Are you a busy beginner on your health journey who wants to learn how to eat clean? Eating clean can be a great way to improve your overall health and wellbeing, but it can seem like an overwhelming task for beginners.
As a personal trainer and nutritionist, I’m here to help!
In this article, I’ll provide an easy guide to clean eating for beginners that will make your transition so much easier no matter how busy life may get.
We’ll cover what it means to eat clean, the benefits of doing so, basic tips on getting started with your own clean eating journey, setting up your healthy plate, as well as what food you should be including in your diet.
Plus, I’ll even give you some resources that can help keep you motivated throughout your journey. So let’s get to learning more about how we can all benefit from embracing a cleaner lifestyle!
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What does it mean to eat clean?
Eating clean is a way of life that focuses on consuming whole, unprocessed foods while limiting the processed and refined food items. It emphasizes the importance of eating natural, nutrient-dense foods with plenty of vitamins and minerals to nourish the body.
Eating clean also encourages limiting sugar and unhealthy fats from your diet in favor of healthier alternatives. This type of eating can help you maintain a healthy weight, improve digestion and naturally reduce inflammation throughout your body.
Clean eating is not about depriving yourself but rather about making better choices for overall health and wellbeing.
What are the health benefits of clean eating?
Clean eating can provide an array of health benefits. Eating clean ensures your body is getting the balanced nutrition it needs to stay at optimal health, both physically and mentally.
Real, whole foods are nutrient dense and offer more vitamins, minerals and fiber than processed foods. These nutrients can lead to improved levels, better digestion, improved skin health, lower inflammation, weight loss, and a stronger immune system.
Eating clean can help you maintain a healthy weight and may reduce your risk of developing chronic inflammatory diseases like diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.
Consuming a variety of whole, unprocessed foods can also help keep you fuller for longer as they’re higher in fiber and protein compared to processed alternatives. This will reduce cravings and make it easier to stick to your beginner clean eating plan.
Why eat clean instead of a specific diet?
In addition to the many health benefits mentioned above, you should consider eating clean for its ability to encourage a sustainable lifestyle change.
Unlike most fad diets that are unrealistic and impossible to sustain for long periods of time, eating clean is a lifestyle change that can be done for the rest of your life as part of your wellness journey.
Clean eating can also help you save time and money. Consuming whole, unprocessed foods is often less expensive than buying processed items as well as being much healthier for your body!
By consuming more nutrients from whole foods in place of processed items, you’ll be able to get more out of life and feel your best! Plus it gives you control over what you put into your body- something that is so important for overall health.
How to start clean eating for beginners
Getting started with clean eating can seem daunting at first but it doesn’t have to be! Just take it one small step at a time.
Here are a few tips for making your transition to clean eating an easy one:
- Remember to take one small step at a time.
- Start by focusing on whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and animal protein.
- Make simple swaps such as replacing processed snacks with nuts or fruit and soda for seltzer water.
- Find healthy recipes that incorporate clean ingredients or clean up recipes you already enjoy eating with a few new ingredients or substitutes.
- Balance your plate. This means incorporating plenty of whole food starches, fruits and vegetables, animal proteins and healthy fats with each meal.
- Set realistic goals. Try to eat about 80% clean, whole foods and let the remaining 20% be whatever you want it to be. Remember, that clean eating doesn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) all or nothing.
- Meal plan as often as possible or subscribe to one that does the work for you.
- Don’t hesitate to add real salt, spices, and healthy fats to add flavor to your meals.
- Be okay with making adjustments to your order when eating out.
- Learn to cook at home.
- Drink plenty of water.
By taking it one step at a time and keeping these above tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to beginning a clean eating lifestyle.
What to look for when shopping for clean food
Eating clean doesn’t have to be hard! There are a few things you should consider before purchasing groceries to ensure you’re making the right food choices.
Here are some tips to help you stay on track:
- Be prepared before you shop.
- Shop mostly the perimeter of the store.
- Choose foods that contain ingredients your great great grandfather would know.
- Read labels and watch out for food that contains sugar, unhealthy fats, additives, dyes, and preservatives.
- Choose organic or non-GMO food when possible.
- Look for grass-fed, pasture-raised red meat that is free of hormones and antibiotics.
- Look for wild caught fish.
- Look for poultry and eggs from pasture-raised birds.
Focusing on these tips will help you make smart choices when stocking your kitchen with food for your clean eating journey.
How to set up your healthy plate
Now that we’ve discussed steps you can take to start eating clean, let’s back up a little and dig into how to best set up your healthy plate.
As a personal trainer, what I recommend most people apply to their plates when first starting on their health journey is to aim for about 30% of their meal being from protein, 30% from fat, and the remaining 40% from carbohydrates that include lots of vegetables.
Simple enough, right? Here’s an image showing what this would typically look like for each meal using hand gestures to measure portions.
You may think that 30% of your diet in fat is lot compared to what many health gurus recommend.
What you may not know is that healthy fats are what allows you to eat carbs and still maintain stable blood sugar levels. To make it even compelling, healthy fats are also dense sources of necessary nutrients and are the building blocks to the hormones our body creates!
Keep in mind that just like with everything when it comes to health and wellness, this is a template for the average person. Some people may need more carbs, less carbs, more fat, or less fat depending on their current health status, goals, activity levels, and what works best for their body.
What’s wrong about the well-known “Choose My Plate”
If you’ve learned anything about healthy eating habits, then you’ve probably heard about the Choose My Plate that’s posted all over doctor offices, school, and sometimes, even at work.
The problem with this is that there is a conflict of interest between big pharma and the food industry and when money is involved, you can’t always trust the recommendations given.
If this is the template you’re following as you set up your meals, you may actually be setting yourself up for more health issues and increased weight down the road, not less like you’ve been told.
Very few people should be consuming 50-70% of their overall calories from carbs which is what the recommendations show. Unless you’re a professional athlete, that’s way too many carbs!
Having that many carbs can raise your blood sugar levels causing spikes and crashes that lead to insulin resistance and cravings, along with extra stress and inflammation in the body. This can lead to diseases as well as hormonal and other endocrine issues down the road.
I’m not trying to scare you, but it’s true. The diet most of us grew up on (whether it be the Choose My Plate or the Food Pyramid) is filled with refined carbs and sugars.
It also “forgets” to mention healthy fats which are vital for good health. It even recommends the daily consumption of milk which many adults have a sensitivity to and should not be consuming on a regular basis as it would be more harmful than helpful.
All this to say, that if you’re looking to make healthy dietary changes, first and foremost, it’s important to understand the truth about good nutrition so that you can make informed decisions when considering what to eat.
What food is included on a clean eating diet?
Now that we’ve gone over some of the basics, let’s dive into some specifics regarding what food to actually eat on a clean eating diet.
The best way to approach this is to focus primarily on real, whole foods that are as close to their natural state as possible (with minimal processing).
This typically means sticking with fresh fruits and vegetables, proteins such as eggs from pasture-raised chickens and grass-fed beef, as well as wild-caught fish, nuts, seeds and some healthy fats like avocados and olive oil.
You can also include starches such as sweet and white potatoes, white rice, oats, and quinoa.
The idea is to focus on eating foods that are unprocessed and full of nourishment for the body. This is the key to having a balanced plate that will provide all the necessary vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients our bodies need to thrive.
Real Food Guide
Get started on your healthy journey easier and faster with this free guide!
Week of clean eating for beginners sample meals
To give you an idea of what a week’s worth of meals on a clean eating diet would look like, below is a simple sample meal plan you can use and alter if needed.
To make your meal prepping even simpler, you could also consider subscribing to a meal plan service like Prep Dish or Real Plans or my favorite cookbook, Cook Once, Eat All Week, that does all the work for you! All you have to do is take the already-made shopping list, grab the ingredients, and follow the instructions for amazing meals all week.
Breakfast: egg scramble with veggies, avocado and tomatoes.
Lunch: quinoa salad with kale, roasted sweet potatoes and grilled chicken.
Dinner: salmon with grilled asparagus and sweet potatoes.
Breakfast: protein powder oatmeal with nuts, blueberries and almond milk.
Lunch: tuna salad over greens with cucumber and tomatoes.
Dinner: roasted Tex Mex chicken and veggie bowl with rice, corn, salsa and avocado.
Breakfast: smoothie bowl with Greek yogurt, berries, banana and nut butter.
Lunch: grilled chicken with roasted white potatoes and roasted green beans.
Dinner: Buddha bowl with quinoa, roasted chickpeas and vegetables.
Breakfast: egg scramble with sausage, mushrooms, bell peppers, and spinach.
Lunch: chicken and quinoa wrap with hummus, cucumber and tomato.
Dinner: turkey tenderloin with roasted brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes.
Breakfast: protein powder baked oatmeal with almond butter and banana.
Lunch: grilled chicken salad with mixed greens, tomatoes, avocado and balsamic dressing.
Dinner: Beef and vegetable stir-fry over rice.
Breakfast: smoothie bowl with Greek yogurt, pineapple, strawberries, and nut butter.
Lunch: grilled chicken salad with strawberries, feta cheese, and mustard vinaigrette.
Dinner: grilled shrimp with quinoa pilaf and asparagus.
Breakfast: egg scramble with tomatoes, feta cheese, spinach and peppers.
Lunch: kale salad with roasted sweet potatoes, walnuts, dried cranberries and grilled chicken.
Dinner: beef lasagna with zucchini or gluten-free noodles.
Additional clean eating resources
If you’re looking for even more support and information on clean eating, here are a few of my favorite resources:
- The Whole30
- Wellness Mama
- Fed + Fit Blog and her cookbook Cook Once, Eat All Week
- Practical Paleo Cookbook
- The Food Babe Blog
Conclusion: easy guide to clean eating
Eating clean doesn’t have to be complicated. Following a few simple guidelines and focusing on real, whole foods can make it easy and enjoyable to create nourishing meals for yourself and your family.
The key is finding what works for you so that you can sustain healthy habits for the long-term.
Hopefully, this guide has given you the knowledge and motivation to get started on your clean eating journey.
Now it’s time to take action and start creating simple, delicious recipes and meals that will nourish your body and give you amazing health benefits for years to come!
Read More on All-Things Nutrition Anywhere Tips:
- Clean Eating for Beginners: The Benefits and How to Start
- How to Make a Healthy and Balanced Clean Eating Grocery List
- Healthy Snacks Bodybuilding: The Key to Hitting Muscle Gains
- 15 Pros and Cons of a Gluten-Free Diet: What’s Best for you?
- Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance: Learning to Listen to Your Body
- The Effects of Gluten on the Gut and What It Can Do to Your Health