By Karen Reed
Clean eating is one of those things that you likely hear a lot about. You’ll hear people tell you that it’s all about raw foods that are full of vitamins and nutrients, while others tell you that it means you need to eat foods that have no additives.
The real definition of clean eating is the latter. You’re taking out all additives, chemicals, toxins and other similar items. You want to stick to natural foods and not the processed options you can get in stores. All food should offer health benefits.
To be able to follow a clean eating diet, you’ll need to make changes to your lifestyle, and this will involve changing the way you buy and store your food. It will also mean setting some clean eating goals that you can stick to throughout the process. The goals will make it much easier to follow the new diet and find something to focus on when you have a bad day.
Here are 12 clean eating goals that you should know about.
You don’t want to say your goal is to “start eating cleanly.” That’s not a goal that you can effectively stick to, as what do you do once you start? How long will you do this for? What are the steps you’ll take and what exactly does it mean?
Your goals need to be SMART. This means they need to be sensible, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely. That means they need to be goals that you can meet, but still push you out of your comfort zone. If you decide to set a goal that you will never have a cheat day, that’s not exactly doable. We all have bad days, and there is going to be a day that you throw it all out of the window. While you don’t want that day to happen, it will at some point and knowing that you’re likely to break the goal will set yourself up for failure.
With timely and measurable goals, you will have an idea of the time you’ll be on the diet plan. It’s possible to see your results, which will help you stick to the new lifestyle.
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1. Make Goals for Your Health
Clean eating isn’t just about weight loss, so your goals shouldn’t all be orientated around that. At the same time, you don’t want goals that are just about the types of foods you do or don’t eat. It’s important to make your goals more health orientated. After all, this is one of the more important benefits of clean eating diets.
For example, have goals for your blood pressure or blood sugar levels. You can opt for goals about the amount of visceral fat you have or goals about your heart rate and cholesterol levels. Your doctor will be able to check these regularly for you to see if you’re on track to meet your goals.
At the same time, set goals that you can track on a weekly basis about your health. What about your energy levels? Have a scale that you can measure your energy levels by, maybe based on the number of flights of stairs you feel (or can) walk or the miles you can run. This doesn’t have to be exact but based on the way you feel within yourself.
You can also set goals on how happy you feel and the way your mental health is supported. If you regularly take painkillers, consider the number of tablets you take and maybe use them as a basis for your health levels. As you eat more clean foods, you should find your painkiller levels decrease.
2. Think About a Kitchen Goal
Like with your health, your kitchen is another goal you’ll want to set for your new clean eating diet. If you cook in a disorganized or cluttered kitchen, you will find it much harder to stick to any healthy eating plan you set. You want your kitchen to be optimal for your needs, and that means keeping things clean, tidy, and set up in a way that makes sense to you.
Plus, you need the right items. If you’ve been so used to processed foods and packages, pre-cooked items, you may not have all the utensils and items you need for cooking. You’ll want to investigate good chopping knives, casserole dishes, pans, and even a slow cooker (this is a lifesaver for so many on the clean eating diet).
Make one of your goals focused on decluttering that kitchen. You want to give yourself a makeover.
Start with a binder. This will be the place to stock all your recipes, so you always have something new to make. You can even store all your goals in here to make sure you’re on track to stick to your diet. Then consider a clipboard or whiteboard for the fridge to make a note of items you need to pick up the next time you go to the store.
Rearrange your fridge and cupboards to make it easier to grab the good food, especially if you’re going to stock up on some of the bad food. Don’t forget about setting up a basket, so you have healthy snacks when you need something!
3. Set a Healthy Fat Amount to Eat
While eating cleanly, you will need to focus on certain types of foods. While you want to cut out processed foods (which tend to have a lot of fats), you won’t want to cut out all fats. Your body needs some healthy fats to remain healthy, especially when it comes to the skin, brain, and immune system.
Set a clean eating goal that involves more healthy fat. Don’t say you want to eat more healthy fats. Look at adding as set amount of healthy fat to consume daily.
To start with, 26g of healthy fat is a good amount to look at. This is about 20% of your daily calories coming from unsaturated fats if you’re eating 1,200 calories. You’ll likely eat more calories but starting with a small amount of healthy fats is a way to start since you won’t necessarily be used to eating them. As you get used to it, you can work your way up to around 40g, which is 20% if you eat 1,800 calories per day.
There are some quick and easy ways to add the new type of fat to your diet. The first is to know what you need to eat: reach for more monounsaturated fats. Look for foods such as fish, nuts, avocados, and olives (and even olive oils). There’s no need to stop enjoying your favorite meals, but the changes will help make your food choices much better for you, especially since they are all clean options. You’ll naturally start eating more clean foods for this benefit.
4. Goals to Up for Fruit and Vegetable Intake
The best way to start clean eating is to change the number of fruits and vegetables you eat. After all, most them will come natural and unprocessed. There are some vegetables and fruits that you can even choose without paying extra for organic, as they’re considered the Clean 15!
More fruits and vegetables are especially good for your health. They can help to boost your immunity, improve your cell health, lower your blood pressure, and reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
You’ll hear a lot about eating your “five a day.” This is somewhat old news. You should reach for around seven or eight portions a day, with five or so from vegetables. Vegetables are lower in natural sugars, which will help to minimize blood sugar rises.
Set a goal to eat your five a day first. Make two portions fruit and the other three vegetables. You can then work your way up to eight or nine portions of fruits and vegetables a day.
While you want natural and unprocessed, the great think about fruits and vegetables is that you can use frozen and canned! Frozen and fresh are better than canned, but there is nothing wrong with picking up canned corn, peas, carrots, and more!
You can even dry your fruit and vegetables—and even buy dried. Watch your intake, as the dried will take out the water content and leave you more likely to suffer from the natural sugars.
When you do get frozen, canned or dried, look at the packages of anything you buy. Packed items can have added sugar, salt, and oil. You want to look at those with no added ingredients and in water or brine.
5. Change the Type of Protein You Use
Make it a goal to change the type of protein you use. While meat is a good source, it’s not necessarily the best source. This is especially if you eat a lot of beef and pork. The two meats are full of saturated fats, which aren’t good for you. You can also find that meat is more likely to be contaminated with something.
A lot of animals are pumped with antibiotics. Chickens and turkeys aren’t kept in the best conditions. Fish isn’t always allowed to roam free. You want to find out about the best sources of meat; those that are antibiotic free and wild.
It’s much harder to find these types of meats, so you’ll want to investigate the other lean sources of protein. Legumes, beans, quinoa, and soy are good options for you. Soy and quinoa are complete proteins, which means they have all the nine essential amino acids your body needs, so you want to start adding them more to your diet.
Make it a clean eating goal where you opt for a meatless day. This is one of the quickest ways to start making changes. You may find that this is something you can do much more easily than you thought, so you could start looking at adding other meatless days.
Meatless days means that all your meals are meat-free. Your breakfast, lunch, and dinner all need to be vegetarian options. There are many options out there, so you won’t be stuck for choice.
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6. Pump Up the Protein
Start your day right with a good source of protein. This can be meat if you want, but you can also get it from the other sources mentioned above. To set your clean eating goal, you want a set amount to eat in the morning.
Try 15g of protein at breakfast. Experts recommend that you eat 25% of your daily protein at breakfast, and this is a good amount towards a healthy level if you eat 1,200 calories per day. You can build up that protein slowly, as you get used to clean eating.
Make sure your protein comes from clean sources. It’s time to get rid of the processed meat if you use it. Opt for eggs, Greek or Natural yogurt, cheese and other dairy sources, and even some diced chicken. You can also use soy as a good source if you’re on a meat-free day or you want to try a vegan diet.
Nuts are good sources of protein if you’re not allergic. Consider adding walnuts to your porridge oats or some almonds to your cereal.
Why so much protein to start your day? It gives you the nutrients your muscles need to build strong and well. You will also get something filling to start your day, so you don’t snack as much throughout the morning. Protein is also a good way to give your blood sugar the balance it needs to reduce on a morning, supporting your overall health.
7. Try More Spices in Your Diet
As you opt for clean eating, you can worry that your food is going to be tasteless. After all, isn’t it the additives that create tastier meals?
While the additives can make your food taste of something, the tastes aren’t natural, and there will always be something off. The best thing you can do is stick to natural flavors, and this is where spices come into play. Herbs are also good options for your diet.
Fresh herbs and spices are better, but you can make the most of dried too. Like with canned and dried fruits and vegetables, make sure the dried herbs and spices don’t have the additives or any extra chemicals or salt. Most them don’t but check to make sure.
Adding spices and herbs to your meal can be a little bit of a case of trial and error. There are some that you won’t like, others you’ll love, and some you can’t get enough off. Start off small and work your way up.
For a SMART goal, opt to try one new herb or spice a week. You can use it with a range of your dishes and see how much the right amount is just. This will also give you a chance to trial which dishes the herbs or spices work with. The next week, you can move onto another herb or spice and even see how it mixes with the previous one.
Must recipes for clean eating will have a list of recommended herbs and spices. Follow these recipes to get a good idea of the amount that tastes good and whether you like them. The recipes also tend to offer alternatives, especially if the spices or herbs are strong.
8. Set Some Meals to Eat at Home
Eating out is fun, but it’s not clean eating. The restaurants use all types of additives and ingredients. They’re not in the business of clean eating, unless they’re a restaurant set up for something like that.
The best way to stick to your diet is to make your meals at home. You have control over all ingredients, portion sizes, and any alternative spices or herbs you use. There’s also the control over the meal plan that you follow and whether you bulk makes your meals at the weekend to give you something for the week when you don’t feel like cooking.
Set a clean eating goal to eat a set number of meals at home. For example, this could be four evening meals in your own home. The other three can be takeout or in a restaurant. As you get used to cooking and want to add clean eating into your whole lifestyle, you can then start looking at increasing the number of times you eat at home.
Eventually, you can get to where you eat out once or twice a month. The rest of the meals are prepared at home.
This is a good way of helping your children stick to the clean eating diet. You lead by example, and they don’t feel too much different from their peers.
9. Goals for New Recipes
Another idea is to set a new goal for the number of recipes you try in a week. One of the dangers of a new lifestyle is that it starts to get monotonous. You choose the dishes you know how to make and have time for, but eventually, you end up fed up with the meals. This is when you’re more likely to fall off the wagon, searching for something else to eat; and it’s usually the processed, artificially-filled foods you’ll reach for.
You don’t need a lot of new recipes each week or month. Set a goal of trying one or two new recipes per month. As you get used to adding them to your meals, you can then build up to adding more to your weekly schedule. You may find that you eventually add one or two new recipes a week to keep the variety in your diet.
The great thing about adding new recipes is that you also improve your cooking skills. Your children can also get involved, which will help them learn more about the lifestyle and why it’s so good for them.
Not interested in buying books? Don’t worry about it! Many vloggers are now showing you their recipes through video. You must follow the step-by-step instructions.
10. Journal Your Journey
You’ll have good and bad days when you’re on the clean eating plan. This is perfectly normal—and happens with all types of diets. Sometimes your mind works against you, telling you that it’s time to try something different.
It’s important to keep a journal. This is something you want to aim to do daily, but you can start off small.
Start by tracking all the meals you eat daily. This is best done after each meal or snack when the food is still on your mind. You can even put ticks and crosses next to them if you feel like using them again in your plan. Then once a week, have a goal that you write more about your week. Make this the point that you share how you’re doing with the new lifestyle, anything you tried you want to do again, or anything you found hard.
When you get into a routine, you’ll find it easier to journal in detail daily. You can track the food after each meal and then at the end of the day have a longer blurb about the successes and failures at the end of the day.
When you do have a bad day, you can look back over your journal and see how far you’ve come. This is also a good way to look back at your journal to see when you last had a bad day and what you did to overcome it.
11. Make it About Exercise
Finally, you want to set a clean eating goal that is aimed at your activity levels. This will help your body process the food better and kick out any toxins that you do pick up. After all, you can stop all toxins from entering your system, as some are from the air around you.
Opt for a goal that is about adding a set amount of exercise to your week or day. You can aim for 30 minutes of exercise twice or three times a week to start. As you get used to this, you can increase to 30 minutes of exercise four or five days a week and even increase the 30 minutes to 60 minutes.
All types of exercise are open to doing for this goal. Track the exercise you do, the amount of it that you do, and the intensity. You’ll want to track things like distance run, heart rate afterward, repetitions of an exercise done, for example. You can then set measurable goals for each of your exercise sessions, improving your whole lifestyle.
12. Clean Eating is More Than Just Food
Opting for a clean eating lifestyle is more than just opting for a change in your diet. It’s a change in everything about you and for the better. You will benefit regarding health and weight, but you don’t want to focus all your goals on the types of food you eat. Set SMART goals on the amount of each type you eat, and your exercise and you are well on your way to success.
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Reposted with permission from our media associate Positive Health Wellness.