Getting started on the road to health and wellness can seem daunting at first. It can be a challenge finding the motivation to take the first steps, and there is so much information available it can be tough knowing where to start. This will list 10 easy clean eating rules to get you started. This is designed to keep you from feeling overwhelmed as you start moving in the right direction and to keep you from falling off the wagon. This is not a diet, as much as a lifestyle change to maintain health long term. There is no calorie counting, and we are going to eat amazing food without feeling deprived or hungry. Use this guide to get started on the right foot on your road to success!
Rule #1: Eat as Much as you Want, When you Want
Most of us know from experience that fad diets do not work in the long run and leave us feeling weak, tired and more prone to overeat. Good news: we aren’t doing that anymore. Since we know it doesn’t work, let’s try something different and just clean up our diets instead of restricting ourselves. Once we cut out the processed junk and start eating the right foods there will be no need for calorie or macro counting or starving ourselves. Eat as much as you want when you want so long as it is clean. If you are hungry, eat something, and don’t feel guilty. If you aren’t sure if you are hungry, then just drink some water, and wait to see. No more boredom or emotional eating and no more guilt for eating more than a salad. Keep in mind this is not a pass to binge eat! Stay within your guidelines and eat as much healthy foods as you want.
Rule #2: Think Positive to Build Habits
In the past I have had a bad habit of falling off the band wagon and giving up on my goals for the rest of the day. I would think “Well, I just ruined today with this burger so it doesn’t matter what I do the rest of the day. Might as well have pizza for dinner”. Repeat this every day and you can imagine the results. This is clearly an unhealthy way of thinking about food and can sabotage you in the long term. Every day is not an all or nothing deal, it is a spectrum. If you stick to your goals 90% of the day and slip off, this is not a loss. You still made progress for the day and that is what matters. Get back on track with the next meal and keep plugging along.
Rule #3: Avoid Processed Foods, Look for 5 Ingredients or Less
This rule will help to avoid any processed or “fake” food. When going through the supermarket, check the ingredient list for everything you purchase. If there are more than 5 ingredients listed then this is likely a processed food, and we don’t want that. The goal is to get food as close from the earth as possible without anything artificial added in. Also avoid anything that has ingredients you can’t pronounce. If you spend more than 5 seconds thinking of how to pronounce an ingredient then put it back on the shelf and walk away.
Rule #4: Eat More Veggies
Mom and dad were right, you really should be eating your veggies. Besides being chock full of nutrients they will fill you up, causing you to eat less overall. Try to fill half of your plate at any meal with veggies. If you pick your favorites this should not be a chore and you can try different recipes to mix things up. The goal is to eat what now seems like a ridiculous amount of vegetables and see what happens. I know I’m not a big fan of vegetables so I am approaching this as a fun challenge to try new foods and expand my diet, not restrict it.
Rule #5: Eat the Rainbow (of Produce)
Not only does a colorful produce make your dinner plate prettier, it also helps you to get a variety of needed nutrients! For example, red fruits and vegetables can help reduce different kinds of cancer and blue and purple produce can reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease.[i] To break out of your boring dinner routine try purchasing produce from every color of the rainbow to eat during the week. This can help expose you to new fruits or veggies that you may not have tried and will give you more to experiment with. Try switching every week to keep your meals fresh and different while still filling your plate mostly with veggies. No more getting bored with salads and broccoli!
Rule #6: Eat More Healthy Fats
Research is showing that healthy fats are not the enemy and your body craves them. According to an article by Harvard Health Publications, healthy fats like monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats provide your body with the energy it needs[ii]. Try adding avocado to a smoothie or slicing it up as a side, a portion of fresh wild caught salmon can give you a protein and healthy fat boost for any meal, try cooking with coconut oil instead of canola oils, try grass fed butter in coffee or on fresh veggies for extra flavor. Although these are high in calories, we don’t care, we are not counting calories. Following this most of your plate will be veggies with a small portion of protein and fat, which will keep you feeling full throughout the day.
Rule #7: Choose Organic Grass-fed Meat and Dairy
While your diet should mainly consist of vegetables and some healthy fats, protein is still an important part of your plate as it will help to build muscle and burn fat. Be picky about the quality of the meats that you eat. Always opt for grass fed beef when possible. Not only will it taste better than meat you may be used to eating but it will contain more antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids.[iii] When looking for dairy products, try to get milk from grass fed cows, goats or sheep. Whole fat is alright in instance because it will be eaten in moderation and if it is from grass fed source it will have more nutrients and no added ingredients.
Rule #8: Occasionally Enjoy High Quality Whole Grains
I know the topic of eating grains is rather controversial right now but we will encounter them in our daily lives, so how should we approach them? Research has shown that it can spike your blood sugar and increase the risk of diseases from insulin sensitivity[iv] but it can also reduce cholesterol and protect against arterial plaque buildup.[v] With a house full of people, I have found it to be difficult to maintain a completely paleo lifestyle. When given the option, choose healthier alternatives than grains, but if you can’t avoid it, don’t beat yourself up for eating it. Try to choose whole unprocessed grains with no additives and plenty of fiber and move on. Over the long run, you will stick to a healthier diet by being flexible and will be less likely to burn out.
Rule #9: Experiment with Healthier Alternatives
Try to find healthier alternatives for everyday foods so that you can keep eating what you love. Try cauliflower rice or a cauliflower pizza crust. Substitute coconut milk instead of other dairy products. Avoid sugar and use raw honey or pure maple syrup sparingly. There are plenty of options for any meal you love so you shouldn’t feel like you are missing out. Think of all the new food that you are trying instead!
Rule #10: Sparingly Indulge in Homemade Desserts
I have a sweet tooth and the thought of giving up desserts makes me die a little on the inside. It gets old eating dark chocolate and fruit when a craving arises and I know that will throw me off course. I have decided I will occasionally splurge on real desserts, however, they must be homemade where I can control the ingredients. If I don’t feel like fixing the dessert then I will go without, this makes me work for it, and makes it a reward. I can use coconut or almond flour; coconut oil rather than vegetable oil; coconut sugar, honey or maple syrup rather than sugar. Let’s not lie to ourselves though. This will still be dessert, this will be high calorie and a treat, not an everyday occurrence, however I consider controlling the ingredients to have the best quality is certainly the best-case scenario rather than falling to your cravings. Try something like fresh fruit cobbler from scratch!