Clean eating remains one of the most popular diets of celebrities. Chances are you’ve already heard about it but instantly overlooked it yet another fad. It tends to be considered one of those diets for the rich and famous since it can be one of the most expensive ones.
However, clean eating is for everyone. It can also be one of the most beneficial for the overall health. This is more than just a diet to lose weight. It’s a method to look after the whole health, getting rid of the bad and only focusing on the good. This is a lifestyle to follow, which will mean more dedication and focus. However, you will certainly reap all the rewards.
Want to try clean eating? Interested in learning more? Here’s your all-in-one guide to clean eating to make it work for your lifestyle.
What Exactly Is Clean Eating?
Let’s get this question out of the way first.
Clean eating doesn’t mean you clean food before you eat it! While you should do that, you want to focus on good, healthy goods. Eating clean will help you lose weight, but it’s not a diet. It’s a lifestyle change that will help you lose weight slowly and healthily. You think carefully about the ingredients that will pass your lips.
When you eat clean, you will cut out unnecessary sugars and fats. You’ll get rid of the bad carbs and processed food that offer just empty calories to your body. You’re eating more nutritious food to fuel your body. Everything you eat has the purpose of benefiting at least one part of your body—although most food will benefit everything.
There isn’t a focus on cutting out a food group. You’re cutting out unnecessary bad foods. You’re getting rid of artificial colors, extra salt, saturated fats, and refined carbs. Instead, you’re focusing on healthy fats, complex, whole grain carbs, and other nutritionally beneficial foods. Yes, you can still eat lean meat and enjoy grains. You can also find excellent alternatives for some of your favorite foods.
Won’t I Be Hungry and Tired?
There are many views that clean eating will mean being hungry. After all, it never sounds like a salad should be able to fill you up. There is also a view that clean eating can be unhealthy.
The truth is any diet or lifestyle is unhealthy if you don’t follow it properly. If you cut out all carbs, your clean eating lifestyle will be unhealthy. Your body needs some carbs for energy levels. It’s all about picking the right types of carbs.
Therefore the focus is on whole and unrefined grains. These are carbs, but complex ones. You can also get plenty of fruits and vegetables, which involve plenty of complex carbs to help support your energy levels.
A clean diet will give you more energy for sustained periods. The junk food that you think gives you the energy will give you temporary sugar or caffeine highs. You end up with sudden dips in your energy levels when the sugars and caffeine have been used, leaving you to feel more tired than you were before you ate them.
With more nutrients in your food, you will end up with extra energy boosts. Clean food takes longer to break down, helping to space out the energy release that you get. Instead of getting spikes and dips, you have a constant flow of energy throughout the day.
Over time, you’ll even wonder why you bothered with sweet food and listened to junk food cravings. You will start seeing the energy boosts that you’ve always craved, and the sweet cravings will disappear.
Clean eating is one of the healthiest lifestyles you can follow. It’s also one of the most realistic diets. You’ll change your approach to food.
So, let’s look into everything you need to know about following a clean eating diet.
It’s Time to Avoid the Processed, Added Fat/Salt/Sugar Foods
Take a look at the type of foods you currently eat. Do you buy vegetables or do you choose the processed foods that are pretty much ready to eat? While at times, some pre-cut chicken will be good for a clean eating diet, you want to avoid the processed foods that are simply designed to throw in the microwave to reheat. You want to get rid of the food that is full of sugar and salt but has no fiber at all.
Watch out for food that is full of saturated or trans fat. Either of these will block your arteries and cause numerous health problems. Snack foods, cookies and candies, frozen dinners, and even bottled salad dressing or breakfast cereals can be bad for you. Yes, those flavored nuts, granola bars, and canned soups are processed!
Consider if you’re buying items for convenience? Could you make the meals with fresh vegetables and ingredients instead? If you could, chances are you’re about to stock up on processed junk with added sugar, salt, or fat!
This doesn’t mean all fat and sugar is banned. The benefit of the clean eating diet is that you get to eat natural sugars and healthy fats. Watch out for food that has any added sugar, salt, or even fats in the ingredients list. Even artificial sweeteners aren’t the best for you unless they’re natural sweeteners like Stevia.
Fresh fruit is all the sugar your body needs. You can do wonders with fresh fruit to make it feel like you’re enjoying sugar.
You won’t feel like you miss out. Over time, your taste buds will change. As you get more good stuff, you’ll start to dislike the bad stuff. You will be able to taste the difference as soon as you take a mouthful of soda or have a bite of a candy bar. The ingredients become too sweet, and you won’t want to eat them. This is a good thing, honestly!
Eat More Calories Than You Drink
It’s tempting to turn foods into a drink. You’ll also look for quick cans and bottles to top up your hydration levels. All your body needs to drink is water.
The only other thing you may want to drink is milk. There are some benefits to this, but you’ll need to check the type of milk that you consume. Watch out for processed milk that have extra fats and sugars that aren’t natural!
Avoid the sodas, sports drinks, and other options that are high in calories. There’s no point drinking your calories when you get all the hydration you need from the water. You will also get other health benefits since you’re not adding sugar to your body. When you drink sugar, you’ll find it metabolizes much quicker and puts you at risk of other health problems.
Even diet sodas should be avoided. They’re full of other additives that just aren’t good for your body.
But what about fruit juice? Even if you make it yourself, you want to avoid fruit juices when clean eating. Yes, they do contain nutrients from the fruit, but you lose the fiber. Juicing gets rid of the pulp (the fiber), so you end up just drinking the sugars.
If you want to drink your food, opt for soup or a smoothie. The smoothie will blend everything, so you still get your fiber. However, you’ll want to avoid too many in a day. Just one portion will be enough. It’s very easy to over consume calories when you drink them.
Want more flavor to your water? Chop up some natural fruit and put the slices into your water instead. The natural flavors and sugars will seep into the water without adding too many extra calories. Lemon water is a delicious start to the day.
You may find it hard to avoid tea and coffee at first. Cut this down, so you have no more than a cup a day. Avoid sweetening your drinks and try to cut out milk if you can. Herbal or green tea can be a better option, but still not as good as plain water when it comes to clean eating.
Become Nutrition Label Savvy
You’ll want to get familiar with the labels on the back of the packaging. Nutrition labels will tell you just how many of each nutrient you can find in your food. This helps you decide whether a type of food is worth adding into your diet.
These labels can take some time to get used to. Some labels will just give a gram amount of the protein, carbs, fiber, and fats. Others will offer a percentage of the specific serving. You’ll also see a number of fats that saturate and a number of carbs that sugar. While the fats and sugars are two very specific elements of the nutrition labels that you want to pay attention to, you want to take in every element of the nutrition labels.
It’s not just about the individual figures. You want to learn how to read the ingredients list. This is usually just on the nutritional label. Look at each ingredient and ask yourself if you would cook with it. If there’s something on there that you wouldn’t cook with, you want to avoid the item that you’ve picked up.
Look out for anything that says modified or hydrolyzed. These mean that the foods have been processed, so even if they’re natural ingredients, they’re not in their natural form.
Also look out for anything that ends in “-ose.” These are sugars. Not all will be added since lactose is a natural sugar in milk, but most them are not in their natural form.
Watch out for the sodium levels. You don’t need more than 250mg of sodium daily in your diet. Yes, your body needs a little, but this small amount is just enough.
Look out for foods that haven’t been modified in any way. You want whole foods. If you want nuts, check them from the bulk buy section instead of packages. Always make sure you get plain nuts to avoid the added salt, but the bulk section will usually have some whole foods in their natural forms.
Full-fat dairy, lean meats, whole grains, fresh fruits & vegetables, and dried beans or legumes are the ones that you want to look out for. The canned vegetables and beans may have been modified. It’s important to check the labels carefully before you buy with the idea that they’re good for you. The dried options can be rehydrated so you can use them in your cooking.
Opt for Balanced Out Meals at All Times
Think about the mixture of nutrients that you are putting on your plate.This isn’t just about the micro nutrients, but the mixture of macro nutrients (carbs, protein, and fat). Your body needs a mixture of all with each meal.
Whole, fresh foods will have a good mixture of nutrients. Vegetables and fruits are carbs, but they also have plenty of fiber and smaller micro nutrients that are necessary for the diet. Lean meat will have good levels of protein, but also healthy, unsaturated fats. Oily fish is excellent for micro nutrients while providing plenty of healthy protein and fat.
Don’t avoid a specific type of nutrient from your diet. There are many people who attempt to avoid carbs, but that just isn’t good for you. Opt for carbs that are also packed with fiber. Opt for the whole grains that will give you plenty of health benefits and all the energy you need throughout the day.
One of the best ways to manage your meals and balance out the nutrients is to cook your food. You can control exact amounts of sugar and salt. You control the types of flavors and the fats added in. Prepare everything from fresh, so you have total control over every single element.
But does that mean a restaurant should be avoided? It will depend on the restaurant. Find out how the food is cooked or prepared. Order salads with the dressings on the side and carefully choose the food that you order to keep the saturated fats and additives to a minimum.
Stick to home cooking as much as possible. Restaurants are going to be okay now and then for special occasions, but you can always replicate it all in your kitchen!
Eat Little and Often
We have this whole idea that we need three meals with two snacks a day. This isn’t the case.
Clean eating will teach you that calorie counting isn’t that important. You don’t need to manage your portions too much, and you can eat a little more frequently throughout the day. The type of food you’re eating is naturally lower in calories and will make you feel fuller, so you don’t over consume calories.
Opt for smaller meals throughout the day. You can have five to six meals a day this way, giving you sustained energy levels throughout the day. At first, you will find it harder to manage the portion sizes, but you’ll get used to the way the healthy nutrients work within your body. The fiber, protein, and healthy fats will break down slowly, making you feel fuller quicker and for longer.
When you have smaller meals throughout the day and take the focus off the calories, you’re less like to skip meals. You won’t get the slumps that lead to you feeling the need for sugar. You feel healthier within yourself and get rid of the tired, jittery feeling.
But What Can You Eat When Clean Eating?
Now that you know the basic tips, it’s time to get a list of ingredients for your clean eating diet. Here’s a basic look at the foods you want to stock up on:
- Fruits & vegetables (more vegetables than fruits)
- Lean meats, poultry
- Whole grains, like oats, bulgur wheat, etc.
- Legumes and beans
- Nuts and seeds, unsalted
- Full-fat dairy products, including plain yogurt, some cheeses, and milk
If you are going to use supplements, make sure they are high-quality ones. Find out about ingredients used to create them.
Of course, you should talk to your doctor if you decide to change your diet. Most doctors won’t have a problem with the clean eating diet, but they will want to keep an eye on your health. This is especially important if you are taking medication for a disease!