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An Introduction to Clean Eating for Beginners

salad and avocado
Making smart choices is the first step in clean eating for beginners, but it isn't always easy to understand the right balance of protein, carbs, and fiber. Here's what you need to know!
by Lindsay Tigar

When you're on a mission to improve your overall health, it isn't only about exercise — it's also about the foods you incorporate into your diet! After all, what we eat serves as the fuel for our workouts.

Making smart choices is the first step toward clean eating for beginners, but it isn't always easy to understand what produces the right balance of protein, carbs, and fiber. Luckily, there are a number of easy, effective ways to inject more healthy options into your diet without sacrificing great taste.

Want to get started on your own healthy eating journey? Check out the facts and tips in this guide to clean eating for beginners.

What Is Clean Eating, Exactly?

If you've never heard of "eating clean" before, it can seem confusing at first. Does it mean washing store-bought veggies before eating them? Is it keeping your kitchen spotless? Not exactly!

When it comes to clean eating, there are many ways to define it! Our definition forgoes processed and refined foods but doesn't eliminate any food groups altogether. First and foremost, it means seeking nutrients from the earth, rather than refined foods. To do this, try adding more fruits and vegetables (and ethically-raised meats without added chemicals) to your diet. Plant-based foods are highly encouraged for clean eating plans, especially high-protein foods like beans, lentils, whole grains, and peas.

Adopting these dietary habits can also challenge you to examine how you pace your eating — do you tend to rush when preparing and consuming your meals, or do you plan them out with care and ensure that they're balanced? In an ideal world, most meals would be eaten in relaxed conditions at home and would contain a variety of organic, vitamin-rich options. Naturally, this won't always be possible, but you can still aim to adopt a thoughtful approach to meal preparation whenever you can!

What Are the Benefits?

When most people consider clean eating, the thought is usually tied to health goals. And while you may notice a physical difference, the true benefits of clean eating can often be found in other, surprising areas. For instance, opting for more nutritious foods can provide a boost to your energy levels, especially if you're a big fan of cardio or endurance-related athletic activities.

You could also notice yourself developing more vibrant hair, brighter teeth, or stronger nails when you swap to a healthier diet. Over time, you'll likely find yourself craving salty or sugary snacks less and less, and your appetite for larger portions may decrease as well.

So, How Can You Get Started?

Clean eating starts with positive choices. To begin, try selecting one day to eat clean and see how your body responds to the intake of healthier foods. If you are able to stick with this habit and add to the number of days you focus on clean eating, it'll likely become easier for you to stay on track and reap the benefits of the lifestyle — from easier workouts to clearer skin.

Still, no one should have to skip out on treats forever! It's important not to guilt yourself for partaking in the occasional pastry, pizza, or pasta. Consider applying the 80/20 rule: Most of the time, you'll whip up a balanced meal that follows your healthy eating regiment, but roughly 20 percent of the time, you can allow yourself to eat snacks that contain more carbs or sugar. As with anything in life, moderation is crucial for clean eating.

To complement your clean eating lifestyle, try to fit in some physical activity during the day, get enough sleep at night, and find healthy outlets for handling stress. It's also a good idea to connect with people you enjoy — talk, laugh, share a meal, or hit the gym together! You might even be able to help each other stick to your healthy living goals.