Clean eating seems pretty boring when you hear others talk about it, doesn’t it? What does clean eating even really mean? Sure, images of people washing their food may come to mind, but really, clean eating just boils down to how real your food is. We grew up thinking that fast food hamburgers and French fries were real food, along with boxes of cereal and oatmeal cream pies. But those are not real foods, far from it in fact. Anything with added ingredients that’s made in a lab or food plant is not real food, no matter how much it might appear to be. For example, cinnamon flavored oat cereal isn’t a form of clean eating like hot whole grain oatmeal cooked with real cinnamon is. The same goes for other foods we often write off as normal but are highly processed forms of whole foods.
Why does clean eating even matter?
A clean diet is like giving your body top notch fuel. Your body knows what to do with the information you’re putting in it and it can easily dictate how to use the nutrients in the foods you use for your benefit. When highly processed foods are eaten, it can often get confused or bogged down. Imagine pouring a gallon of grease down a sink. Sure, it will still go through the drain, but there’s going to be some back up and consequences down the line. (In other words, you better get out the plunger and some Drano!)
The same principle applies to clean eating and the human body. Whole foods with little ingredients or only one, is ultimately what our bodies appreciate best. But let’s face it, sometimes the processed stuff does look appealing and sometimes we’re either too hungry or tired (or bored) to make the best decisions. We all have to do what we can, but making clean food more appealing and doable will increase the chances you’ll eat clean foods more often.
Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Figure Out and Value the “Why”[caption id="attachment_1481127898" align="aligncenter" width="560"] Joshua Auerbach/Flickr[/caption]
Before you can decide that you’re going to eat clean, you need to have a clear goal in mind as to why you’re choosing to eat a clean diet. Maybe it’s to improve your energy, maybe it’s to improve your mood, or maybe it’s to lose weight or lower your risk for disease. Whatever the reason, figure out the why and have a clear goal in mind. This can make even the simplest of everyday foods seem more appealing.
2. Slow Shop[caption id="attachment_1481127895" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Jellaluna/Flickr[/caption]
It’s hard to appreciate the joys of eating clean when you rush through the store after your work day in a tizzy and all upset. No apple or bunch of broccoli is going to look appealing then, especially next to the salty chips and bars of chocolate that you’re really in the mood for when you’re stressed. It’s much better to shop when you’re relaxed and have time to think about your meals and when you’re able to choose healthy, whole foods while also appreciating them. If you’d like to carry a list, great! If not, just shop slow throughout the store and choose natural whole foods from fruits, vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, beans, legumes, whole grains, and minimal processed foods like unsweetened non-dairy milk, spices, whole grain flours or nut-based flours. Here’s a great shopping list for the Newbie Plant-Based Eater if you’d like some extra help.
3. Learn the Value of Nutrients[caption id="attachment_148112" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Erelster/Flickr[/caption]
It’s hard to appreciate clean eating when you don’t really understand how nutrients work within your body. For instance, once you understand that the B vitamins and iron in leafy greens help fuel your energy and that their chlorophyll and fiber help keep your system clean and clear, it’s much easier to appreciate the crisp bite of a raw salad or the hearty fill of a cooked bowl of greens. An apple has never tasted so good once you understand their Vitamin C and phytonutrients have actually been proven to improve brain health. And then there’s the healthy fats in nuts and seeds that keep your heart healthy and free from cholesterol, and the fiber beta-glucan found in many whole grains that has been shown to clear the arteries and even reduce your waistline. Learning the value of foods will go a long way in helping you appreciate them more. See all of our health articles here on One Green Planet, read whole foods-based health websites and magazines, and learn from reputable plant-based nutrition websites to learn all about the nutrients from your food as much as you can. It’s pretty fascinating how fabulous food is, even when it comes to preventing disease.
4. Prepare Your Foods Simply, yet Creatively
No need to make things difficult in the kitchen if you don’t have to, but preparing your healthy foods creatively can also make things more fun and also inspire you to try them in non-conventional ways. For example, try creative ways to use plain raw leafy greens with these 10 Creative and Delicious Tips for Flavoring Raw Leafy Greens, find out Creative Ways to Use Kitchen Scraps to prepare a meal in minutes, and check out some creative add-ins for your oatmeal while you’re at it. Let’s also not forget the power of a smoothie in upping the creativity factor and beating the food boredom. Take your blender, throw in whatever fruits and veggies look good, some raw nuts and seeds, a little non-dairy milk , and some superfoods, raw oats or plant-based protein if you like. Add some ice, blend, and you’ve got a magical concoction that can be made so many different ways. And it’s all from clean food!
5. Note and be Inspired by the Changes[caption id="attachment_1481127897" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Jamie de Slyva/Flickr[/caption]
While you’re eating clean, it’s also important to note the healthy changes you’re experiencing along the way. For example, think about how much better you feel in the morning, or maybe how much less your joints ache. Perhaps you don’t get those mid-afternoon snooze temptations that you used to, and your workouts might be a bit more enjoyable too. Reminding yourself of the benefits you’re experiencing will help inspire you to keep going. Don’t give up!
If you’re looking for some help in learning to eat a more whole foods, clean diet, see Jumping on the Clean Eating Bandwagon: It’s Easier Than You Think and check out our Eat Clean section here at One Green Planet for further inspiration.
What’s your best eat clean tip?
Lead Image Source: Raw Vegan Pizza With Spinach, Pesto, and Marinated Vegetables