Eating Clean For Beginners

Eating Clean For Beginners

Chances are that you’ve probably heard of clean eating at least once or twice before.  Maybe your brushed it off as some new fad or maybe it interested you.  I mean, what is clean eating, anyway?  And, if there’s “clean eating,” does that mean there’s “dirty eating?”  Eww.

Clean eating has been something I’ve become very familiar with over the past year or so.  While I was pretty much following many of the guidelines without even knowing it, I’ve embraced a clean eating lifestyle and have really enjoyed it.

Click Here To Download Your FREE Clean Eating Guide

Eating clean gives you control over food because you don’t get sucked into craving all the bad sugars, salts, and fats you don’t need.  Instead, you choose what you put into your body and that gives you a sense of accomplishment, power, and health.  Eating clean gets easier and easier once you understand the basic concepts, too.

What Is Clean Eating?

The major key to understand about eating clean for beginners is that it’s more of a lifestyle than a “diet.”  By that, I mean eating clean isn’t a get skinny quick kinda thing.  Instead, it’s a way to approach how you eat and what you put in your body. Clean eating involves choosing whole foods, avoiding processed foods, and creating a healthy, conscientious approach to what foods you eat.  Making the choice to eat clean is to remove unnecessary fats, sugars, and carbs from your diet.  It’s about making better, more nutritious choices for your body.  It’s also about refusing to continue to put junk in your body.  “Junk,” in this context, includes processed foods, artificial flavors and sugars, foods with lots of salt and high in saturated fat, refined foods, and other foods that don’t provide you with nutritional value.

This means embracing vegetables, whole foods, unrefined grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.  The focus is on the quality of the food being consumed and the benefits these foods offer your overall health.  The idea is to combine the clean eating lifestyle with an active life.

One meal at a time, you’ll find clean eating will make you a healthier, happier person.  You’ll find that you crave “sweets” less and that foods high in saturated fat really aren’t that satisfying any more.

Keep in mind that there remains a decent amount of diversity among the “clean eating community” in relation to what clean eating actually entails.  So, while there are people on all parts of the spectrum, I’m sharing my interpretation of clean eating, how I follow the clean eating guidelines, and what I feel are the most realistic, most beneficial and healthy aspects of the clean eating diet.

For me, the best thing about the clean eating approach to food is that it’s not a diet, not about calorie restricting, and not about depriving yourself of things you love.   It’s about finding healthy ways to enjoy food and nutrition.

Here are 8 Great Guidelines for Getting started Eating Clean.  However if you want even more clean eating help check out the Eating Clean for Beginners Guide.

Eating Clean For Beginners: 8 Guidelines

I wanted to share this post today to help explain how to eat clean for beginners who are interested in eating healthy and following the clean eating guidelines.  So, let’s go over those main guidelines for eating clean, shall we?

1. Cook your own food.

The easiest way to control what goes into your food is to be the one who is preparing your food.  That way, you can control the salt, sugar, flavors, and fats that go in and you can work to keep those levels as low as possible.  Ever wonder why restaurant food tastes so much better than home-cooked food?  It’s because restaurants tend to add a boat load of salt and butter to everything they cook.

2. Read the nutrition labels.

When eating clean for beginners, you need to get pretty familiar with nutrition labels because they will tell you everything you need to know about the foods you’re considering eating.  Look for labels with relatively few ingredients and consider each ingredient in terms of, “Is this an ingredient I would cook with in my kitchen?”  If not, pass.  Pay attention to and avoid foods with labels that include words like, “hydrolyzed,” or “modified,” as those indicate added processing and words that end in “-ose” because those indicate added sugars (think fructose).  Look for labels with “whole grains” and “whole wheat” in the ingredients.  If the food is high in calories, make sure the saturated fat and sugar levels are low and that the calories are coming from the fiber and lean proteins instead.  Also, keep sodium levels as low as possible – your body only needs 250 mg each day to function but a typical American diet is waaaaaay higher than that.

3. Eat whole foods.

Whole foods are foods that haven’t been modified or tampered with in a lab or manufacturing plant.  Since whole foods haven’t been processed or refined, no added sugars, preservatives, dyes, fats (including hydrogenated fats), or salt has been added to the product to add extra flavor or to enhance shelf life or appearance.

Whole foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, unsalted nuts/seeds, whole grains, full-fat dairy products, and dried beans/legumes.  In addition to escaping the added and unnecessary junk from being processed, the unrefined foods also carry more nutrients and fiber which is essential for your body to function.  Make the food you’re eating do more for you.

4. Avoid processed foods.

Processed foods are easy to identify since they often come in a box or jar.  The problem with processed foods is that they are high in added sugars and salt, low in fiber and whole grains, and high in fat (including awful trans fats and saturated fats).  Processed foods include snack foods (fruit snacks, chips), candy, cookies, frozen dinners, bottled salad dressing, breakfast cereal, canned soups, bacon, granola bars, instant ramen, and flavored nut. Instead of buying these items at the store for convenience, next time, try making them from scratch, using whole ingredients.  Your body will thank you. Eating Clean For Beginners

5. Eat well-balanced meals.

Make sure the foods you are choosing contain the right amount of protein, carbs, and fats since all three are essential to body functioning anyways.  For example, broccoli is a carb, but also provides a lot of fiber, antioxidants, and many other important nutrients so it’s a great choice when eating clean.  To that end, the fats you are eating should come from unsaturated fats as much as possible, avoiding saturated fat and trans fat if at all possible. This is the case with every meal you have, whether it’s a snack or a dinner.  You want to be mindful of the breakdown of what you’re eating so you know what you’re putting into your body.

6. Limit added fat, salt, and sugars.

Since clean eating has the intention of eating food in it’s most natural, whole state, it makes sense that you would want to avoid unnecessary additives, like fat, salt,and sugar, when choosing your food.  Fresh fruit should be all the sugar you need once you are on a clean eating track.  The more you follow the clean eating lifestyle, foods you once loved, like doughnuts, hamburgers, fries, and more will taste overly sweet or salty.  This is because your body and tastebuds will be so used to the whole foods in your new lifestyle that these additives will taste needed and even overdone.

7. Eat 5-6 meals per day.

Forget the concept of counting calories.  That basic plan doesn’t take into account the value each calorie has.  Instead, you want to make your calories count. Make mindful decisions for everything you choose to eat, like lean protein, complex carbs (as opposed to sugar) and fats, fresh fruits, and vegetables — six times a day in the right amounts. The typical clean diet usually includes three small main meals and two to three substantial snacks every day. Eating this way prevents you from over-eating, skipping meals, and feeling fatigued or jittery from unstable blood sugar levels. It also helps you lose weight.

Don’t drink your calories.

While you’re making mindful decisions about what foods to eat, you also need to be mindful about how much water you’re drinking. Water will likely be the number one thing you’re drinking all day, every day.  You’ll find the more you drink, the thirstier you are for more and more. Drinking water will not only keep you hydrated and allow your body to function well, it will also keep you from getting hungry.One of the worst things to put into your body is soda.  Soda is full of high fructose corn syrup or other refined sugars and provides absolutely no health benefit to you.  Fruit juices are also a poor choice when eating clean.  While they contain more nutrients than soda, they carry far more calories and sugar and far less nutrients (like vitamins and fiber) than you would get just from eating a piece of fruit.


How To Eat Clean For Beginners - Download

How To Get Started Eating Clean

To start, take small steps.  Don’t go straight from drinking 5 sodas a day to only drinking water.  That won’t work and you will fail.  Your body needs more of a gradual transition.  Replace one of those sodas with a glass of water to start.  Then, tomorrow, replace two, and so on.   If you drink a coffee every morning full of sweetened creamer and sugar, you will hate your coffee if you try drinking it black.  Try reducing the amount of sugar, then the amount of creamer you use.  You may find you don’t even want coffee in a week or two (which is what happened to me).  Trust me – I’ve been there.  This is a new lifestyle, not an overnight fad so treat it that way and ease into it until you fully can embrace everything and then it will feel normal to eat clean.

Click Here To Download Your FREE Clean Eating Guide

Consider healthy, clean replacements for the foods you’re used to.  For example, eat an apple and a handful of unsalted almonds instead of a candy bar.  Add greek yogurt instead of sour cream to your baked potato.  Choose whole grain breads instead of white bread.

Every change you make towards eating clean is a positive change and, gradually, your body will get more and more used to the clean lifestyle.  And your body will love it.  And you will feel awesome.

Eating Clean For Beginners

 

If you need more help check out the Eating Clean for Beginner’s Guide.

Good luck!

Leave a comment below with any questions on clean eating as you get started on your healthier CLEAN lifestyle!

This post was last updated on December 29, 2015 to include new images.

Lacey Baier

Hey y’all, I’m Lacey Baier and I’m so glad you’re here! I’m a healthy lifestyle influencer and the creator of this clean-eating blog and YouTube channel, A Sweet Pea Chef. My recipes have been published on Food Network, Good Morning America, FoxNews, Tastemade, Fitness Magazine, and much more. I live in Dallas, Texas with my husband and four kiddos. Let’s get started!

58 thoughts on “Eating Clean For Beginners

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  4. I thought it was very interesting that you explained that you mentioned that you should make mindful decisions about the things you choose to eat. My husband and I have been thinking about eating more varieties of foods and we would like to try Lebanese cuisine. We will need to find a restaurant that we can try out so we can enjoy the experience. https://mosaic.restaurant/

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  10. Eating clean begins with drinking clean!
    get your diet togather and start drinking fresh healthy juices. If you don’t have time to make em. Book with a juice shop. Healthy Boost in NY provides this facilty!

  11. Hi Lacey I saw your site while trying to find a good diet plan for buttocks. I wonder if you have some good recipes for someone trying to slim the buttocks and abdomen … Thanks a lot for the effort clear in your article

  12. Superb blog! Do you have any hints for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you recommend starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so
    many choices out there that I’m totally confused ..
    Any tips? Thanks a lot!

  13. Thanks for sharing these amazing tips. I want to grow my body size. So please tell me what kind of protein should I take. And another thing that I want to know is what should be the time session between the 5-6 meals per day.
    I hope you will reply.
    Thanks Again

  14. It’s all you have make this article, full of information important, I would like to say thanks for the same as well as appreciated for them… You deserved this comments…

  15. This is really the way to go! I lost 32 pounds on this diet and it works. You won’t starve or any on that. The only thing that you have to worry about is other contributing factors such as friend and family try and get you to go back to old habits. Its not hard as long as you have a made up mind because the food is absolutely amazing.

  16. Consider healthy, clean replacements for the foods you’re used to. For example, eat an apple and a handful of unsalted almonds instead of a candy bar. Add greek yogurt instead of sour cream to your baked potato. Choose whole grain breads instead of white bread.

    Every change you make towards eating clean is a positive change and, gradually, your body will get more and more used to the clean lifestyle. And your body will love it. And you will feel awesome
    Thanks.

  17. it’s Lacey! I’m the editor and main writer for A Sweet Pea Chef. I’m a food blogger, photographer, videographer, clean eating expert, and mommy of four. I also run the awesome free Take Back Your Health Community, am the healthy and clean weekly meal planner behind No-Fail Meals, and a little bit in love with Clean Eating. Be sure to check out my free beginner’s guide to eating clean and follow me on YouTube and Instagram to get my latest recipes and healthy eating inspiration.
    Thanks.

  18. And as Stephen Kellogg said (I’m disappointed it wasn’t actually Tim from The Office), “It’s better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than half way up one you don’t.
    Thanks.

  19. Intermittent fasting is also a lifestyle which I have began and feel great, I would also add only eat non-GMO’s and keep it organic. Instead of juice, sweet tea etc. drink plenty of purified water. Also limit your meat intake!

  20. Hello, my name is Vy and I’m in Year 12. I’m having Heath subject which is about personal lifestyle contract. So I chose healthy eating to help me cut out sugar and loss weight. I just want to ask you how should i start and what can i eat for 4 weeks. Thank you for your support.

  21. great article! i am a little confused on dairy & meat. so full fat yogurt & milk are okay? i mean they’re pretty natural..pasterized..idk? also is ethical meat okay? like free range organic? am i overthinking this??? please help lol.

  22. I cant believe that the diet I’ve been sticking to the past 7 months is actually a thing!! I feel like I’ve written this article myself. My husband and i started doing a “diet” (turns out its exactly clean eating) 7 months ago. He lost 85lbs and im on 90lbs down. Everyone always asks me how I did it and each reply is identical to your article. I cant wait to share this with everyone. This is a fantastic write up.

    Im a literal new person since starting this lifestyle and have been able to inspire many of people to do the same. Not only did my body improve but my hair, skin, nails, attitude, mind, everything, has improved and im the best version of myself ive ever been.

    Good for you for capturing and sharing the essence of this lifestyle!

  23. Perhaps getting into a healthy lifestyle course will help me eat clean since you said that it will help me embrace vegetables and whole foods that I need to eat. I’ll be sure to cook my own food as you mentioned when I’m eating clean so that I know what I’m eating. Since you advised that I have to read nutrition labels, I’ll try to do that whenever I can so that I’ll eat clean next time when I enroll in a course that encourages it.

  24. I googled clean eating because I desired a deeper understanding of it. Your article very informative and helpful. I’ll be saving it for quick access later. Thank you so much.

  25. Hello Lacey
    I would really like to try your 30 meal plan. I am 53 years old and weigh 80 kilos. I have a healthy lifestyle, exercise at the gym and eat Ok. however, I need to lose 10 kilos and my husband and I would like to learn about clean eating and improve our diets.
    We live in Australia, and wonder if your recipes can be adapted to our country?
    Kind regards,
    lisa

  26. I love the article very informative. Most important it does not end with a request of my credit card and trying to sell me something I do not understand. It really shows you are invested in getting people to get healthy.

  27. Nice article with excellent content.I have gone through your site and the guidance given by this site is really good.We also have same kind of website.For more information please visit to our website.

  28. Hello Lacey,

    Love your article! Similar to your situation my wife and I stumbled into clean eating, we’re not there yet but the change is noticeable in our bodies and cupboards. Some time ago, while on the road we missed lunch and decided to treat ourselves to a burger and fries. Within an hour or so of eating we both had upset stomachs and felt really crappy. That point onward it was decided never again. So, we always try to have a 5 gallon bottle of water in the truck and a couple pieces of fruit as a snack for long journeys. You’re correct in saying it’s a process of transitioning from one state to the next. Small changes every day will have a lasting impact long term on your health.

  29. I must admit this is the best article I’ve read about the clean eating topic. Your article makes changing my lifestyle so much less scarier than having a nutritionist tell me to stop doing this or that when we both know that’s not realistic. Thanks!

  30. Hi,

    I was reading you content on clean eating for beginners. I noticed an error on the recommended sodium allowance on your post. Instead of 250mg per day, the recommended upper limit is about 2300mg but ideally we should aim for 2000mg or less. overall, I thinks you left some great advice that is geared toward a lifestyle change and not another “fad” diet.

  31. Like you, I had been “eating clean” for most of my life, although there are a few things that I was doing mostly out of habit that caused me to realize I wasn’t 100% there yet.
    I have been following you for a long time now and, I totally agree about things tasting “too salty or too sweet” when one slips up. I guess it is just nature’s way of getting ( & keeping) us on track!

    Also, I wanted to tell you about the Best Cranberry Sauce; I made it as directed and it was luscious, but in the second batch, I added HABANEROS to it and it was delightful, enjoyed by all!

  32. Hi Lacey I came across your website while trying to search for a good diet plan for runners. I have completed 2 half marathons, but feel disappointed because it took me so long to run/walk them. I know I need to lose some weight. I wondered if you had some good recipes for someone trying to improve her run time…
    I like your easy to follow steps on eating clean. It makes it a lot less scary 🙂

  33. I think clean eating is important – but what about cutting dairy out and replacing it with different alternatives? I find this is really helpful and makes me feel a lot better. What other alternatives would you recommend?

    1. Hi Maryann! So, in general, fruit juice isn’t the best choice because it has a high content of sugar and isn’t part of the whole fruit which would break down and get digested slowly in your body. I’d recommend taking your medication with water and then enjoying a piece of fruit instead 🙂

  34. This is a fantastically comprehensive beginner’s guide to clean eating! I have a problem getting my healthy fats in, though. I rely on olive oil. What other sources are there?

    1. Thanks, Daniel!! I’m so glad you found the guide helpful 🙂 To get more unsaturated fats in your diet, look for avocados, olives, nuts, fatty fish (like salmon and tuna), and seeds (like chia seeds, pumpkin, sunflower, and flax seeds) are great options.

  35. Lacey, Your Clean Eating post is so helpful and I agree eating clean makes you feel better and food tastes even better! Our family of 6, our children are young adults, have eaten well over the years – very well – we all love food! Our kids are on their own now and I see that they make healthy choices – we laugh when I remind them about healthier choices – they’ll roll their eyes too. I love your website, recipes and enjoy your posts about food and your family – keep it coming!

  36. Hi Lacey – I stumbled on your site through Yummly, and I have to say that this looks like one of the only clean eating sites I’ve found that makes clean eating appealing and easy for me with two little kids. Stir fry? Chicken parm? Yes, please! The recipes look delicious and I can’t wait to get started. Thanks for providing this amazing resource. I’ve got my recipes planned out and I’m ready to go!

    1. Wow, Allison, you just made my morning! That’s EXACTLY what I’m looking to do and I’m so glad you appreciate it 🙂 Yes, clean eating can be delicious and interesting and good and all that stuff 🙂

  37. I too eat clean but probably only about 90% of the time. There are some things I just can’t nor want to live without. I have no kids and it can be hard to get organized and make sure I have the fridge stocked with everything we need but I can’t imagine doing it with 3 kids. I commend you!

    1. lol – well when you put it that way, I can’t imagine doing it with 3 kids, either lol. Thanks for commending me 😉

      I like to follow a kinda 80/20 rule of clean eating – try to do it as much as possible but don’t stress if 20% is less-than-clean as long as it’s a decent to good choice. I find that way makes me the least crazy and guilty but still healthy 🙂

      Thanks so much for sharing!

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