Clean Eating For Beginners. As weird as these four words sound together, all this means is how to start eating healthy, when you have never been someone who eats healthy.
Add to this that you aren’t rich and famous to get everything made for you, and motivation? We all know it just comes and goes.
Now, some people would say clean eating means eating organic, non-GMO, obsessing over labels, protein and other macronutrients. I don’t give a crap about all that.
To me eating clean is simply eating more unprocessed foods, closer to nature. It’s not a diet, it’s not a shortcut to a hot body – it’s a choice you make every day, a way of living.
As simple as it seems, it’s also quite overwhelming and can be very confusing if you’re a COMPLETE beginner. I mean where do you even start?
Too much information.
A change is always tough, but with so much contradicting information about diet, even I get confused sometimes. And I’ve been eating healthy most of my life.
Yet, lately I’m wondering – does the keto work, or the paleo diet or should I go vegan?
It’s like if you don’t choose one of these options, better don’t even start or you’re gonna crash and burn and regret you ever ate an apple.
Don’t even dare.
But here’s (the sane and) good news:
You can eat healthy, improve your health and lose weight without following any of these diets. And that’s the way to do it LONG-TERM.
In fact I’d say, if you wanna lose weight – DON’T follow a strict diet.
A diet can easily turn into an obsession and even make you gain weight. But that’s a whole other topic and I’ll talk about it another time.
Now let’s focus on the Clean Eating For Beginners thing.
How you can start eating healthy, when you’re not rich, famous or motivated.
When you just wanna feel better, without the gym and eating 4-day old container food taking over your life.
When there’s no personal trainer who’ll motivate you or a gourmet cook making your meals and you need to do this for yourself.
Clean Eating for Beginners: How to start eating healthy when you don’t know what you’re doing
STEP 1: SET A LIMIT, NOT A BAN.
First things, first – this is not a diet or a punishment.
Most of us know already what’s healthy and what isn’t. It’s no secret sugar makes you fat and you shouldn’t drink coke instead of water.
If you know one obvious thing in your diet that you’re doing too much of and it’s bad for you – attack it first. Without going crazy.
Start small. Don’t ban everything bad from your diet. Set a limit for one thing the first week and then work yourself up.
For example If you drink too much soda – say first week: I will stop soda and start drinking water instead.
Next week maybe you say: I will change my breakfast. Instead of doughnuts, I will have oatmeal. If oatmeal isn’t your thing – go for avocado toast with eggs.
Next week – dinner. Maybe instead of pizza you can have some chicken with vegetables and hummus and some rice. Or a soup?
It’s a process and these changes take time. Some people change their diets from one day to another, but habits need time to develop.
Here are some changes that helped me:
If you eat too much sugar and can’t quit sugar altogether – have the healthier options. What works for me is some nut butter and fruit. You can have something small every day, as long as you keep it small. No need to quit fruit – that’s crazy.
If you’re drinking soda instead of water and you don’t like plain water try infusing your water with some fruit, herbs and vegetables using a water infuser. My favorite is lemon with frozen berries. And you can add some mint to it – tastes very fresh.
So take the one thing that you’re doing too much of and set limits.
Then increase that limit week after week. This is important, because if you don’t set limits on this – you won’t be able to eat healthy, even if you change everything else. Make the biggest thing smaller.
Simple, but essential tip: Keep it out of your home
A good way to eat less of a bad food you’re obsessed with, is to keep this food out of your home / work / wherever you spend a lot of time. It’s less likely to eat cookies at 11pm if you don’t have any at home, isn’t it? So get those foods out of your home and treat them as a treat, not a regular thing.
Which brings me to step 2.
STEP 2: CLEAN OUT
So. When you’re home, take a look through your fridge and pantry.
What’s in there? Are there things you haven’t used for months, maybe even years?
Are there things OBVIOUSLY unhealthy?
What can you throw away or give to someone who doesn’t want to eat healthy (yet)?
Clean your pantry and your fridge. And I mean that literally. Schedule 2 hours and go through everything! Clean like a Cinderella until everything is spotless. You wouldn’t imagine the things I found last week when I cleaned our fridge. Disgusting. But after I was done, I think it was the most rewarding part of my week. Sounds sad, but it made me really happy.
This step will actually engage you in the process even more and you’ll realize – you’re really gonna do this. Start fresh and clean.
As for what to throw away…
Anything that’s fried, processed and not really a whole food can go. So sauces, white bread, sugar, frozen pizza, chips, candy, cookies, soda. Anything packaged with a LONG list of ingredients.
Step 3: Meet some new foods.
Now it’s time to go shopping. And as exciting as some people say it is, it’s pretty tough and actually kinda scary when you do it for the first time.
You’ll need to buy and eat foods you can’t even pronounce yet, let alone know how to cook. I can literally hear you say “Ugh. Quinoa.”
You can use my recipes or search for healthy recipes on Pinterest that teach you how to cook healthier meals.
When shopping, stay away (as much as possible) from the processed foods section(s) and don’t go grocery shopping hungry!
If you think you can’t handle that yet, you might want to try a meal kit delivery service like Sun Basket. It just makes it easier to stay away from foods you don’t need to eat. You get all the fresh ingredients with recipes delivered to you and you save so much time! If you’d like to try a healthy meal kit delivery service – save money and get $35 off Sun Basket meals.
Step 4: Start Cooking
Obviously, you’ll need to start cooking for yourself if you want to start eating healthy. It’s just the way it is. Cooking for yourself is healthier and it’s way less expensive. I still don’t understand how a salad is the most expensive thing on the menu everywhere. And mostly it tastes like nothing in a restaurant.
When you first start cooking healthy, it will probably be scary.
How do you make something you’ve never had before? What is it supposed to taste like? What if you don’t like it?
Well, truth is: Nobody knows what you’ll like and what you won’t like. But you have to try for yourself.
And the other truth is: this fear is what is stopping you from playing around with food and making it your own.
I share here so many recipes, yet I can’t really follow a recipe. I know that if I make something according to someone else’s recipe it might be good, but I will like it more, if I just make it my own.
In the beginning of the year my mom bought a bag of quinoa and chia seeds. She waited 10 months for me to come home and tell her what to do with these things.
I had to show her that there are salads other than tomatoes with cucumbers. And she actually loved quinoa. Don’t be like her – take your clean eating journey as a learning experience and make the best out of it!
Step 5: Meal prep or not
Some people like to meal prep, I don’t. I simply cannot do it. I like to make whatever I feel like at the moment and I like fresh food. That’s how I know, meal prep doesn’t work for me.
What works for me is having my ingredients already there, so I can make something quickly. So for example, I would buy canned chickpeas and wouldn’t buy dried chickpeas if I want to make a salad.
The other thing I used to do was bulk cook chickpeas or beans, portion them out in freezer bags and then freeze until I wanna use them. The reason I stopped doing this was – because I don’t eat much freezer food, I would always forget those poor beans. And I didn’t like defrosting them.
If you don’t have a problem with that – could be your solution.
Bottom line is that you shouldn’t overthink these things. Better a chickpea salad with chickpeas from a can than french fries (at least not every day). That’s my philosophy.
Step 6: Take advice, not orders.
If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably already decided it’s time to change something and to start eating healthy.
You realized that it’s your responsibility to take care of your health and your life. Nobody else will really help you change things, if you don’t do anything.
But there are two sides to this sad and all alone coin. Because if you read on the other side – it’s also very empowering.
You’ll understand you’re also the person who has the most CONTROL over your health. It’s you. You control it.
Nobody else can tell you eat this or don’t. It’s not just something you need to be blaming yourself for, it’s something you have the power to change. This is a very important (mental) step.
It means that yes – take some guidance from others, but also find out what works best for you. Don’t follow blindly what worked for someone else. Explore and find out what makes you feel good. Because eating healthy should make you feel good, not guilty.
Well these are the 6 essential steps to eating clean! Start small and stay consistent and you’ll get very far! Soon I’ll be sharing more about starting a healthy diet – expect some clean eating recipes and some free downloads that I’ll be working on these next couple of days! Until then – focus on Tip #1 and don’t get overwhelmed!
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