Clean eating involves incorporating more whole foods like vegetables, fruits, and grains into your diet while eliminating processed, packaged foods. Eating a clean, balanced diet can be a struggle, as you may not know how to avoid unhealthy snacks and meals high in fat. Take small steps like trying to follow a healthy meal plan and cutting out unhealthy foods and junk food a little at a time. You can also maintain a clean eating diet by tracking your calorie intake and your meals so you stay healthy. Though you may find clean eating difficult at first, with a few dietary changes and some persistence, you should lose weight and develop eating habits that will help you to keep the weight off.
EditCutting out Unhealthy Ingredients and Junk Food
- Replace refined sugar with fresh fruit once a week. Try to cut out cookies, cakes, candy, and sweets that contain refined sugar and substitute them for fresh fruit like apples, pears, strawberries, peaches, and mangos at least once a week. Slice the fruit for an easy snack or make a fresh fruit salad with just fruit and no added sugar.
- Start by replacing sugary treats with fresh fruit once a week and then amp it up to twice or three times a week. Over time, you should try to replace almost all sugary treats in your diet for fresh fruit, for many days in a row as you can manage.
- Have whole-wheat grains instead of refined grains in at least 1-2 of your meals. Buy foods made with whole-wheat, such as whole-wheat pasta, bread, and crackers when you go grocery shopping. Start by replacing white bread, pasta, and rice in 1-2 of your meals with whole-wheat wraps, quinoa, and brown rice.
- Cut down on packaged food and junk food to 1-2 times a week. Packaged foods like microwave dinners, pre-made sandwiches, and prepared soups are all high in sodium, fat, and unhealthy ingredients. Fast food is also high in fat and low in nutrients. Aim to reduce your consumption of these foods to only a couple of times a week. Over time, try to limit yourself to having fast food 1-2 times a month.
- Try to have packaged or junk food only as an occasional treat!
- Have food with less sodium and saturated fat. Opt for low-sodium soy sauce and other prepared sauces. Soak dry beans overnight or in a slow cooker, as canned beans have a high sodium content. Have fresh fruits and vegetables in your meals, as they have less sodium and fat.
- Try replacing sugary drinks with water. Rather than reach for a soda, a packaged juice, or another cup of coffee, sip water instead. Carry a water bottle with you so you always have water on hand. Try to have more water throughout the day and limit or cut out any other drinks.
- Add fresh sliced lemon or cucumber to your water to make it more flavorful.
EditFollowing a Healthy Meal Plan
- Have three meals a day, preferably at the same time every day. Try not to skip any meals, as this can throw off your appetite and cause you to reach for unhealthy foods. Plan to eat every 4-5 hours so your body has enough nutrients and energy. Have a good breakfast, a larger lunch, and a nutrient-rich dinner every day so you can establish an eating routine.
- For example, you may have breakfast at 8 or 9 am, lunch at 12 or 1 pm, and dinner at around 5 or 6 pm every day.
- Cook at home as much as you can. Create a shopping list for the week and buy ingredients for each meal at the start of the week so you can cook for yourself at home. Include more healthy foods in each meal so you can eat clean. Keep your meals simple, with lots of fresh ingredients.
- For example, you may make Sundays your day to shop for fresh ingredients for the week. You may then plan out 4-5 dinners for the week, keeping in mind you can have leftovers to eat for lunch or for days when you do not want to cook.
- Try to add variety to your meals. Keep your meals interesting so you do not get bored or become tempted to eat out too much. Try having a different type of whole grain or healthy protein source a week for variety. Add a new vegetable or fruit to your meal plan. Look for healthy sauces you can prepare at home to give your meals a little more zip.
- Search for new recipes that focus on clean eating online by looking at healthy food blogs and websites.
- Buy clean eating cookbooks to get new ideas for recipes.
- Go for healthy, clean meals when you eat out. Try to find restaurants that offer locally grown, organic foods. Look for options on the menu like a salad with whole grains and vegetables or a sandwich on whole-wheat bread. Substitute fries on the side for a salad or a healthier option. Try to stick to clean eating as much as you can when you eat out so your diet does not get thrown off.
- Have healthy snacks once a week to start. Plan ahead by packing almonds, cashews, or macadamia nuts in plastic bags or containers so you can snack on them between meals. Cut up fresh fruit or vegetables and have them on hand as a snack. Try having at least 1 healthy snack a week and then gradually, replace most of your unhealthy snacks with healthy ones.
- You can also pack healthy dips like hummus, black bean dip, or baba ganoush to add a little something extra to your snack.
EditMaintaining Healthy Eating Habits
- Eat 250-500 calories less than the recommended amount every day. This will help you lose per week at a healthy pace. The recommended amount of calories a day is 2,000-2,400 for women, and 2,600-3,000 for men. Subtract 250-500 from your recommended daily amount and focus on eating that many calories every day.
- Your calorie intake may fluctuate based on your age and lifestyle. You can find a detailed list of estimated calorie intake on the CNPP website: https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/sites/default/files/usda_food_patterns/EstimatedCalorieNeedsPerDayTable.pdf.
- Use a calorie tracker on your smartphone to see how many calories you’re consuming.
- Keep a food journal or use an app. Record your meals every day in a journal to keep track of your eating habits. Notice if your meals are starting to contain more healthy foods and less prepackaged foods. Use the journal as a guide to help you maintain a clean eating diet.
- If you’d prefer to keep track of your meals on your smartphone, download a healthy eating app like MyFitnessPal, Noom, SideChef, or SimpleSteps.
- Track your weight loss with photographs so you have a visual reference. Take the photographs once a week at the same time every day in the same clothing. Expose areas like your stomach and legs so you can notice weight loss in these areas.
- You may notice small changes in the photographs at first. As you continue to change your diet, you should notice more significant weight loss.
- Talk to a dietitian for guidance. If you are struggling with clean eating and staying away from junk food or empty calories, contact a registered dietitian in your area. Look for a certified dietitian at your local wellness center or through your doctor. Ask them about ways that you can integrate clean eating into your diet and maintain healthy eating habits.
- You may also talk to a dietitian if you struggle with emotional eating, where you tend to eat unhealthy foods when you are feeling stressed, anxious, or upset. They can suggest ways that you can put your emotions into healthier activities, such as preparing a healthy meal or exercising.
- Work exercise into your daily life. Clean eating is a great way to maintain a healthy weight, but it should be complemented with exercise. Start off easy with simple cardio like walking, running or biking, then try to build up to taking fitness classes or joining a gym! Exercising can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle overall and promote weight loss.
- As you exercise, you should notice that eating clean is helping you feel strong and energetic for your workout. Clean eating should make it easier for you to exercise and stay fit.