There’s a lot of hype at the moment around clean eating and the popular plant based diet, 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 are 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.
In this post, we will talk about how to eat clean foods in 10 easy steps that will keep our bodies strong and healthy for a lifetime. And, this beginner’s guide will show you exactly how to do that with simple tactics and minimal fuss.
Why Eat Clean?
It has to be good to eat foods in their whole natural form as Mother Nature intended, surely?
Eating foods in their natural state and with minimal processing will help you to lose excess fat and tone up, along with physical exercise. You are also less likely to be affected by stress, anxiety and depression, have more energy, a clear mind, and you’ll probably knock years off your physical appearance too!
Keep it simple
When it comes to diet, it’s pretty easy – 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. 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.
It’s easy to buy into this; and to some extent these berries probably do contain their own unique qualities. After all, Nature put all of these wonderful things on our earth for a reason. 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, check out these 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. These include blueberries, broccoli, beetroot, garlic, pomegranates, green tea and avocados. Many of which are cheap and easy to prepare. 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, that’s usually either just an excuse, or a lack of knowledge about healthy food sources. 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, in most areas of the world these days.
You can make a cheap, healthy and well-rounded meal out of a baked potato and a tin of chili or baked beans. Add a side portion of broccoli and you have a compete meal.
The Plant Based Diet And Health
The plant based diet can not only saved you money, but improve your health, give you more energy, less body fat, clearer thinking, and much better quality sleep. This lifestyle works best for those who are educated on food combining, OR know how to build a well-rounded meal with plenty of plant proteins and complex carbs.
If you don’t take the time to do this, then you may miss out on vital nutrients and amino acids, thus completely defeating 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.
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 foods with the healthy ones.
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, and is the reason 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…
It’s this dangerous ‘sugar high’ that is the root cause of so many modern day diseases.
Too much sugar leads to chronic inflammation in the body. And, chronic, long-term inflammation is cited as the probable underlying cause of most of today’s inflammatory diseases. Therefore, 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. This, unfortunately, can sometimes mean pretty much everything in your cupboard!
You can do this over time, of course. We’re not saying you should just throw food away if you’re uncomfortable with that (you can always donate to your local food bank). And, if you’re 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 stay far more readily for the long term.
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 (These are the the most common types of sugar, 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! 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 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. 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.
Just getting rid of some of the more obvious unhealthy items such as bad fats and refined sugars would be a great start. You will be half way there from just 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 foods 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. Then, 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 (all in very small amounts, and only when absolutely vital to a dish). You can use coconut and normal olive oil for cooking. Then 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 reused or heated to high temperatures. Coconut and olive oil remain more stable, and are therefore a good, healthier swap. Here are some coconut oil use examples: Homemade popcorn popped in coconut oil, baked tortilla chips, homemade vegetable crisps, vegetable stir-frys, roasted vegetables and raw chocolate (see Youtube video at the bottom of this post for a 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. Try this healthier Betty Crocker Copycat Devil’s Food Cake.
- 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, vegetable juices and these other metabolism boosting drinks.
- 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. This is why we 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 maple syrup and fruit). Same goes for milk, but 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. Eat them as raw or lightly cooked as possible as most raw foods are healthier. Steaming and very quick stir frying are preferable because 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. This is a much more cost effective and healthier alternative. Try this Minestrone Soup Recipe.
- 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 are great, complex carb sources. You may feel bloated or sleepy after eating wheat products or gluten. If so, then stick to rice, potatoes, pulses, lentils, buckwheat and quinoa as your carb sources.
- Sweeteners such as xylitol, stevia, coconut sugar, brown rice, date and maple syrups can all be used as an alternative to sugar. But, most are still free sugars, meaning they are not attached to the whole food source. Their fibres and other nutrients have been taken out, making them high GI. This is unlike eating a whole piece of fruit that still has all its fibre, 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. A superfood shot every day will help you to be sure you are getting everything you need. Plus, they really give you 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. This is because you will be eating mostly 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. Even when you’re eating clean you will still need to have portion control, as many healthy foods are still jammed full of calories. Just think oils, nuts and seeds for a start.
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. These help fill you up and trigger your fullness hormone leptin, which signals to your brain that you’ve had enough to eat.
5. THE 90/10 FORMULA
We like to use the 90/10 formula to leave room for the luxuries and little treats that make your world go round. And, why not? Life’s for living after all, and you can have a little of what you fancy without negative side effects, if you’re good 90% of the time.
When you say to yourself “I can’t ever have this food again”, whatever it may be, you will immediately crave it. With the 10% leeway this isn’t an issue. And, as your body gets 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 the reason why the 90/10 rule is in place. It’s 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, 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, eat a teaspoon of maple syrup, coconut sugar, or a tablespoon of this healthy homemade frosting. This is by far better than any other junk foods.
You can even 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. You can also add nuts, seeds and dried fruits for variety.
If you would like, or need more top tips on giving up sugar, then check out this helpful post for tips on quitting sugar.
Here is a short video that explains the exact effects sugar has on the body. It’s not nice, 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 well-rounded nutrient profile.
Eat LOTS of quinoa!
When you learn the art of correct food combining, your sugar levels will remain stable. This means 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, try to 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. It’s tasty cooked in stock or water, and eaten as a lower carb side to replace rice, pasta or potatoes.
Add cold in salads of all kinds as it is a great replacement for couscous.
8. TAKE YOUR OWN FOOD TO WORK
Sometimes healthy eating can be hard in the workplace. This is why you should consider saving leftovers from your healthy dinner the night before to take to work for your lunch.
Or, just make your own sandwiches, salads, pastas, veggie sticks, 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. You’ll also have complete control over your fat, salt and sugar intake.
Another possible good outcome from doing this is more often than not, you’ll find workmates following suit!
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 that is where their antioxidants and phytochemicals lie. These antioxidants are important for fighting the free radical damage done to your body by trans fats, smoking, air pollution, alcohol and pesticides to name just a few of the damaging offenders.
All of these, and many other toxins we are exposed to daily, can 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. This is specially true if they don’t share your healthy eating habits.
Fortunately, these days it is so much easier as most menus will usually have healthy options. OR, they are more willing to knock something up especially to suit your needs if you ask.
The basic rule is to stay away from the deep-fried dishes. Instead of chips or fries, order a jacket potato, new potatoes, a side salad or some vegetables and you can’t go far wrong. 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.
Thanks for visiting ZestForever today!
We hope this post has offered you some valuable insights into clean eating.
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.