So you’ve read some books, maybe browsed a few magazines and googled a few topics and you’re ready to make a lifestyle change. But now WHAT?! How do you start? Where do you begin? Hopefully this will help you out!

The Nice and Easy Approach

Not quite ready to jump in with both feet?  Not to worry, taking it nice and slow is a great way to slowly transition into your new lifestyle.  (If you are looking for a more direct approach check it out here.)

Let’s start with what is often the hardest part of clean eating - beverages.  “Hi, my name is Sarah and I am addicted to Diet Coke”  That was me before clean eating.  Most of my daily meals consisted of just diet coke!  I was pretty much excited about every part of clean eating, except parting ways with my beloved beverage.  For myself, I had to go cold turkey - I knew with even one sip I wouldn’t be able to resist drinking the whole can and the others in the fridge that were calling my name.  But if going cold turkey from your favorite beverage won’t work for you then start by eliminating HALF of what you currently drink and replacing it with water (feel free to flavor your water with lemon, lime, orange or even some 100% clean juices).  Each week you should be eliminating more and more of the beverage until you have completely switched to water.  This process tends to go faster than you would believe.  Even diet soda starts to taste sickly sweet once you’ve awakened your taste buds to clean food.  If you can give up your vice sooner rather then later then you are doing great!

One of the first things I tell people that are just starting out is to look through some magazines, books and online blogs to find recipes that look yummy and inspire you.  Grab a couple of your favorites and try working 1 or 2 into your weekly routine.  Not too hard huh?  Now add a couple more.  Keep adding until each of your nightly meals are a clean eating meal.

Once you have dinners mastered it’s time to move on to your other meals.  Let’s take a look at breakfast, lunch and snacks!

Oatmeal with fruit

Breakfast - Start with the basics - cereal (or oatmeal) with fruit and skim milk.  You can find a variety of clean cereals at your local health food store.  As you ease into the lifestyle, you can start to branch out with your meals.

Sprouted grain lunch wrap

Lunch - If you’re a veggie lover then stock up on your favorites!  Grab some clean cheese (read the label - the ingredients should list things like milk, salt, enzymes, rennet) and pick up some Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balasmic Vinegar for a dressing.  Toss everything together and you have a complete protein and carb meal!  If you’re not big on salads then pick up some clean tortilla shells, some chicken (you’ll either want to grill or bake it) and either hummus or some low fat Greek style yogurt (this is to make yogurt cheese with and is a great sauce to use on wraps - you can find the recipe here).  Toss together with some lettuce, tomato and onion and lunch is complete!

Veggies with yogurt cheese dip

Snacks - Again, stick to the basics at first and then branch out.  Grab some of your favorite nuts and seeds - almonds, walnuts, pecans, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.  Measure out a single serving of each and toss them in some snack bags for easy grab and go servings.  Pair your nuts and seeds with some carrots, broccoli, cauliflower or celery - yogurt cheese makes a great dip for the veggies (see recipe here).  Apples, bananas and grapes are easy fruits to have for snacks - pair them with some cheese or natural peanut butter for a complete protein/carb snack.

Whole and Ground Flaxseed

Extras - Flaxseed is a powerful seed that packs an enormous punch of healthy nutrition to any diet.  You can buy flaxseed whole or ground.  If you buy it whole you will need to grind it up before you use it.  Flaxseed can only be absorbed into your system in the ground form.

Chia seeds

Chia seeds are similar to flaxseeds but they don’t need to be ground up to be used by the body.  They also have no taste where as flaxseed has a somewhat nutty flavor.  Chia seeds are loaded with nutrients!  I always have a flax/chia mix that I keep on hand to add to my meals.

And don’t forget the WATER!  When you’re starting out, drinking lots of water will really help to flush your system and keep you hydrated.  And no - diet soda does NOT count for a beverage option.  You can have tea and coffee - just make sure to use a natural sweetener like coconut nectar or honey.

You’ll find that over time you end up with a basic supply of some simple pantry items.  Below is a list of some of the most common ones.  Some of these you won’t need right away but others you will want to have on hand from the beginning - the items that are marked with an * are ones you want soonest.

Basic Pantry List - here is a list of items that I like to have stocked in my pantry.

  • *Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • *Sea Salt
  • *Ground Flaxseed and Chia Seeds
  • Spices like garlic and onion powder, basil, oregano, parsley, paprika, chili powder
  • *Vegetable and Chicken stock - low sodium varieties are best
  • *Brown Rice Syrup
  • Clean mustard
  • Clean Ketchup (see recipe here)
  • *Low Sodium Soy Sauce or Tamari
  • Canned Salmon
  • *Whole grains - brown rice and quinoa are personal favorites
  • Old Fashioned Oats or Steel Cut Oats
  • *Natural Peanut butter
  • Unsweetened all natural applesauce (see recipe here)
  • *Whole Wheat Flour or Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • *Vinegars like apple cider and balsamic
  • Canned Pizza Sauce and/or tomato paste
  • *Cereals
  • Clean Crackers - Brown rice crackers are yummy
  • *Nuts and Seeds
  • Canned beans

The Basics:

Now that you’ve stocked up on good, clean healthy food it’s time to figure out how it all works together to help you.  Your goal should be 5-6 small meals daily.  Each of your meals should be 200-300 calories and needs to contain BOTH a carb and protein.  Carbs are things like fruit, veggies, breads and grains.  Proteins are cheeses, nuts, meats, legumes and beans. For some examples of different meal combinations see here and here.

Clean eating truly is a lifestyle and it takes time to get used to this new way of life.  The more you eat clean, the easier it becomes.  This is why for the first week or so I recommend writing down your daily meals so that you can easily pull out your meal items at the appropriate times.  Take a few minutes the night before and jot down what you will be having for breakfast, lunch and your snacks.  If you are away from the house during these times you will want to pack your lunch so that you have all your meals and snacks with you. (to this day I still put a written menu in my husband’s lunch bag!)

Exercise:

If you currently have an exercise program that you follow then you are already a step ahead!  Keep up the good work!

If you haven’t yet added in an exercise routine, now is a great time to start.  For most people walking is a great way to start incorporating exercise into your daily routine.  Invest in a good pair of walking shoes and head outside (or inside if you have access to a treadmill).  Start with walking half a mile and gradually increase your pace and distance as you gain muscle and energy.  Once you’ve gotten a steady exercise routine worked into your daily lifestyle you can branch out by adding weights, cardio classes and sports activities!

Cheat Meal:

Some people will do a cheat meal once a week or once a month.  This is completely up to you.  For me personally if I’m craving something that isn’t clean I try to find a way to make a clean version.

YOU CAN DO IT:

Remember that eating clean isn’t a diet - don’t worry if you miss a meal, eat a candy bar or slip up.  Put the past behind you and start again - RIGHT AWAY, no need to wait for tomorrow.  As you become more comfortable reading labels and making meals, you’ll notice how quick meal preparation becomes. You do have to put some time and energy into getting started but soon you’ll be so accustomed to your new lifestyle that you’ll wonder how you lived any other way!

As ALWAYS check with your doctor before starting any exercise or nutrition program!

Are there any tips or tricks that you learned along that way that helped you when starting out?  Please share them with us and help out others that are just starting on this awesome adventure and lifestyle!

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12 Comments

 
  1. Lori says:

    FABULOUS POST!!! Yes, I’m going to get started, I still don’t have my darn ducks in a row but I’m getting there.

  2. TC says:

    Flax seed: important to the liver and the powerful, natural quality it has in detoxifying the body is beyond awesome! it also helps to lower a persons BP - but anyone taking BP regulation meds NEED to discuss IF they should/can use flax seeds/oils in their diet.

    Awesome read Sarah :) (as I am sucking down my Pepsi cuz I am a baaaaaaad girl)

    • Sarah says:

      Step away from the pepsi!!!!

      It’s definitely important to check with your doctor first before using flax or chia seeds if you are taking any medication that might not work well with it!

      ~Sarah

  3. susan says:

    Great post. Is there any other books you’d recommend? I have all of Tosca’s books and I have pre-ordered the Clean Eating cookbook. I picked up Clean Eating quick and easy meals bookazine and really like it.

    • Sarah says:

      I love Clean Eating Magazine as well as the Idiots Guide to Clean Eating! We will be posting some book reviews in the next few weeks of all of our favorite and not so favorite books.

      ~Sarah

  4. Jennifer says:

    Thank you Sarah! This is a super great help to me. I have a regular (not diet) Coca Cola addiction, so that’s my biggest vice.

  5. Jaimie says:

    Can you suggest any clean cereals?

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Jaimie,

      Barbara’s Bakery Brand has quite a few clean cereals out there. One of my favorite is their Shredded Oats and Hole N Oats (Similar to Cherrios). I also like Erewhon cereal. They have a brown rice puff cereal (like Rice Crispies) that is really good. For something similar to Grape Nuts try the Ezekiel 4.9 Brand. I love their Almond variety.

      ~Sarah

  6. Samantha says:

    Are Grape Nuts “unclean”? I thought they were healthy. :(

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Samantha,

      Do I consider Grape Nuts clean? Not really - here’s why. According to the label on the box the cereal does contain whole grain wheat flour, malted barley flour, salt and dried yeast. Are those ingredients clean? Technically yes. BUT Post cereal contains MORE than 75% GMO ingredients. So the wheat and barley flour that is used to make the cereal is coming from genetically modified crops. For me personally, I’d rather eat sugar that has been stripped of it’s minerals and nutrients than eat food that has been genetically modified. Plus, there are brands like Ezekiel 4.9 cereals that do not contain GMO’s and have more nutritional value than Grape Nuts. Sorry it’s not more of a definitive answer but I hope it clears things up for you a little.

      ~Sarah

  7. Samantha says:

    Thanks for the info, Sarah. I’m just starting to educate myself about all of this, so I didn’t know. I’m at that point where it feels like it’s a world full of “no, can’t eat that.”

    I’m researching dairy this morning. Luckily we have a local dairy, Twin Brook, that carries non-GMO milk from family-farmed cows. I’ve been trying to find a good meat source, but that stuff seems to be full of bad news. Thinking of going (mostly) vegetarian.

    We have a local chain of stores called Fred Meyer that have bulk food bins, and I think most of the bulk flours and oats and whatnot are Bob’s Red Mill, which is a good non-GMO brand, as far as I can tell from my research.

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Samantha,

      In the beginning of any new lifestyle change it takes a little getting use to. If you were eating healthy foods then the ‘can’t eat this’ list wouldn’t be very big. As you get accustomed to the diet and the foods that are available you’ll see that you’re choices are infinite. I currently follow a strict plant based diet which we switched to after a few years of clean eating. At first I felt like we had a selection of 3 different things to eat each day. I kept wondering how in the world people eat like this for so many years. Now, I can’t image eating any other way and my choices are so vast I can’t image running out of new things to try.

      I’m glad to hear you are doing your research! One of the best things you can do is educate yourself about how different foods affect your body and health. Keep up the good work!!!!

      And remember it takes 21 days for a change to become a habit so hang in there and don’t give up!

      ~Sarah

 
 

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