The phrase ‘clean eating’ has become something of a buzz phrase lately. We associate it with a good diet and good health, but it isn’t always clear what exactly it means! Let’s take a look at this concept and how it can help you to control your weight, reclaim your health, and boost your energy levels. Could clean eating be the key to health and wellness?
Clean Eating – What is ‘Clean’ About Eating?
Boost Fruit and Veg
We all know we should eat more natural produce, and this is one of the fundamentals of clean eating. Vegetables and fruits are nutritionally dense. This means they deliver more nutrients in the form of vitamins and minerals than other foods. When trying to eat clean, the key is to focus on the variety of fruit and vegetables you include in your daily diet. To help with this, think color! Ask yourself how many colors you have eaten and see if you can include fresh fruit and vegetables of as many different colors as possible each day. Organic is going to contain fewer unwanted chemicals, so try to source good quality organic fruit and vegetables. Or better yet, have a try growing your own!
Be Fussy about Fats
We all need fats but eating clean means being kind of fussy about the types of fats you consume regularly. It doesn’t mean never ever allowing yourself a naughty treat. But it does mean choosing healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats over saturated and trans fats. Good quality olive oil, oily fish, avocados, and nuts and seeds are ideal sources of fats. Even when you choose the good fats, please don’t overdo it! Your intake of unhealthy fats will decrease dramatically if you cut down on processed foods or ‘junk’ foods. Remember, some foods that claim to be low sugar make up for this by adding more fat, just as low-fat foods often add extra sugar!
Swap Out Refined Carbs
Making carb swaps is much easier than eliminating carbohydrates altogether. Instead of having white bread, opt for a whole grain or granary option. Instead of white pasta, choose the brown variety. Instead of rice and couscous, consider quinoa, barley, buckwheat, and other whole-grain alternatives. There is a whole world of grains, from traditional whole grains to new and exciting varieties, and of course, the ancient grains that are popular right now. These don’t just add fiber and give you a less processed carb option; they are also incredibly tasty and filling. When clean eating tastes better and makes you feel better, what’s not to love?
Some people think that eating clean requires cutting out all meat. This isn’t true. You can eat clean by cutting down on the amount of meat you eat and making better choices for meat. This means less processed foods, so opt for good cuts of meat instead of processed meats like sausages, burgers, or meatballs. Choosing quality, organic meat that has been produced ethically rather than factory-farmed is cleaner. Why not try meat-free Monday and see how easily you can cut meat out? Sometimes this is a mindset change that people find much easier than they expected.
Stick to Natural Colors
Unless it is a blueberry, if a food is blue, it’s probably best avoided! Making good clean eating choices means cutting out artificial colors. These are not just found in candies and brightly colored novelty foods; they are often found in unexpected places, such as processed foods. Swap candies for berries, bright orange chips for uncolored tortilla chips, or toasted pitta, and get yourself in the habit of reading the labels of your favorite foods to see what hidden colors they might contain. Colors may appear on ingredient lists as numbers, so do some research to see exactly what you are eating.
Cut out Preservatives
If you eat clean, then you eat fresh, and this means you don’t need preservatives. Preservatives aren’t good for us, but they are sometimes necessary to make food last for longer. Get around this by trying to buy the food you need while it is fresh and then freezing it if you aren’t going to use it all. Fresh is always best, but frozen comes a close second. Again, check the labels of the things you eat – do they have mysterious numbers? Are these hidden preservatives?
Be Sugar Aware
Clean eating does require you to kick the sugar addiction. Sweetness can come from fruit, a little honey, or the occasional treat, but sugar-laden snacks have got to go! One of the most common sources of hidden sugar is in the things we drink. If you cut out soda and sweetened fruit drinks, you will find that you could dramatically cut your sugar intake. It also helps us to keep in mind that clean eating means avoiding artificial additives. Artificial sweeteners have lots of unpleasant side effects and health repercussions, so don’t think you can just swap out sugar for fake sweetness.
Awaken your Taste Buds
We often add salt as a flavor enhancer. It heightens the flavor of dishes and appeals to our craving for savory things. However, the more we use salt, the more salt we find ourselves using! This can gradually creep up. Many of us consume too much salt in our diets. Clean eating means reducing this, but that doesn’t mean reducing flavor. Explore the world of herbs and spices available to you and swap out salt for seasoning.
Don’t Wait, Hydrate
Drinking water is one of the foundations of health. Water is fundamental to health, and few of us drink enough. Dehydration makes us feel (and look) terrible, so get a good water bottle (BPA free) and start drinking more water. Choose mineral water or filtered water and get yourself used to being hydrated as part of your clean eating plan. You will soon really notice when you are beginning to get a little dehydrated.