Do you ever wonder why you just can’t put down that bag Cheetos? Or why you just can’t only eat one Oreo cookie?
In the past, I’ve been guilty of killing off an entire package of Oreo cookies in like two days. That is a lot of calories and sugar to consume in two days!
But that’s because they were designed to keep eating them. Yes, I’m going to blame it on the Oreo’s instead of my willpower.
No but really, big food companies know that foods that are highly processed, high in fat, sugar, and salt are addictive.
In fact, some processed foods are so addictive they cause a similar neurochemical reaction that happens when people do drugs. Isn’t that crazy?
We also know that eating a diet high in processed foods can cause high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, just to name a few.
That is why clean eating has gained some major popularity over the past decade with people who are trying to be more health conscientious.
Because scientist are finally starting to show the more processed the foods are, the worse they are for us. And now we know we should avoid them.
But how do we change our eating habits if we are becoming addicted to the taste and smell of processed foods?
I’m not going to lie and tell you it’s easy. At least it wasnt for me. But the results of breaking free are so worth it. By eating clean foods you will FEEL so much better.
Your mood will change, your energy levels will sky rocket, you will notice less inflammation in your body. Along the way, you may even notice yourself losing weight by ditching the processed foods.
I’m consistently losing about 3 pounds a month and I’m not even trying.
This post is going to go over what clean eating is and real tips that I used to help break the addiction and get started on a clean eating diet.
So, What is Clean Eating?
Clean eating is eating foods in their whole unprocessed natural states. It’s avoiding eating anything that comes prepackaged in box, can, or bag from the store (basically avoiding the center isles of the grocery store).
But real quick, let’s talk about this because there are different levels of clean eating.
Some people who eat clean only eat foods that are raw (cooking can also be a state of processing the food), some will not eat breads or applesauce because that would also be changing the food from its “whole” and “natural” state.
I tend to fall on the looser end of the clean eating spectrum. I avoid the traditional processed boxed, canned, and frozen meals and if I want something extra tasty I just make it myself. That way I can control the amount of fat, salt, and sugar that is in my food and avoid artificial ingredients.
My definition of clean eating is cooking with as many whole natural state ingredients to make my own healthy homemade version of the boxed or take out meals.
One of the many things I have come to love about clean eating is I can modify it to meet my grocery budget!
Yes, buying junk food and frozen meals cost more.
So now that you know what clean eating is, how do you actually transform your eating habits and really start living the clean eating lifestyle?
Here are my top tips for beginners that are looking to start clean eating today.
1. Stop buying junk food.
Okay, this one is obvious but it still deserves a spot on the list. No more candy, Doritos, Cheez-its, frozen boxed lasagna, or whatever else you keep in the house. Just stop buying it. If it’s not in the house, you can’t eat it.
2. Build your pantry with basic staples
Changing the basic staples in your house makes creating meals so much easier. To create great flavors or make meals from scratch there are some items you need to have on hand. Click here for the pantry staples that also help me keep my grocery budget under control.
3. Cook at home
One of the easiest ways to ensure that your not eating processed foods is to cook your own meals from scratch. That way you can determine how much salt, sugar, and oils go in your foods.
If you think making everything at home is too much work, then the next two will help save you some major time.
4. Meal Plan
Between two kids (3 and under) and work, I don’t have much time. But planning ahead makes things so much easier because I don’t sit on Pinterest for an hour everyday trying to decide what I should make for dinner. I come home knowing what I had planned for dinner AND I know I have all the ingredients to make it. So no last minute trips to the store!
5. Prep your fruits and veggies
Wash and cut up fruits and veggies for a quick snack. I like to do this at the beginning of the week so when I need a quick snack I have something to munch on right away. Keeping snacks in the fridge that are simple to just grab and eat when your starving will help you from making bad decisions when your desperate. This will also make it easier to incorporate more fruits and veggies in your diet.
6. Have a few freezer meals prepared for nights when you don’t feel like cooking
This can be a lifesaver. There are some nights I come home and I am just too tired to cook. Having a back up dinner in the freezer has saved our family many times from making a run through Del Taco.
7. Minimize the processed foods that you buy
Avoid processed meats like bacon, ham, sausage, hot dogs, and lunch meat. Make sure to check labels and try to avoid pastas and breads that have enriched flours. The rule of thumb is if you don’t know how to pronounce the ingredients on the back of a label its likely an artificial ingredient of some sort.
8. Drink more water
Water is essential for every organ in the body. The best way for you to nourish your body is to fuel it with water in its purest form. Avoid soda (regular and diet), juices, alcohol, and limit the teas and coffee. The best way to hydrate your body is through plain water. If you really must have some type of flavoring in your drinks you can infuse the water with a piece of fruit. Some of my favorites are lemons, cucumber, strawberry, and watermelon with mint.
9. Have a few go to snacks that are salty and sweet to choose from
Keeping a few “treats” in the house will save you from diving off into the deep end. So keeping a few better choices is a good idea for when those late night cravings come knocking on your door. Some of our go-to’s are popcorn (butter and salt or homemade kettle corn), dark chocolate, frozen yogurt with fruit, smoothie, dried fruits, or salted nuts.
10. Shop the outer edges at the grocery store
Try avoiding the center isles as much as possible. The center aisles should only be for baking supplies, oils, brown rice, beans, and whole wheat pastas. But you should be packing your cart full of items from the outer edges of the grocery store. This is typically where you will find fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, and dairy that you want to keep your house stocked with.
Clean eating is not about being perfect and never eating another cookie again. It’s about incorporating as many fruits, vegetables, and whole foods that you can in your diet. If you really want to make a transformation, start slowly and start incorporating a few tips at a time. You will start to notice a difference over time without feeling like you gave up everything you know. This is a marathon not a sprint and things will not change overnight. But you will get there if you make consistent effort.