Are you looking to start a clean food diet but feel overwhelmed and not sure where to begin? Trust me, I totally understand.
I’ve been eating clean for almost twenty years, ever since my diagnosis with multiple sclerosis in 1998 at the age of twenty-two. At this stage now, eating clean is truly second nature to both me and my family. But believe me, I know exactly what it feels like to have no idea what in the world to buy at the grocery or what to make for dinner.
I also know what if feel like to have no idea what to feed your kids. I was only 24 years in 2000 when I had my son. It was a real struggle to raise him on a clean whole foods diet in a highly processed food world. Back then, food bloggers didn’t exist, I didn’t have a Whole Foods Market down the street and raising kids to eat clean was not exactly the thing to do. Looking back on my journey, there are definitely some things I wish I would have known…
5 Steps to Adopting a Clean Food Diet
When I think about myself and about the real life strategies I have adopted over the years that helped me stick to a clean food diet and totally revamp my lifestyle, I think there are five things that helped me the most. I have listed the five things below and so hope they help you and your family!
1. Do a Kitchen Makeover + Pantry Shape Up.
Get rid of all the processed and refined foods. If you can at least rid your pantry and refrigerator of all the junk foods you will eliminate temptation, at least while at home. After you toss the junk, hit the supermarket to stock up on fresh, whole foods. If you don’t know what to toss or what to buy, you can use our FREE Kitchen Shape Up as a guideline.
2. Identify 3 Go-To Breakfasts, 3 Lunches + 5 Dinners that Are Tasty + Easy to Prepare.
Meal planning every week can be totally overwhelming if you have to come up with brand new ideas, buy new and unfamiliar ingredients and figure out how to make a whole new recipe every day. It is much easier and less stressful to streamline your meal planning. One simple streamlining strategy is to find 3 go-to breakfasts, 3 lunches and 5 dinners that you know you like and that you can easily prepare. For example, one go-to breakfast might be this Maca Superfood Smoothie Recipe. A staple lunch could be a baked potato or sweet potato and this All Green Soup (which can be made over the weekend and eaten all week). And dinner one day of the week could be this Healthy Chicken Enchilada Recipe.
3. Keep 5 Clean Food Diet Staples in Your Fridge at All Times.
There is just no way I could consistently manage to eat clean on a regular basis for this many years if I didn’t have a few tricks up my sleeve. When it comes to making quick healthy meals, there are five staples I keep in my fridge at all times.
These are the 5 Fridge Staples that Help Me Stick to a Clean Food Diet
- A delicious (but clean!) homemade sauce. A delicious sauce can totally make a meal in minutes. Think of what Teriyaki sauce can do for chicken or salmon. Or what Alfredo Sauce can do for pasta. And by the way, you can most definitely make a clean no-refined sugar Teriyaki Sauce and a healthy dairy-free Alfredo Sauce! We have lots of delicious sauce recipes on the blog.
- A big pot of vegetable soup. Eating lots of vegetables is key to adopting a clean food diet. Having a big pot of ready-made vegetable soup on hand at all times makes eating lots of vegetables so much more realistic. You’ll find lots of delicious vegetable soup recipes on the blog.
- Cooked whole grains. (Note: I use a rice cooker to cook all of my whole grains and I rotate grains every three days.) Waiting for whole grains to cook can be a drag, especially if you are hungry and in a hurry. Having cooked whole grains ready-made is super helpful for streamlining meal prep.
- A container of beans. I just open a large can of beans, rinse with water and keep them in a covered container in the refrigerator. Beans are an incredibly healthy and clean source of protein and a staple part of my daily diet. Beans are also super versatile! You can mash them into a hummus, throw them on salad, mix them in with whole grains, add them to soup, etc.
- Frozen vegetables. I definitely do buy plenty of fresh vegetables, but keeping certain frozen vegetables as staple ingredients in my freezer enables me to get a vegetable serving together in 5 minutes. You can’t always be so speedy with fresh vegetables. However, not all frozen vegetables are the same! Here are the best frozen vegetables (and fruits) and how to use them.
Watch the Video Below for More Detailed Information on How My 5 Staple Ingredients Help Me Eat Clean
4. Eat More Fruits + Vegetables. LOTS More.
When people decide to adopt a clean food diet, they almost automatically start by nixing processed foods, sugar and fried goodies from the menu. It’s a great start, but a far bigger diet mistake is that they are not eating anywhere close to the optimal amount of fruits and vegetables. One of the most consistent findings in scientific literature is that as fruit and vegetable consumption increase in the diet, chronic disease decreases across the board. Also, it is almost impossible to be overweight if you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. Not only do the nutrients in fruits and vegetables help optimize metabolism and reduce inflammation, fruits and vegetables take up a lot of bulk and space in your stomach so they keep you feeling full. One easy way to make sure to get a big serving of fruits and vegetables each day is to have a Green Smoothie that combines fruits and veggies everyday (check out Simple Green Smoothies for hundreds of Green Smoothie recipes.)
5. Don’t Change Everything All at Once.
When it comes to making any lifestyle change, baby steps is the way to go. It is important to realize that no matter what changes you make, if those changes are not permanent then they won’t help you reach your health or weight loss goals long-term. The slow, steady approach builds long-lasting and sustainable change. We believe so firmly in this approach because we have seen it work over and over again with our lifestyle makeover programs. We have also built the step-by-step approach into the 8-week program outlined in our book and within our free online Clean Cuisine Challenge. Each week, we encourage you to focus on making one big change. For example, week 1 might be to eat more vegetables and to come up with 5 strategies for doing so. When it comes to making changes, don’t get so overwhelmed you give up altogether. Just remember that any small steps in the right direction are better than none!
My Final Thoughts + Additional Resources
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of consistency. Even if just means something as simple as switching bread brands. For example, instead of buying your typical bread made with refined flour and refined oils, make the switch to a sprouted whole grain bread instead. Such a small food swap, done consistently, can really make the world of difference in your overall health over time
For more ways to adopt a clean food diet– including meal plans, shopping lists, food prep guides, and 100 quick and easy recipes – check out our book, Clean Cuisine: An 8-Week Anti-Inflammatory Diet that Will Change the Way You Age, Look + Feel. Our Clean Cuisine Dinners digital cookbook offers a month of meal plans with more shopping lists and all new easy supper recipes too!
And if you are new to Clean Cuisine and want to start from the very beginning Click HERE!
Friday 27th of January 2017
I have rheumatoid arthritis. I'm a 5 year survivor of ovarian cancer. I really don't want to take drugs or infusions for RA. I was and I quit. Will this diet permit me to live pain free and inflammation free without the drugs?
Monday 30th of January 2017
Hi Jula, First of all, I am so sorry to hear about your fight with both rheumatoid arthritis and ovarian cancer. I know you must have gone through so much already. I totally understand why you might not want to take infusions for RA. I would say following an anti-inflammatory diet and supplementing with high powered anti-inflammatory nutrients (such as pharmaceutical grade fish oil and turmeric) would absolutely help alleviate your RA pain. I can't say for sure it would eliminate it 100%, but it should still help a great deal.
Also, have you heard of Low-dose Naltrexone? Your regular doctor might not be familiar with it, but a functional medicine doctor most definitely would be. It IS an Rx BUT it is VERY different than just about every other Rx on the market in that it actually helps your body heal itself. Dr. Mercola has 2 great articles on it (see below) and there are many articles online. It is VERY cheap and has almost no side effects. It has been used for autoimmune disease, pain, cancer, inflammation, and even mood. I'm not a doctor, but you may want to ask your doctor about this one...