When I started my weight loss journey, I was curious about how to eat clean and lose weight in the process.
I had heard the term “clean eating,” but I wasn’t quite sure what it meant or how to even begin clean eating.
While this type of healthy eating can certainly aid weight loss it is a type of lifestyle and not a diet.
Eating foods that are unprocessed and closest to their most natural whole form free of additives, preservatives, or anything artificial and choosing the best and healthiest options in each of the food groups is all part of this lifestyle.
It is a great way of providing your body with better nutrients so that it can function better in the long run.
Ultimately it is all about enjoying food the way nature intended it, and becoming more aware of the journey food has made before it lands on your plate.
For those of you that have tried and failed at diet plans in the past, this article is not a diet plan. This article is just a guide to help you get started with tips to start eating clean.
1. Eliminate Processed Food
Processed foods are directly opposed to clean eating because they have been changed from their natural state.
Processed foods are often high in unhealthy fats and usually contain cheap fats, refined seed- and vegetable oils. Vegetable oils are extremely unhealthy and most people are eating way too much of them already.
Most of them have lost some of their fiber and nutrients, yet gained sugar, chemicals or other unhealthy ingredients during processing.
Even if unhealthy ingredients aren’t added to processed foods, these foods still lack many of the benefits provided by whole foods.
They also take less energy to digest and absorb into the body than whole foods do, making them more likely to cause weight gain over time.
In one study, healthy adults who consumed a 600 calorie meal containing whole foods burned twice as many calories digesting their meals compared to those who ate a 600 calorie processes meal.
In order to eat clean, it’s important to avoid processed foods as much as possible.
2. Read Food Labels
Most real food doesn’t come with a label, such as the majority of food in the produce section.
However, foods like bread, whole grains, and salad mix do carry labels, so to ensure they’re clean, you’ll want to flip them over and read the fine print.
My personal rule is that if I can’t pronounce an ingredient, it is probably not something I want in my body.
If an ingredient sounds like it belongs in a chemistry lab or contains a half-page of obscure ingredients, then put it back and avoid.
A good rule of thumb for clean eating is to only accept foods with six or fewer ingredients, all of which are recognizable.
instead of thinking I knew what was exactly in each product I actively would read each ingredient list, this helped me to understand what was going in my body and eventually help me clean up my diet.
Reading the labels also helped me to understand that my ‘healthy’ snacks such as granola, diet sodas, and trail mix, were actually not so healthy after all.
At first, it can seem overwhelming and your shopping trip can take a little longer than usual. However with practice, you will become better start with the basics, like ingredients and calories, and then expand as you learn more about the nutrients.
Again, if it is unfamiliar, you can’t pronounce it, if it is over 10 letters long, if a product has more than 5-10 ingredients, if it looks like it may have been developed in a lab, get rid of it!
3. Make Water Your Friend
Keeping your body well hydrated is something that can immensely help you when you are trying to start eating clean.
It will also help when you are trying to maintain this lifestyle down the road.
One rule of thumb that can assure that you stay hydrated is drinking half your body weight in ounces.
So, for example, if you are currently 140 pounds you need to drink at least 70 ounces of water in a day. I found this bottle helped me keep track of how much I am drinking.
The amount of water you should consume in a day varies from person to person and depends a lot on your activity level.
Don’t think that if you aren’t active, you aren’t losing water so you get to drink less of it.
The people that aren’t active need to be even more conscious about drinking water because it can be easy for them to forget.
Research shows that water is a catalyst for metabolism, and therefore weight loss Being dehydrated, even just a little, slows processes in the body including your metabolism.
Because every single cell in your body uses water, it helps your entire body function correctly. It’s hard to imagine that a tasteless, calorie-less substance could have so many benefits, but it really does!
Related: Detox Drink: Cucumber Water
4. Clean out Your Fridge and Pantry
I can be quite undisciplined especially if it’s the sweet stuff, if it’s in the house, chances are I will probably eat it.
To eat cleaner and get leaner, I started with cleaning out my fridge and pantry to make way for the good stuff.
Step 1: Get rid of any products in your fridge or pantry that contain vegetable oils (corn, soy, canola, safflower, cottonseed, sunflower seed, etc).
Step 2: Get rid of any products in your fridge or pantry that contain wheat, wheat gluten, or anything derived from wheat.
Step 3: Get rid of any products in your fridge or pantry that contain sugar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, rice syrup, aspartame, sucralose, Splenda, or any other unnatural sweeteners.
Step 4: Get rid of any products in your fridge or pantry that contain processed foods. Granola bars, protein bars, frozen meals, crackers, “diet” foods or snacks, cookies, etc. If you know it’s not healthy and you shouldn’t be eating it, toss it.
Step 5: Get rid of any GMOs; the top 10 GMOs are soy, aspartame, inorganic meat and dairy, zucchini and squash, papaya, cotton, corn, canola, alfalfa and sugar from sugar beets. If any of these are in your fridge or pantry and are inorganic, they are likely genetically modified.
Step 6: Get rid of products with ingredients you don’t recognize or cannot pronounce.
Step 7: Get rid of any products with fake, processed ingredients like monosodium glutamate (MSG), sulfites, sulfates, carrageenan, food dyes (like red #40), butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), Splenda, low-fat ingredients, fat-free ingredients, guar gum, modified food starch, “natural and artificial flavors”, soy lecithin, malt extract or yeast.
5. Plan Meals
I believe in the saying fail to plan, you plan to fail. This is especially true when you are trying to eat healthier.
If you leave your meals to “chance,” you may have a difficult time losing weight.
When you start eating clean, don’t focus on what you “can’t” eat, but rather focus on what you can. If you love blueberries, for example, find ways to work them into different meals.
Focus on clean eating recipes that make you excited because you’re more likely to eat the foods you love. You never want to hate what you’re eating or you’ll more than likely give up.
You may have this idea that clean eating means boring and tasteless food, but you can find plenty of delicious, indulgent recipes online.
You can always makeover your favorite meals with cleaner ingredients.
The beauty of clean eating is that it can be so simple and quick.
It isn’t about restricting your diet. It’s about being strategic with how you use your daily calories. You can use all 1,400 calories in one sitting at a fast-food restaurant, or you can spread it out among a variety of fresh delicious foods.
6. Keep Away From Sugar
Sugar is one of the most important things to stay away from if your goal is to eat clean. Unfortunately, it’s found in many foods, including those that you wouldn’t expect it don’t taste sweet, like sauces and condiments.
Both table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are high in fructose. Table sugar contains about 50% fructose, while high-fructose corn syrup contains about 55% fructose.
The results of several studies suggest fructose may play a role in obesity, diabetes, fatty liver, and cancer, among other health problems
Depending on your health, you may be able to occasionally tolerate small amounts of natural sugar, such as honey or maple syrup, while following a clean eating lifestyle.
However, if you have diabetes, metabolic syndrome or similar health problems, it’s best to avoid all forms of concentrated sugar, including those from natural sources.
Moreover, even natural sugar sources contribute very little nutritional value other than calories.
For truly clean eating, try to consume foods in their natural, unsweetened state.
Learn to love the sweetness of fruit and the subtle sweetness of nuts and other whole
7. Eat Your Veggies
Most of us do not eat enough vegetables. A good rule I use is to fill half my plate with vegetables during meals. I also plan meals around veggies rather than meat so I eat a better proportion of vegetables.
I try to sneak vegetables into everything, and my family doesn’t even notice. You can mix frozen cauliflower into smoothies or puree veggies for dips and pesto. My children love pasta so I blend many different vegetables into the sauce, they never notice or complain.
Frozen and canned vegetables are other options to meet your vegetable intake.
Frozen vegetables are a great choice as they keep their nutritional value as they’re frozen at the peak of freshness.
Canned vegetables are a better option than not eating vegetables at all. Just make sure the only ingredient inside the package is the fruit or vegetable itself, not sugar or other additives.
In addition to including more vegetables in your salads, you can increase your veggie intake by using them in place of refined grains in recipes.
For example, cauliflower can be chopped finely to mimic rice, zucchini can be made into spaghetti or noodles, or potatoes can be mashed and used as a pizza crust.
8. White Is Not Clean
White rice, white bread, white flour, white pasta, and white tortillas are not part of the clean eating repertoire as they’ve been “refined” (processed) and stripped of much of their natural nutrition.
Manufacturers remove the most nutritious parts of the wheat and bleach it to make it white
White carbohydrates also cause a huge surge in blood sugar levels shortly after ingestion, leading to insulin overload.
If you still feel hungry after eating white bread, it’s because of this sugar surge followed by a sugar crash.
Refined carbs have very little nutritional value, while whole grains provide healthy micronutrients like filling fiber.
To make the best selection, look for bread and pasta that list “whole grains” as the first ingredient.
9. Better Cooking Techniques
You can take a clean food and make it unhealthy by dipping it in the deep fryer or slathering it in butter. The cooking method you use matters just as much as the foods do. It’s important to stay away from foods that are fried, deep-fried, and sauteed in butter.
stir-frying, boiling, blanching, poaching, grilling, and roasting are some of the healthiest ways I’ve found to cook clean food.
Use minimal amounts of olive oil cooking spray when you’re frying, and leave out the heavy sauces and cheeses whenever possible.
The cleanest way to add flavor to your food is to use herbs, spices, vinegar, and cooking wines to bring out the flavors in your favorite foods.
Grilling also creates amazing flavor without adding any extra calories.
10. No Vegetable Oils or Spreads
Vegetable oils and margarine spreads do not fit in with the clean eating lifestyle. Trans fats and some vegetable oils are highly processed and linked to an increased risk of disease.
They are produced by extracting oil from seeds and vegetables using chemicals, making them highly processed.
They also contain very high levels of the omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid.
Studies have linked to inflammation and an increased risk of weight gain and heart disease.
Although all vegetable oils and spreads should be avoided, it’s important to include a moderate amount of healthy fats in a clean eating regimen.
Choose oils and spreads that are minimally processed and provide the greatest health benefits, such as extra virgin coconut oil, olive oil and butter from grass-fed cows.
11. Limit Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol is made by adding yeast to crushed grains, fruits or vegetables and allowing the mixture to ferment.
Moderate intakes of certain types of alcohol, particularly wine, have been credited with heart health benefits.
However, aside from the antioxidants in wine, alcohol does not provide any nutrients.
What’s more, frequent alcohol consumption has been shown to promote inflammation and may also contribute to a number of health problems, such as liver disease, digestive disorders and excess belly fat.
When following a clean eating lifestyle, alcohol intake should be minimized, if not eliminated.
Clean eating focuses on choosing fresh foods that have been minimally processed and retain their nutritional value.
This way of eating can help you learn to appreciate the natural flavors of foods, as they were meant to be consumed.
In addition, it’s a lifestyle choice and not a diet that can help support the health of people, animals and the planet.