Clean eating? Hmm, does that mean I should just wash my hands and food before eating and now I am all set? Well not quite, although that is still is a good idea, especially in my case where I share my living space with five fur babies and two humans.  Seriously though, clean eating seems to be the new buzz word. Essentially it means eating whole, unprocessed foods.  According to Cooking Light, “Clean eating dates back to the natural health food movement of the 1960s, which shunned processed foods for the sake of moral and societal values (rather than health and nutrition issues). Eventually, it landed in gyms, where it gained momentum among body builders and fitness models. Recently, however, it made the jump into mainstream America, rejuvenating and inspiring a new generation of healthy eaters.”

Still not sure what clean eating means? Think of it this way, nature does not come in a can or box, it’s grown naturally, and the closer you eat to the source of where food comes from, the cleaner you’re eating. Here are six basic clean eating principals to give you more perspective:

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1. Choose Whole Natural Foods That Come From the Ground and Avoid Processed Foods

Avoid purchasing packaged or boxed foods when shopping, and try to purchase only fresh food. While processed foods contain ingredients which can be potentially harmful, natural food is well, natural! Just make sure to buy organic when possible. To help guide you, check out, The Dirty Dozen: 12 Foods You Should Always Buy Organic. Buying natural foods as opposed to packaged, processed foods also generates less waste, which is always a plus.

2. Choose Unrefined Foods Rather Than Refined

Add whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and millet to your diet and avoid white rice and packaged pasta products.  Add beans and legumes to your meals.  They are filling, contain protein, and pretty inexpensive.  And instead of honey, make a wonderful sweetener with dates. Check out this great article for tips on shifting from processed to unprocessed foods. 

3. Speaking of Proteins, Make Sure You Eat a Protein, Carbs, and Fat at Every Meal

Contrary to what people say, you do not need to get your protein from meat.  Beans and legumes provide a great source of protein.  Plus they are high in calcium, fiber, and iron.  Add to your whole grains, you have a wonderful meal.  Add some avocado for the fat.  Best part of this, make extra and save for another meal. Check out these two articles about protein: 5 Soy-Free Foods That Have More Protein Than Beef and 5 Clean, Lean Soy-Free Proteins to Put on Your Plate

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4. Eat Five to Six Small Meals Throughout Your Day

The point behind this is to prevent you from feeling hungry throughout the day, especially when that 3:00 carb craving strikes. Make sure your meals are small, balanced, and easily accessible. By cutting out the processed food, your cravings for salt and sugar will diminish.  Your body will stop demanding all the additives that the processed foods add. You will find how enjoyable just eating fresh fruits off the vine, or veggies and will appreciate the taste. Need some food ideas? For breakfast, try out this Vegan Breakfast Burrito or Raw Vegan Tropical Green Spirulina Smoothie. For lunch, enjoy this delicious Basil Pesto Raw Zucchini Pasta or  Black Bean Wraps. For dinner, you can give this Veggie Pot Pie a shot or try out these zesty Moroccan Spiced Lentil Butternut Squash Burgers. The possibilities truly are endless! 

5. Drink Plenty of Water

You have heard this before, but it really does help.  You stay hydrated, it keeps your system moving, regulates body temperature, and helps with the digestion of your meals.  I find that if add lemon and cucumber to my water, I enjoy it much more. Some days I add raspberries and strawberries, and I have a wonderful treat for a few pennies.

6. Read Food Labels

If you do choose packaged foods, make sure you understand all the ingredients and keep track of the serving size, as well as the amount of the sugar and salt. So let’s talk a little about choosing clean  eating versus eating processed foods.  In the article “The Benefits of Healthy Whole Foods,”  Tara Gidus, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association states, “When you eat whole foods, you’re getting the food in its natural state. You’re getting it intact, with all of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are in the food. Basically, it’s the healthy whole food, rather than the bits that remain after refinement and processing. It’s the difference between an apple and apple juice , or a baked potato and mashed potatoes.” 

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While you obviously don’t have to adapt all six of these habits right away, it’s good to keep them in mind as a healthy eating compass of sorts. After all, eating healthy takes a moment to learn, but a lifetime to master.

Image Source: Cauliflower Rice Bowls With Spring Vegetables