Clean eating is about eating foods in their most natural state. This means avoiding processed foods, foods with loads of preservatives, foods with lots of added sugar, and foods with high levels of bad fats (some saturated fats/all trans fats). Alternatively, you want to avoid foods that have been stripped of their nutritional value and/or have been injected with a heaping dose of six-syllable chemicals.
- Unrefined, whole-grains.
- A diet with an abundance of fresh, local, organic fruits and vegetables.
- Free-range and grass-fed meats and dairy.
- More vegetable-centered meals than meat-centered each week.
- Plenty of water or other no-calorie drinks (NOT diet soda)
- Making healthy cooking choices, such as baking, steaming, and light sauteing whenever possible.
- Consume healthy fats from natural sources such as nuts, avocados, organic coconut oil, etc.
The 80/20 approach is something I like to use with both exercise and diet. It’s a simple concept really – be consistent with your exercise and/or diet at least 80% of the time. If you’re living a perfectly healthy life four days out of five, your less than perfect tendencies will not come back to bite you in the bootie.
As it relates to clean eating, simply make the right choices 80% of the time. If you’re going out to dinner and you have a bowl of pasta instead of the grilled fish, don’t obsess over it. You’re still maintaining your 80% standard of clean eating. And what’s more, that ONE bowl of pasta doesn’t even negate the rest of that day’s good efforts. One bowl of pasta a week and you’re looking at something like 95/5…….stop sweating it, you’re only going to stress yourself out.
First off, I know a lot of you are concerned about the costs associated with terms like organic, free-range, grass-fed, etc. Well, I’m here to say that for MOST of you, you can easily buy organic, free-range, and grass-fed produce and meats for LESS than what you currently spend on the regular, chemical-filled stuff.
You’ve absolutely got to check out your local CSA! A CSA is an alternative, locally based model of agriculture and food distribution. To state it simply, you subscribe via a weekly or bi-weekly fee to a local farm. In turn, the farm delivers a fresh, organic, and diverse box of produce to your door or nearby pickup location weekly or bi-weekly, depending on your subscription schedule.
By using this method, you get the best of what’s in season, you support your local farmer, get a variety of fruits and vegetables you may not have otherwise purchased, and get more bang for your bucks. Healthier, better tasting, and less expensive. What’s the catch? There isn’t one.
Secondly, make sure you’re actively reading nutrition and ingredient labels. If something has tons of ingredients you can’t pronounce, put it down. If it’s incredibly high in sugar, put it down. This doesn’t mean go for low-fat/sugar-free stuff either. Those products have usually been manipulated to an extent that makes them just as bad for you, albeit in a different way.
Make the bulk of your grocery purchases fresh and natural foods. Fresh produce, whole grains (quinoa for example), and organic/wild-caught meats/fish should be your go to choices. Personally, I’ve shied away from having meat at every meal, which has made eating cleanly so much easier. As it stands now, I aim to go “meatless” at least 4 days a week. I buy organic tofu, tempeh, and other soy-based sources to make sure I’m getting adequate protein. This decision is a personal one, but it’s turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I no longer feel like a slave to meat; something that must be consumed to constitute a “full” meal.
Thirdly, I’d recommend you understand the importance of preparing your foods in a healthy way. For example, when you cook vegetables you break down their nutritional value (for the most part – tomatoes actually become more nutritious when they’re cooked). Boiling asparagus til they’re approaching the structural integrity of spaghetti means you’ve just sapped them of nearly all of their nutritional value. Lightly steam, bake, or saute your foods. You’ll cut down on excess oil and save on the nutritional content if you don’t cook foods to death.
Above all else, the reason people get into clean eating is because they want to improve their health. By avoiding chemicals, preservatives, and refined sugars, you’re cutting down on the likelihood of developing serious health conditions, like cancer.
If you’re fighting a weight loss battle, improving your diet could be just the thing you need to get those pounds dropping again. If you’re used to a diet full of preservatives and added chemicals, suddenly pulling them from your daily intake may help get your body back to normal. It’s amazing how slight differences in the physiology of our body can affect our ability to lose weight, get fit, etc. Get your body back to its normal state by eating normal foods…plain and simple.
Other associated health benefits include:
- Immune boost
- Energy boost
- Improved cholesterol levels
- Blood sugar balance
- Better sleep and mood
- General increase in health
The decision to start eating cleanly is a personal one, and I’m not going to tell you what to do. I just want you to know what clean eating has done for me, what I think it can do for you, and why I think you can do it.
Do your research, check out some other opinions on the subject, become informed, THEN make a decision about how you’d like to change (or not change) your diet and lifestyle.