The first step in eating clean is to understand what clean eating is. There are several views on exactly what constitutes a clean diet, but this is as simple as I can explain it:
- Buy foods with less “junk”. That is, foods with 5 ingredients or less, all of which you recognize.
- Eat foods as close to their natural state as possible. Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, etc.
If you keep these two simple rules in mind, you’ll be eating clean in no time. There are much more in-depth descriptions on websites such as 100 Days of Real Food and The Gracious Pantry, but these are the rules I keep in mind when I’m planning my meals and grocery shopping. Some people cut out all sugars as a form of clean eating, but many people look for more natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup or cane juice instead.
The next step is to clean your home of foods that don’t fit this criteria. You can do this one of two ways: eat up the foods that don’t fit the bill and replace them with cleaner foods or donate everything that isn’t clean and head to the store for a heavy-duty shopping spree. It’s perfectly acceptable to avoid wasting money and food and eat your way through the foods you already have in your pantry. However, it’s important that you understand the ingredients in processed foods act much like drugs to our brain (See a demonstration on the Dr. Oz show here)….the more you eat, the more you want. And, the longer you allow these ingredients into your diet, the longer the cravings will last. My suggestion is to start your clean eating lifestyle with a cold-turkey, full-blown clean eating menu. When you do go full speed ahead you find that it’s easier to stick with the plan, simply because your brain breaks the addiction and you don’t crave those nasty ingredients anymore.
Currently we have a small kitchen space, so I don’t stock a pantry full of staples. I simply buy what I need for the week in the smallest quantity possible. When I get room for a nicely stocked pantry, I’ll list our staples for a list of things to get as you make your transition.
One last word on getting started with clean eating: It’s not “heath food” eating. It’s delicious. You’ll discovery spices, fruits, vegetables, and ingredients you never knew existed. It’s amazing how fresh the meals taste and how much better you feel after eating it. I was worried we’d be eating bland foods that couldn’t keep my interest, but I was completely wrong! There are an endless amount of clean eating recipes to discover and it’s also fun to try to convert your favorite recipes to a clean version.
So, head to the kitchen and get started!