If you’re one to keep up on the latest trends in health and wellness, chances are you’ve heard the term “clean eating” a lot recently. Different from popular diets like keto and paleo, clean eating is less about a restrictive diet and more about a lifestyle. It’s about fueling your body with whole foods that are minimally processed, if at all, that provide you with the best nutritional benefits. So how does one start to eat clean? Aside from eating a diet rich with fruits and vegetables, there are other ways to eat clean without eliminating entire food groups. Keep reading for four easy steps that you can implement in your daily life as you start out on your new health journey.
1. Read Nutrition Labels
There’s no denying that the easiest way to eat clean is to avoid packaged goods entirely, but that’s just not realistic in this day and age. Instead, if you’re reaching for that box of crackers and maybe a dip to pair with them, take a look at the ingredients listed on the package. A rule of thumb is that if you can’t pronounce it, it’s not clean. The shorter the ingredient list the better!
Don’t fall victim to “all natural” marketing claims either. Natural does not always mean minimally processed, so it’s always best to do some digging of your own to make sure there are no added sugars, unhealthy fats, or preservatives.
2. Set Yourself Up for Success
Once you’ve made the decision for yourself to eat clean, make sure you’re not regularly putting yourself in tempting situations. Refrain from buying too many “cheat” snacks or foods that do not support your new lifestyle. It is easy to tell yourself at the store that these foods will only be for special occasions, but we all know how a late night sweet tooth can catch up with you.
Instead, look for clean alternatives to your favorite foods. You’d be surprised how many brands have emerged that offer products with whole food ingredients that are better for you. Don’t worry, eating clean does not mean that you’ll have to say adios to those post-dinner cookies, they’ll just be healthier!
3. Cook at Home
The easiest way to get off track with your new lifestyle is eating out too much and not knowing what the food you’re eating is made with or how it’s prepared. The healthy-looking salmon on the menu could easily be smothered in butter or unhealthy oils which are hard to keep track of! When you’re starting off on your journey aim to scale back on eating out and when you do, select entrees that are more whole food based like a salad. If you really want to impress your friends and family with your new commitment, bring a side of dressing from home so you know exactly what you’re putting into your body.
If you aren’t used to cooking on your own, try making an experience out of it. Spend some time each week looking up clean recipes online and invite friends over to try them out on the weekends. You won’t have to say goodbye to your social life and your friends will get some delicious, healthy food at the same time. Who knows, you may inspire them to join you on your journey!
4. Implement an 80/20 Mindset
Everything in moderation, right? As people we are creatures of habit, and it isn’t always easy to make a major lifestyle change. For the best chances of making a change and sticking with it long term, drop the “all or nothing” mindset and instead opt for 80/20. 80% of the time you will follow your new lifestyle, while giving yourself flexibility the other 20%.That’s not to say you should do a complete 180 during your flex time, but showing yourself grace and treating yourself to a small treat here and there will keep you more motivated along your journey. Over time you may even surprise yourself and stop craving processed foods all together!
After all is said and done it’s safe to say clean eating isn’t just the latest fad diet, it is here to stay. Increasing your awareness of the foods you eat will not only help your physical health, but your mental health as well. The mind body connection is very powerful and eating clean is the first step to optimizing your overall health.