the cards on the table. Tell everyone why eating clean, healthy, unprocessed food is so important and that this is a change you want everyone to make as a family. Tell them it’s something that’s near and dear to your heart and you need their support.
Make It A Gradual Change
If you’re getting a lot of resistance from your family, consider making small changes when it comes to family food. For example, grill up some chicken and fix a big salad. Then fix a side of Mac and Cheese for the kids.
Or replace half the ground meet for your spaghetti sauce with turkey and use some whole wheat noodles. Keep the garlic toast for those that want it, but add some sliced cucumbers and tomatoes as a healthy side.
Encourage your kids to take at least a bite of each new healthy dish. If they don’t like, they don’t have to eat it.
Find New Family Favorites
As you try new recipes, give everyone a chance to vote on what they like and didn’t like. It won’t take you long to find a list of new family favorites. Feature those regularly on the menu and make sure you have plenty of healthy snacks everyone likes around.
Encourage the kids to eat at least one fruit or vegetable with each meal or snack. Even small amounts of healthy food will add up and replace some of the processed junk
Use The 80/20 Rule
It’s important to realize that every step towards clean food is a step in the right direction. Not all of your family meals have to be 100% clean. Aim for 80% healthy foods and 20% foods that aren’t quite as good for you. And it’s ok if the kids indulge in some junk food here and there. Don’t freak out if they have some cake or pizza at a birthday party. The goal is to make an overall improvement in your family’s life.
- Slowly make changes to your favorite recipes or processed foods.
- Remember the 80/20 rule. Let them have some of their favorite processed foods on occasion.
- If you find that you end up binge/stress eating a particular food and you are allowing your family to keep it, then ask them to hide it from you. Tell them if found then it will be trashed.
- Make eating out or eating processed food a treat or family event, like take a walk to your favorite restaurant or ice cream shop. One of my favorite things to do with my kids is go on a “date” once a week and take them for a treat or snack to their favorite restaurant or coffee shop. I take them individually and it gives me a chance to spend some one on one time with each of them.
- Change yourself first. I started with just changing my diet then started to find substitutes and changes for their favorite meals.
- Have them help you with cooking if possible. My kids started eating better when they helped me pick out recipes to try and helped me in the kitchen.
- Have ready made clean snacks for them. One weekend I cut up a bunch a veggies and fruit with my kids and then left them out for them to snack on all day. They ate better and I didn’t have to make lunch or snacks for them. Or get the dreaded – “Mom, I’m hungry!”
Is Clean Eating a Diet?
No but a lot of successful diets have clean eating as their foundation. That’s why it’s a good place to start. Then try a diet that appeals to you and that you have had success with before. You will find that it’s easier to follow and you will have greater success if you have changed to clean eating first.
What food groups are allowed? Can I eat carbohydrates and still eat clean?
All food groups are allowed. Some are just better than others. Refined sugar and processed foods should be limited or removed altogether (but that’s hard to do). Carbohydrates are fuel and your body needs them. But most people are eating too many processed carbs (french fries, anyone?) and not healthy, high fiber, carbs like legumes (beans) and vegetables.
Do I need to eat organic to eat clean?
No you do not need to eat organic to eat clean. There is a huge debate in the food world about clean eating and organic vs. non-organic. I say eat within your budget and what you enjoy. I personally don’t try to eat everything organic but I do use grass fed beef where I can and buy products without antibiotics or hormones.
Do I have to eat clean 100% of the time?
No, definitely not! I personally don’t eat clean 100% of the time unless I am doing a challenge or a program with my friends. And even then it’s more like 90% clean and 10% processed. I try to follow the 80/20 rule that I mention in this guide – 80% clean and 20% processed.
Will I lose weight if I eat clean?
Probably. When you start to eat clean, you will naturally cut out refined sugar and eat more fiber. This means that you will eat less calories, especially if you follow the food portion sizes listed above. So you should start to lose weight. If you are already close to your goal weight then you might not see much of a difference. You will see a greater change in weight if you have more weight to lose.
How do I begin?
Follow the guidelines listed in this article. I personally started with one small change and then went from there. I switched to stevia in my coffee instead of sugar. I gave up regular soda and sweet tea and now drink unsweet tea, water, and one diet soda a day. I allow myself a treat each evening (my favorite is Linda Dark Chocolate). I eat smaller portions when eating out. Look at what you are eating at each meal and see if there is one small change you can make for that meal, for that day, that week, or that month. And make it fun!
Will this take a lot of time and cost a lot of money?
Maybe. If you decide to make everything yourself (pasta, sauces, bread, etc), then yes it will take more time to do that. And grass fed, no antibiotic, organic meat can get pricey. But if you take five minutes each day to cut up some vegetables or boil some eggs for a quick snack, take 5-10 minutes each night to plan or make your breakfast, and take 15 mins to plan out your meals for the week, then you will make huge gains in your health, energy and weight loss goals. You will eat out less and eat less junk food. That will definitely save you money :>
The Last Thing You Need to Know About Clean Eating
Whew!! That was a lot of information! The most important thing you need to know about cleaning eating (or getting a healthier lifestyle) is progress over perfection. Take it one small step at a time and celebrate your victories each day.
I believe in you and know you got this :>
What’s one small change you can make today? Let me know in the comments below so I can help cheer you on!