Are you struggling to shed those stubborn extra pounds?
Have you tried all kinds of fad diets that simply don’t work?
Ready to lose the weight AND keep it off at the same time?
Then, maybe it’s time you tried the clean eating lifestyle change.
Fad diets make weight loss promises that not only don’t happen, but also can be harmful to your health.
With clean eating, you’ll not only lose the weight but keep it off and learn a new way of eating.
What is Clean Eating?
Clean eating is a style of eating that highlights the quality of foods you eat, rather than how much or when you eat. In a word, it is “cleaning” up your diet of processed foods. You won’t be consuming too much of one food group such as meat and not enough of others such as fruits and vegetables.
It isn’t an entirely new concept though. Before the days of processed foods, pesticides, hormones, and GMOs, people ate food directly from the food source with minimal processing other than cooking.
When you eat clean, there is an emphasis on not only eating healthier, but also feeling better as a result of the new lifestyle you’ve adopted. It’s a way to cut the weight, pun intended, of the genetically-engineered food that is processed in large factories.
Can You Eat Processed Foods on a Clean Eating Diet?
To eat processed foods or not to eat processed foods is the question.
In the clean eating lifestyle, you should generally avoid processed foods.
If you’re a real wordsmith though, you may have already realized that many, if not all, foods are processed in some form or fashion today.
That’s why it’s a good idea to start with a definition of “processed” food.
First, processed foods include additions of multiple kinds such as salt, sugar and fat.
Here’s where the wiggle room lies in eating clean. Processed foods include those that have been altered from their natural form. Mashing apples into applesauce or removing the bran and germ from whole grains to create refined bread are some examples of “processed” foods.
Finally, an obvious one, processed foods include those with components manufactured in a lab.
So, the million-dollar question: can you eat processed foods on the clean eating lifestyle?
You can as long as they are minimally processed. Your healthy breakfast smoothie is still good to have, but instant oatmeal is not so good to have while eating clean.
How to Shop Clean?
The main thing to keep in mind when shopping clean is to purchase foods that are minimally processed.
Take a look at the ingredients on food labels as these will be a good indicator as to whether foods are too processed or not.
A great place to start, of course, is the perimeter of the grocery store. You’ll notice that at the perimeter, you have fruits and vegetables, then your meats and dairies and finally the grains.
When you venture the main aisles, use the food package’s ingredients as your barometer when choosing items to put in your cart.
How to Cook Clean?
While cooking will alter your natural foods into “processed” ones, it is not necessarily a bad thing.
Just be careful which foods you cook as some foods lose their quality in the cooking process. Vitamin C, among others, loses its quality when heated, but other foods high in lycopene such as tomatoes and other red fruits actually increase their nutritional value when heated.
Be sure to focus on avoiding high-fat cooking methods such as deep-frying or stewing meats or vegetables in animal and vegetable fats. You should be focusing on maintaining the overall quality of your foods.
Instead, think flash-cook methods. Stir-frying and steaming are acceptable methods of cooking your meats and veggies. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, raw is the best way to go. If you must heat them, then steaming is the best way to enjoy their nutritional values while also maintaining the food’s natural integrity.
How to Eat Clean?
You’ll want to eat two types of foods: unprocessed and minimally processed foods.
Unprocessed foods include fresh fruit and vegetables, dried legumes, nuts, and farm-fresh eggs.
Minimally processed foods include unrefined grains such as whole wheat bread, pasta, popcorn, steel-cut oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice. These types of foods also include frozen fruits and vegetables, unprocessed meat, hormone-free dairy, and oils.
Choose pesticide-free organic food over those with added hormones or chemicals.
Remember, portion sizes are just as important as what you put in your stomach. Even too much of these healthy foods is not good for your stomach. Instead, consider the size of your plate in terms of the food groups that should be represented: Mostly vegetables, and then some meat, fruit, grain, and dairy.
Is the Paleo Diet the Same as a Clean Eating Diet?
Essentially, you could say that the Paleo diet, which promotes eating only foods that our ancient ancestors consumed during the Paleolithic era, is eating clean. However, the Paleo diet goes further than the clean eating diet by limiting you to food pre-Industrial Revolution. That means you have to avoid all grains (not just the refined ones), legumes, and dairy products.
While some experts argue that the Paleo diet works, more experts are concerned that eliminating entire food groups from your diets will set you up for extreme goals that are out of reach, resulting in rebound weight.
The clean eating style is more manageable and still allows you to consume food from all the food groups.
What are the Basic Principles of Clean Eating? Top 7 Revealed
When embarking on this healthy journey, there are several basic principles you should keep in mind.
Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 76% of Americans don’t get enough fruit each day and an incredible 87% aren’t eating enough servings of vegetables.
Including more fruits and vegetables in your diet can significantly reduce your risk of several different chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer.
Fiber commonly found in whole produce can reduce your risk of autoimmune diseases, fight off pathogens, and infections. Choose organic produce when buying your fruits and veggies.
Choose the Whole, Unrefined Grain Option
Refined grains are digested quickly in your body, thereby increasing your blood sugar and insulin as well as hunger. You’ll find sources of refined grains in white rice, pasta, white bread, and processed cereals.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, refined grains also increase your risk of weight gain, overeating, heart disease, and diabetes.
Enter unrefined grains.
Whole grains, or unrefined grains, digest slower and are known as “slow carbs” among health communities.
According to another study from the Harvard School of Public Health, whole grains can help keep your insulin and blood sugar levels steady, feel full for longer, prevent weight gain, and ward off disease.
When choosing “clean” grains, think those that resemble most their harvested state such as quinoa, wild rice, and oats.
Consume Less Meat in Your Diet
Medical research conducted today shows that cutting back on meat is a more sustainable option for you and our earth.
Eating less meat can help reduce your blood pressure and risk of heart disease as well as keep your weight in check.
The daily recommended amount of protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight — approximately 56 grams daily for men and 46 grams for women — is fairly easy for people to consume.
Eggs, dairy with no added sugar, beans, and nuts all are excellent sources of protein.
Though, if you must eat meat, choose meat that is not pumped with antibiotics. Instead, choose meat options that have eaten as if they were in the wild such as grass-fed beef or wild-caught salmon.
You’ll also need to cut down on processed meats such as cold cuts, bacon and sausage.
Reduce the Amount of Added Sugar
Spoiler alert: Most people eat too much added sugars in their diet. The American Heart Association recommends no more than about 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men.
However, the average American gets about 4 times as much that amount at 28 teaspoons of added sugar per day.
To clean up your diet, start simple.
Cut down on sweets such as soda, candy, and baked goods.
Once you’re ready, be prepared to monitor the added sugars in healthier foods such as yogurt, tomato sauce, and cereal.
Don’t be concerned with naturally occurring sugars in fruit or dairy, but, again, don’t overeat these foods either.
Watch out for that Sodium
Like sugar, sodium is another preservative that most of us are consuming much more than we should.
The Institute of Medicine recommends limiting sodium to 2,300 milligrams daily, which is about one teaspoon of salt. 80% of the sodium that you consume comes from convenience foods such as packaged foods. Instead of choosing the packaged foods option, opt for home-cooking.
A simple way to cut down on the salt in your meals is to flavor your food with herbs and spices, citric juices, and vinegar.
Cutting down on salt doesn’t mean eliminating it completely. Instead, swap out your regular table salt for coarse sea salt or kosher salt to add a kick to your dishes. These salts contain less sodium compared to table salt.
Become a Tree Hugger…Sort of
Clean eating is good for both you and the planet. Remember that the food you pick up at the grocery store doesn’t get transported via fairies — it takes various human and natural resources to bring food into your grocery stores.
Our unhealthy food habits produce an unhealthy world.
According to estimates from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agriculture industry could be responsible for one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions.
The meat industry alone uses a lot of resources to raise and feed livestock — with animals such as cows, goats, and sheep releasing methane from digestion and manure.
Some modern fishing practices are responsible for destroying natural marine habitats.
It’s also no surprise that the types of herbicides, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers used in agricultural production impact the soil and water quality.
Choosing a vegetarian diet requires 3 times less water and 2.5 times less energy to produce than a meat-heavy diet.
5 Tips for Following a Clean Eating Diet
Following a clean eating lifestyle is no walk in the park. Take to heart some of these tips for pursuing this lifestyle change.
1. Support Your Local Farmers
If you’re from the city, chances are you’re unaware as to how physically hard farmers work to bring their food to the local marketplaces in the city.
While eating clean, it’s imperative to know where your food is coming from.
Take this as an opportunity to connect with and learn more about your local farmers who grow and raise the food you eat.
Get out to your local farmer’s market and purchase your food directly from these farmers or venture the countryside and purchase your food from small farms.
2. Avoid “Diet” Foods
You know the kind.
Low-fat salad dressings. Diet soda. Meal-replacement shakes.
These foods don’t exactly inspire clean eating.
Quite the contrary. They contain loads of artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and added sugars. For example, some low-fat yogurts can contain as much as 23 grams (6 teaspoons) of sugar in a half-cup serving. A much better substitution for low-fat yogurt is unsweetened, full-fat, Greek yogurt.
3. Opt for the Nutrient-Dense Superfoods
Superfoods such as cocoa, sweet potato, avocado, Greek yogurt, and chia seeds are great when eating clean.
Superfoods are jam-packed with super-nutrients that your body needs to help fight off disease and keep you healthy.
On the other hand, foods such as candy and fast-foods are packed with calories, but are missing the nutrients that your body needs to function at its prime.
4. Watch out for Sugar-Laced Drinks
Some drinks are filled with sugars that you might not even be aware of such as fruit smoothies or specialty lattes.
Having just a few of these drinks a day may increase your risk of developing chronic diseases over time like diabetes.
Be careful of the drinks you consume when out to coffee or lunch with friends and colleagues. The ones with the simplest names are usually the best for eating clean such as tea or regular coffee.
5. Keep Your Fridge Stocked for Success
In the transition phase between your old habits and clean eating, be sure to stock your fridge and pantry with healthy meals and snacks that are readily available.
Plan some time each week to do your grocery shopping to ensure that your kitchen is always stocked with the ingredients necessary to keep you on track with your health goals.
Having a well-stocked set of healthy canned goods, frozen and bulk ingredients, and various herbs and spices is important to create last-minute meals quickly.
Canned beans, frozen veggies and grains such as quinoa and oats are reliable items to have around the kitchen for that quick meal.
3 Quick Tips for Eating Clean at Restaurants
Eating clean among family and friends may be especially difficult if you haven’t told anyone about your new lifestyle change.
Telling your friends and family will help alleviate the peer pressure of ordering similar dishes as your dinner dates.
If you want to keep the change to yourself, then simply watch what you order when eating out.
1. Scan the Menu for the Usual Suspects
You can always spot the most common culprits from a mile away. Avoid meals with the words “pan-fried,” “crispy,” “breaded,” and “dipped.”
Dishes that include these words usually contain sneaky fat and salt amounts that your body doesn’t need when eating clean: “Grilled,” “steamed,” “baked,” and “roasted.”
2. Ask for a Double or Triple Portion of Vegetables
In your order, ask your waiter or waitress for double or even triple the normal-sized serving of veggies, offering to pay extra. More often than not, restaurants won’t charge you to pay for the extra veggies, but offer to pay anyway as a respectful gesture to the establishment.
However, normally veggies are cooked in butter at restaurants so be sure to request that they not be cooked in butter. This is an easy way to avoid purchasing a meal that doesn’t adhere to clean eating.
3. Be a Global Citizen and Try Ethnic Foods
Some ethnic foods are prepared in a healthier way than others. For instance, Mexican, Chinese or Italian restaurants tend to be heavy on carbs such as pasta and breads while Japanese, Thai, Greek, and Indian restaurants prepare more veggie-based and meat dishes minus the carbs of pastas and breads.
When going to restaurants, simply keep in mind that you’re after vegetable-heavy dishes with some meat on the side.
Make the Lifestyle Change and Go Clean!
It’s not an easy decision to embark on a lifestyle change such as clean eating. The various ways of preparing meals and the types of foods you need to stock your kitchen with may at first overwhelm you.
However, if you feel you need a break from your current eating habits or lack thereof, this lifestyle change may be the cleanse that your body desperately needs right now.