Clean Eating. These two bold words continuously swarm the food world. Chances are, if you haven’t heard someone utter them out loud, you’ve at least seen them in hashtag form as follows:
But what exactly does clean eating mean?
Clean Eating Defined:
Although the details vary depending on the level of adherence by any given individual, the premise of clean eating is simple—eating foods closest to their truest unmodified forms with the aim of maximizing energy and optimizing health. Sounds easy enough, right?
In short, clean eating is saying goodbye to excess ingredients and getting back to the basics. Rather than focusing on the banning of foods like a diet does, the clean eating lifestyle focuses on making choices that naturally drive you toward consuming whole, unprocessed, unrefined, honest to goodness foods. Think of it as stepping away from the apple flavored Poptart, moving back to the applesauce, and then eventually back to the apple itself.
While those who still allow meat or other animal ingredients in their diets may interpret clean eating to mean free-range chicken or grass fed beef, naturally for herbivores, clean eating looks a lot like juicy fruits, vibrant veggies, crisp nuts, and succulent seeds.
Ultimately, clean eating is not a fad diet. In fact, it’s not a diet at all. Clean eating is at the heart of a wholly, holistic vegan lifestyle, and it’s a lifestyle that can be embarked upon with a few primary considerations.
Here are 5 considerations to help get you going in the right direction.
1. Strip Down
Although embarking on eating clean doesn’t mean you need to go on a rampage and throw out every single item you own that comes bearing a label, it does mean you can make a list of processed items you will not be repurchasing and any items loaded down with scary additives.
Read the labels of packaged food items currently inhabiting your cabinet, refrigerator and freezer. Yes, the cleanest of foods only have one ingredient, but a successful start is identifying and eliminating those that contain more than five ingredients, those that contain red flags like high fructose corn syrup at the top of the list, and those containing ingredients you cannot pronounce that require you immediately search online to decode.
While this is a good start, consider a few more Tips to Minimize Consumption of Processed Foods.
2. Shop Smart
It’s easy to assume that a clean diet is more costly than one that incorporates convenience items into the mix, but it doesn’t have to be. Local produce markets exist in towns all across the country, offering farm to market produce that is chemical free, in season and in more cases than you might expect—downright affordable. And if these types of options aren’t available where you live, there’s the grocery store. While much of the produce that is found on store shelves is chemically altered for a longer shelf life, there is an increasing amount of organic options available. Yes, in an ideal world, we would be able to get our hands on affordable organic product 24/7. But since this is real life, and we’re not there yet, if you have to be choosy, here are 12 foods you should always buy organic.
When purchasing said produce, select foods you can combine in a variety of entrees throughout the week so they don’t go to waste, especially if you don’t anticipate having time to prepare a different whole food-based dish each night. For example, select veggies that pair well together for a simple stir-fry or another nutrient-dense meal you can eat on the entire week through.
3. Stabilize Sugar
When it comes to the dreaded “s” word, avoiding refined sugars is equally important to your weight as it is your physical health and mental capacity. Ridding yourself of processed items is a good start to eliminate these sugars. Still, you have to keep an eye on the good sugars too, the ones that are naturally present in food. Yes, the good sugar can be a problem if consumed in excess. It’s best to be aware of the amounts of sugar you are taking in and make adjustments accordingly. For example, if you have a fruit smoothie, or a heaping helping of strawberries atop your oatmeal to kick start your day, you may want to sub your apple at lunch for a bowl of veggies.
Although meal frequency is not a clean eating rule, nor is meal size, eating reasonably sized meals at increased frequencies rather than holding out, letting your blood sugar drop and then bingeing, allows you to let your body work naturally to fuel itself throughout the day on the foods you are consuming.
When it comes to balance, here are a few more tips to help you regulate sugar in your diet.
4. Swap Fats
Clean eating involves plenty of fats—the good kind. Not only is coconut oil a superfood in itself, it’s great for cooking as are olive oils. Ditch the rest, including corn and soy-based oils that are highly processed (hence their contributions to processed foods). Try mixing something with resounding health benefits like apple cider vinegar and olive oil together to replace the less nutrient rich dressings that are most likely currently inhabiting your refrigerator door. For snacks and atop salads, remember, nuts and seeds by the handful pack large dosage of the types of fats you are aiming to include in your diet.
Here are 4 tips for Choosing Dietary Fats.
5. Stay Hydrated
Plain and simply put, a clean eating lifestyle, or any healthy lifestyle for that matter is not complete without flushing the toxins from your body, and staying hydrated, with the help of ample water. Increase your intake of water and decrease those beverages that dehydrate your body, specifically those high in caffeine, those that are loaded with sugar, and alcohol as it acts as a toxin. This doesn’t mean cutting alcohol or other every now and then indulgence out entirely but it does mean rationing your intake and balancing your consumption by including an increased amount of water.
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