There’s a lot of hype at the moment around the clean eating trend; mostly positive, but some of it negative. Some have taken clean eating too far by watching every morsel that goes into their body and end feeling generally miserable in the process.
Many of us are at information overload: we get told that certain foods are good for us one day, then the next there is something new and better that comes along to confuse us. What we really want to know is simply HOW to eat clean foods that will keep our bodies strong and healthy for a lifetime, and this 10 easy steps beginner’s guide will show you exactly how to do that with simple tactics and minimal fuss.
The healing powers of food
Food has been a life saver for me in so many ways it’s hard to know where to begin. I have helped to heal my own severe depression through eating antioxidant rich plant foods, exercising, and making my body strong. It’s true what they say, a healthy body really does equal a healthy mind and I’m living proof of this.
In this post I will help show you the 10 easy steps that will start you off on your own clean eating journey, so you too can start healing your body and mind and bring yourself to a place of health and healing.
Why eat clean?
I have always liked to eat foods in their whole natural form as mother nature intended. In fact, I have been using this crazy method of eating for the last 20 years, and this has gradually evolved into a new understanding of how amazing the human body can look and feel when given the right fuel. Not only will you lose excess fat, but you are far less likely to be affected by stress, anxiety and depression, plus you will have tons of energy, a clear mind, and you will also knock years off your physical appearance too.
Keep it Simple
I have tried and tested the many diet fads that have come and gone over the years, but when it comes down to it it’s really quite simple – just keep it SIMPLE. Yes, there are some foods that should be classed as superfoods for the simple fact they really do contain superior amounts of antioxidants and nutrients at much higher levels than other foods, and it’s these that you need to concentrate on and eat in abundance.
The term ‘Superfood’ is overused
The problems arise when food companies overuse this term to sell overpriced priced products, or try to make you believe that you actually need those obscure berries that can only be found in the heart of the Amazon rain forest.
I have bought into this myself in the past, and to some extent these berries probably do contain their own unique qualities. After all, mother nature put all of these wonderful things on our earth for a reason and they are there for us to eat, but a lot of foods that also deserve superfood status can in fact be bought down your local supermarket for a fraction of the price. To find out which, see here my top 10 budget friendly superfoods.
Cheap and easy to source superfoods
Take a trip to your local greengrocers and you will find an abundance of superfoods such as blueberries, broccoli, beetroot, garlic, pomegranates, green tea and avocados; many of which are cheap and easy to prepare, and most can simply be eaten raw and in their natural state for more convenience and an even higher nutritional value.
Some people like to use the excuse that they just can’t afford to eat healthily, but I say that’s just bull. You can buy foods such as sweet potatoes, seasonal fruits and vegetables, pulses, nuts, seeds and wholegrains for the same price, if not less than most junk foods.
You can make a cheap, healthy and well-rounded meal out of a baked potato and a tin of chili or baked beans, with a side portion of broccoli. In fact, you can make many combinations of any meals just out of the list above and a few added herbs and spices for flavour.
The Plant Based Diet and Health
My own plant based diet has not only saved me a fortune, but has made me healthier than I have ever been with more energy, less body fat, clearer thinking, and much better quality sleep. I would however, only promote this lifestyle to those who are educated on food combining, OR know how to build a well-rounded meal with plenty of plant proteins.
If you don’t take the time to do this then you may miss out on vital nutrients and amino acids, which completely defeats the object of healthy eating.
10 STEPS TO EATING CLEAN
Here are 10 things you can start doing today to help you feel healthier, happier and more vibrant than you have ever experienced. And most importantly, by doing these things for yourself and your family you will be helping them to live longer happier lives too.
Take things one step at a time, you will learn as you go along, and you will be building new habits and changing your taste buds for LIFE. You won’t be perfect at first, but that doesn’t matter because every little change really does add up over time. And if you adopt the ideal 90/10 approach to a healthy lifestyle, then you still have room for treats and the things you enjoy as you will be crowding out the unhealthy stuff with the good healthy stuff.
To start your health kick you will be adopting a much lower GI diet (glycemic index is a food rating system which is a measurement of how quickly a foods sugar’s enter the bloodstream). Junk foods are high GI, which is why they give you that instant sugar fix that you crave, but inevitably you will crash quickly and be left wanting more – and so the vicious cycle begins.
And it’s this dangerous ‘sugar high’ that is the root cause of so many modern day diseases. Sugar causes inflammation in the body, and chronic long-term inflammation is cited as the probable underlying cause of most of today’s inflammatory diseases, so cutting down drastically really is the only option if you want to help protect yourself.
1. CLEARING OUT THE JUNK
The first and most important step on your clean eating journey is to get rid of foods that are high in saturated fats, salt, preservatives and sugar – which unfortunately, can sometimes mean pretty much everything in your cupboard.
You can do this over time of course, I’m not saying you should just throw food away if your’e uncomfortable with that (you can always donate to your local food bank); and if your’e on a budget you may not be able to simply clear everything out at once, but one thing you can do is to use up what you have, then gradually replace those food items with healthier versions as you go along. Doing this also allows you to make those gradual changes that seem to stick so much better.
Foods to ditch from your diet:-
- Oils, such as vegetable oil, corn oil, animal fats or lard.
- High fat/salt crisps, chips and snacks.
- Frozen junk foods such as ready meals, fries, pizza, hotdogs, and anything battered or deep-fried.
- Refined sugars like those found in chocolate, cakes, sweets and biscuits.
- Drinks such as fizzy pop, concentrated fruit juices and flavoured waters.
- Most breakfast cereals contain massive amounts of sugar, colours, flavours and preservatives.
- Hidden refined sugars which may come under the names of glucose, fructose, dextrose, corn syrup, cane sugar or brown sugar (I am only stating the most common types of sugar here, but there are more that have chemical names, especially the sugar substitutes. Find a full list of the chemical names for sugar here).
- You need to check labels on EVERYTHING, as even the things you believe to be a savory product can be loaded with sugars, chemicals, colours, flavourings and preservatives. Some of the worst offenders are pre-made sauces such as ketchup, barbecue, chili, canned or jarred pasta sauces, and even gravy powders and stock cubes – yes seriously! The gravity of the amount of savoury products that contain sugar is literally JAW dropping!
Try not to become overwhelmed
At this point you may start to see the scale of the problem and become overwhelmed, but this is totally natural and means you’re at the point of turning a corner. It’s easy to see now how so many people suffer from type 2 diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome in the face of this bombardment of sugar in everything we eat. In fact, we are in the middle of an epidemic for all of these diseases, and many are caused by too much sugar along with hydrogenated trans fats.
Just getting rid of some of the more obvious unhealthy items like bad fats and refined sugars would be a great start, and you will already be half way there from doing this alone. Then add in some of the budget friendly superfoods such as those on the list below, and you will pretty much be all the way there.
2. REPLACE WITH THE GOOD STUFF
Sounds simple, and it is! You can replace all of the bad stuff you have got rid of with these alternatives below. You don’t have to do it all at once, just replace as you go along and with every shopping trip you will be getting closer to a healthier, cleaner food pantry that you can be proud of.
Healthy foods to add into your diet:-
- Coconut oil, olive oil, and extra virgin olive oil. You can use coconut and normal olive oil for cooking, and extra virgin olive oil cold in salad dressings; or any other use that doesn’t require over heating. Some oils turn rancid and can produce trans fats when either reused, or heated to high temperatures. Coconut and olive oil remain more stable, and are therefore a good healthy swap. Here are some coconut oil use examples: Homemade popcorn popped in coconut oil, baked tortilla chips, homemade vegetable crisps, roasted vegetables, and raw chocolate (yummy by the way, see Youtube video at the bottom of this post for an awesome recipe).
- Dried, no added sugar fruit, dark chocolate (70% cacoa minimum), homemade protein rich muesli, fruit, and homemade healthier versions of biscuits and cakes where YOU can be in control of ingredients.
- Frozen vegetables, frozen fruits, frozen baked potatoes, and healthier options of ready meals are usually available if you can’t live without these convenience foods. Luckily, most big supermarkets do have healthier frozen ready meal options these days due to such popular demand (phew).
- Drinks – go for healthy green tea, fizzy water with a squeeze of lemon, coconut water or vegetable juices.
- If you eat animal products then go for only lean meats or poultry (organic/grass fed where possible), and oily fish such as tuna, salmon, sardines, herring, mackeral or trout. Buying organic meats can be expensive, which is why I advocate swapping a lot of your protein for pulses, quinoa, tofu, tempeh, nuts and seeds, and to head towards a more alkaline plant based way of eating. Also, most plant based foods are much healthier than their animal alternatives.
- Dairy products can be laden with all sorts of added sugars, so go for plain coconut or soya yogurt (you can add your own sweeteners such as raw honey and fruit). Same goes for milk; you can go for milk alternatives such as oat, almond, soya, rice or coconut to name just a few – they seem to be milking everything these days!
- Buy fresh, in season fruits, vegetables and salads as they are often cheaper, and eat them as raw or lightly cooked as possible. Steaming and very quick stir frying are preferable, as these cooking methods hold in more nutrients.
- With every meal you make always be sure to include some side vegetables, or fruits.
- Buy tinned or dried legumes such as cannellini beans, baked beans, haricot beans, black beans, butter beans or chick peas to add to soups and stews instead of meat, for a much more cost effective and healthier alternative.
- Nuts, seeds and nut butters (just check they are sugar and palm oil free), wholegrain breads, pasta, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, cracked wheat, bulgur wheat and millet. If you feel bloated or sleepy after eating wheat products or gluten, then stick to rice, potatoes, pulses, lentils, buckwheat and quinoa as your carb sources.
- Sweeteners such as raw honey, xylitol, stevia, coconut sugar, brown rice, date and maple syrup can all be used as an alternative to sugar, but they are still free sugars, meaning they are not attached to the whole food (their fibers and other nutrients have been taken out, making them high GI, unlike eating a whole piece of fruit that still has all its fiber) so therefore they still need to be used in moderation.
- Green superfood powders are a LIFE SAVER when you haven’t had your daily quota of fruits and vegetables. I have a superfood shot every day anyway just to be sure I’m getting everything I need, and they really give me an energy and skin boost that is noticeable within about 20 minutes. Pure, green raw nutrition – you just can’t beat it!
3. CHECK LABELS SCRUPULOUSLY
Get into the habit of checking labels for everything, as this will help educate you on exactly what is in the food you’re eating. A rule of thumb is if you don’t know what an ingredient is, and it’s not a natural food as you know it, then it’s probably an artificial preservative, flavouring or sweetener. As you start to eat clean, you will notice that you rarely need to worry about this kind of problem anymore because you will be eating wholesome natural foods in the first place.
4. CHECK YOUR PORTION SIZES
Most of us are used to having way too big a portion when it comes to meals, and this was always my own personal downfall. Even when you’re eating clean you will still need to have portion control, as many healthy foods are still jam full of calories – just think oils, nuts and seeds for a start.
I made this mistake when I first started eating clean, believing I could eat as much as I wanted if it was a healthy food. In fact, I went crazy with that notion and actually gained weight until I got the balance right. The best thing to do is to listen to your body, and STOP eating before you are really full. A good tip is to make the bulk of your meals from fruits and vegetables, as these help fill you up and also help to trigger the signal to your brain that you’ve had enough to eat.
5. THE 90/10 FORMULA
If you can adopt these alternatives 90% of the time, then you can save the other 10% for those times when you really fancy a treat – or even a glass or two of wine. Whatever your Achille’s heel is, don’t feel you can’t ever have it again as this will just depress you and set you up for failure. Remember that life is about balance and being happy too, so enjoying your favorite treats will also keep your stress levels down.
When you say to yourself “I can’t ever have this food again”, whatever it may be you will immediately crave it, at least I do. With the 10% leeway this isn’t an issue, and as your body gets more and more healthier you will find these cravings more than likely disappear anyway.
6. SUGAR CRAVINGS
Sugar cravings happen to the best of us (especially if hormones have anything to do with it) and is EXACTLY why the 90/10 rule is in place, for those times when, for whatever your reason, you cave in to temptation. We all crave something sweet every now and then, it’s only natural (especially if we are stressed or tired) so don’t beat yourself up over it; the body simply wants to find the quickest and easiest way to fuel itself for instant energy, and so it craves the instant gratification of SUGAR.
Giving in to this temptation does make you feel better in the short term sure, but in the long term – not so good. Giving in to sugar cravings just sets you up on a cycle of a high, then the inevitable crash – and it’s this fluctuating blood sugar that leads to the belly fat storage that most of us desperately want to avoid.
If you really have to have something sweet, then go for sugar substitutes such as xylitol, stevia, raw honey, coconut sugar and maple syrup; but these should still be used in moderation only as they are still basically sugar!
Yes, you CAN eat chocolate!
When in the middle of a sugar craving that you just can’t shake by other distraction methods, then eat a teaspoon of maple syrup, coconut sugar, or a tablespoon of my healthy homemade frosting and ZAP, as if by magic, it’s gone. Or, make your own sugar free chocolate with Xylitol, cacao powder and coconut oil (this also kills sugar cravings and is a real treat at the same time, plus you can add nuts, seeds and dried fruits for variety).
If you would like, or need more top tips on giving up sugar, and learn how I did it myself, then please check out this awesome post for tips on quitting sugar and how I did it myself for more inspiration.
Here is a short video that explains the exact effects sugar has on the body. It’s not nice believe me, but it’s enough to make you want to make some changes ASAP!
7. FOOD COMBINING FOR SATIETY
Learning how to combine foods properly will be of massive benefit to you if you would like long term success with clean eating. Foods high in protein should be combined with low GI carbohydrates, a little fat and some lightly steamed or stir-fried vegetables for a good nutrient profile.
Eat LOTS of quinoa!
When you learn the art of correct food combining your sugar levels will remain stable, meaning you will be much less likely to crave unhealthy snacks, and SUGAR. This is your ultimate goal; to be eating in such a manner that you no longer desire sugary or high carb snacks between meals because your blood sugar is always on an even keel.
Quinoa is pretty much the ultimate superfood in this respect as it contains perfect ratios of fats, carbohydrates and amino acids, so make this fantastic grain a BIG part of your clean eating plan. You can use it to make quinoa porridge for breakfast as the perfect start to the day; or it’s tasty cooked in stock, or water, and eaten as a lower carb side to replace rice, pasta or potatoes. It can also be great cold in salads of all kinds, and is a great replacement for couscous.
8. TAKE YOUR OWN FOOD TO WORK
Sometimes healthy eating can be hard in the workplace, which is why you should consider saving leftovers from your healthy dinner the night before and take them to work for your lunch. Or, just make your own sandwiches, salads, pastas, veggie sticks and hummus, or whatever other healthy snacks you enjoy and pop them in your lunchbox.
Not only will you save a fortune (especially if you usually buy lunch out), but you will also know exactly what went into you food, and you’ll have complete control over your fat, salt and sugar intake.
Rather than being ridiculed for doing this when I first started my healthy eating plan all my workmates, seeing how glowing and energetic I was, started to follow suit. Before I knew it there were pieces of fruit, and bags of nuts strewn all over the place – oh the satisfaction!
9. EAT A RAINBOW
Not literally of course, but do eat a rainbow of food colours every day. For example: Dark berries, leafy green vegetables, fruits, and other vegetables, plus red tomatoes and colourful bell peppers are all vibrant, strong colours.
It’s the different colour pigments of these fruits and veggies which is where their cancer busting antioxidants and phytochemicals lie. These antioxidants are important for fighting the free radical damage done to our bodies by trans fats, smoking, air pollution, alcohol and pesticides to name just a few of the offenders. All of these, among MANY OTHER toxins we are exposed to daily lead to an unnatural chemical assault on our poor over-taxed detoxification system. Try to eat at least 7-10 portions a day of different fruits and vegetables to help negate this aging, disease promoting damage.
10. EATING OUT
Sometimes being a clean eater can have its challenges that’s for sure, and eating out with friends and family may be another one of them; especially if they don’t share your healthy eating habits. But fortunately, these days it is so much easier as most menu’s will have healthy options, OR they are more willing to knock something up especially to suit your needs – just ask.
The basic rule is to stay away from the deep-fried dishes, and instead of ships or fries, order a jacket potato, new potatoes, a side salad, or some vegetables with olive oil and you can’t go far wrong. Anyway, if that sounds too boring you still have your 90/10 rule for such occasions to go ahead and have that slice of chocolate cake for desert. Hallelujah!
I hope this post has offered you some valuable insights into clean eating. I would just love to know how you get on, so leave any comments in the section below and I will always reply ASAP. Please remember that if you decide to go completely plant based or vegan then you will more than likely need these 3 extra nutrients in order to stay as healthy as possible.
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