Clean eating seems to be grounded on a simple premise of eating just whole, unadulterated foods, but sometimes you run into road bumps on your well-intentioned clean eating plans. To help you get over those bumps, we suggest easing into habitual clean eating, like eating clean foods up until dinner time. Then, you can indulge in some cake or whatever is calling your name. Don’t overdo it, though! Your eventual goal should be a completely (or nearly complete) clean diet since that will give you the most benefits and improve your overall wellness. But, when you’re just starting this type of eating, you need some help to reach that lofty goal. So, here are six tips on how to eat clean before your dinner or around 6 p.m.

1. Start with water and a green drink

You’ve probably heard a lot of people telling you to wake up with warm water and freshly squeezed lemon juice, but consuming just water is good too. Waking up with water is a great way to start the day, as it wakes your system up in a way and gets things moving around. Lemons contain vitamin C and natural enzymes, and they have been associated with boosting tissue regeneration and cleansing the liver.

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A green drink (in the form of a juice, smoothie, or packet) should accompany your morning water because greens contain a slew of cleansing nutrients, from vitamins and minerals to enzymes and protein. Drinking one of these daily will fully detox your body, from your feet to your brain.

2. Choose fruit instead of refined sugar or artificial sweetener

Instead of consuming processed foods with added sugars or artificial sweeteners to satisfy your sweet tooth, you should eat fruit instead. If some of your recipes call for sugars, then you should see if you can substitute fruit juice or puree for the sugar. Removing sugar and artificial sweeteners from your diet helps to expand your palate, reduce your headaches or migraines over time, and may even help you drop a few pounds.

3. Stay hydrated

Having water by your side throughout the day is an important habit you can develop to accelerate your health and jumpstart your clean eating lifestyle. The human body is composed of 50 – 75 percent water, so it is paramount to replenish your body with fluids for proper functioning. Proper hydration also helps the heart circulate blood throughout your body; plus, muscles depend on water to effectively remove waste. Make it a habit to refill a water bottle (preferably glass) throughout the day to ensure that you get the recommended 2.2 – 3 liters of water a day.

4. Lightly steam your starchy/cruciferous vegetables

An ancient ancestor of modern humans, Australopithecus (Paranthropus) robustus, was anatomically designed specifically to masticate plant matter and hard foods. With its sagittal crest and massive jaw, this species of hominin were able to practically juice all that they consumed, extracting the most nutrition.

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However, anatomically modern Homo sapiens have evolved without these features, and we cannot effectively masticate plant foods as Au. robustus did. So, we either need to chew for hours on end or utilize a technology that made humans what we are today: fire. Steaming (a technique that retains most vitamins and minerals in foods) breaks down their inherent plant fibers and minimizes the amount of time you need to chew our food, thus minimizing your chances for getting intestinal blockage or digestive upset from excess fiber. In turn, you gain optimum nutrient uptake from the food that you consume, especially starchy, cruciferous vegetables.

5. Include protein in your diet

Many clean eaters forgo animal products, so it’s important to consider protein intake. I may be preaching to the choir on this one, but it’s super important to get enough protein. I recently introduced raw protein powder into my soy, oil, and gluten-free vegan diet (of 3 years), and my energy has skyrocketed. Plus, I no longer have insane cravings for carbohydrates. This is completely anecdotal, but many other fellow vegans, including a few dieticians, all agree that protein is a necessary dietary nutrient. Gluten-free sprouted grain, bean, nut, or seed proteins are all prime sources of protein.

6. Eat the rainbow!

Antioxidants are abundant in highly or diversely pigmented fruits and vegetables. Each day, pick a wide variety of produce to consume, but take into account the colors that are present or absent on your daily produce picks. If you want to get all the antioxidants your body needs to function, eat foods from every color of the rainbow — yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, red, and more. For yellow, eat lemons or bananas; orange, eat mandarins or bell peppers; green, spinach or peas; blue, blackberries or blue corn; purple, blackberries or beets; and red, apples or pomegranates. Not only will this way of eating diversify your palate, it will also augment the amount of antioxidants and vitamins in your body. I say that’s a winner dinner!

Clean eating doesn’t have to be an ethereal, unreachable ideal that can never be attained or followed. If you follow these six guidelines, you can easily ease your way into a clean eating lifestyle to change your taste preferences and detoxify your body.

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Lead Image Source: Strawberry Kale Smoothie

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