There are so many diets out there that I am sure you have heard of “clean eating,” along with Whole30, Paleo and keto… But even if you’ve heard of clean eating, you may not know exactly what it entails. I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t until I started working with a nutritionist! So, what is clean eating?
Clean eating is a relatively new term for something people have been doing for centuries. It’s only over the past 70 years that our country’s food has gotten so bad we needed a term for a diet free of crappy food. But, that is basically what clean eating is—a diet that cuts out processed, fatty, sugary foods and replaces them with “clean,” natural alternatives.
Today we are bombarded with fad diets, quick fixes, and medications that will cure things you didn’t even know you had. We have become so accustomed to magical cure-alls that we have forgotten what food should be. Food is fuel, food is medicine, and food is meant to nourish you, not harm you. Our bodies are actually always telling us what we need, but we are just too busy rushing through life to listen to them.
Clean eating is the concept of purging your body of all the bad stuff by filling it up with the good. Some people like to do a fasting cleanse before cleaning up their diet (I guess they think it’s a jump start), but you can actually cleanse your body simply by eating more and more leafy greens. I personally can’t stand doing fasts because I get “hangry” and feel deprived. I would suggest consulting a professional nutritionist or your doctor before doing any sort of fasting.
I want to say that I am not a nutritionist, and I am not licensed in any sort of medical or diet-related field—I am just someone who cleaned up her diet and felt amazing, so I am very passionate about sharing my story and tips. But guess what? If you want to simply clean up your diet, you shouldn’t have to consult your doctor. These are not drastic changes and you won’t be eating loads of meat like some of the Paleo diets on the market. Odds are, if you start practicing clean eating, the next time you go to the doctor, they will notice a change for the better.
Clean eating is not a quick way to lose weight, but you can shed some pounds. I cleaned up my diet and lost 20 lbs. It took some time, but it happened, and I have managed to keep it off for two years. My skin also cleared up, and best of all, I have so much more energy. I feel as if a fog has lifted and I am sharp and clear-headed. You can read more about how I clean-ate my way to losing 20lbs here.
Health Benefits of Clean Eating:
If you have seen any of these great documentaries on Netflix, you know what I am talking about! The health benefits of cleaning up your diet can be huge! I didn’t review it, but there is one doc called “The C Word” about a doctor who combats brain cancer by eating more vegetables, exercising, and managing his stress levels. Again, I am not giving health advice or suggesting anyone go off any medications. Just eat more veggies ( :
How to Get Started Clean Eating:
Odds are, if you try to go super clean right out of the gate, you might stumble. I have found the best way to be successful is to make small changes over time. The best place to start is to stop with the takeout and anything that comes in a package. Try getting in the groove of cooking meals at home and prepping healthy snacks to have on hand.
Cooking at home is the best way to control your food. If you are a busy person and rely on takeout often, this might be a big enough change to start with. Give yourself a week or two and get comfortable with it!
But don’t worry if you aren’t super comfortable in the kitchen. There are lots of great clean recipes that don’t require spending hours over the stove! I love to use online resources like Pinterest or Youtube to find simple, delicious recipes that work with my clean eating diet.
How to Clean Grocery Shop:
After you are used to cooking at home and meal-prepping, it’s time to tackle the grocery store! The best rule of thumb is to shop the perimeter of the store, since the center aisles are usually filled with all the processed, packaged, or frozen stuff.
The majority of your cart should be filled with fresh, organic vegetables. If you are wondering why organic, just watch some of these docs and you will get it. The second most important items in your cart should be lean proteins like organic chicken and whole caught fish. Red meat is okay in moderation, and grass fed is best.
Another tip when shopping is to make sure that for 80% or more of the items in your cart, you can see directly what they are. In other words, do your best to buy foods in their natural states. For example, if you’re buying almonds, you should be able to clearly see the raw almonds, unlike in packaged nut mixes where you don’t know what they are coated in or mixed with.
When foods are in packages, you ALWAYS have to check the labels. I love almond butter, but I have bought some where after the first bite I can tell it’s loaded with sugar. If you check the label before you buy, you can avoid these kinds of not-so-clean purchases.
Clean out the sugar:
Sugar should be the first item on the list to purge from your diet. It’s completely unnecessary on so many levels and proven to be more addictive that cocaine (yes, really!). I personally did two or three weeks totally sugar-free, without even eating fruit. Once I got past the cravings, something really cool started to happen—I was tasting sweetness in foods that had never tasted sweet to me before, like beets!
Cutting out sugar has changed my tastebuds. I used to love sweets, but now most of time I will take a bite of cake and my teeth cringe from the sugar. But I am not going to lie, it did taste really good to eat fresh fruits again!
I don’t believe in cutting out whole food groups for extended periods of time; if we weren’t meant to eat fruits, they wouldn’t taste so good! Fruit is nature’s candy. Just be aware of the sugars and how much you’re consuming.
Berries or pomegranates are a good route to go (rich in antioxidants), and apples too, since they have lots of fiber. Keep the bananas to a minimum and eat fruits that are locally and organically grown. Strawberries should NOT be the size of your fist and they should NOT be in the stores all year round! Produce has seasons and it’s very important to shop only what is in season.
Sorry to break the news to you, but alcohol counts in this sugar department /: But I promise that once you get over the “I am not drinking” hump and learn how to be in a social situation with a sparking water instead of champagne, it’s easy! You can read more about how I cut out drinking here.
Carbs are okay, but again, read the labels. I usually look for gluten-free options for breads or pastas. Not because I am pushing a gluten-free diet, but because they are often made with alternative flours like garbanzo bean, so they are richer in protein and lower in carbs.
I love Ezekiel bread, which contains sprouted grains and doesn’t have added sugars. It goes bad fast, so I keep it in the freezer. But guess what, bread should go bad fast if it’s made with only real ingredients.
Keeping the starchy carbs low is important because these kinds of carbs are broken down into sugars in your body. Often, I will make an open-faced sandwich so I only need to use one slice of bread instead of two.
I personally stay away from dairy when I can. It doesn’t bother my stomach, but I know a lot of adults can be lactose intolerant and not even know it. I do it because our dairy industry in America is pretty bad. Cows are treated with hormones to produce more milk and those hormones are passed right along to us in our dairy products.
It was actually a really easy shift to move away from dairy for me, because almond and coconut milk have replaced my milk. I have even made some super tasty coconut milk ice cream!
Cheese is a tough call, since vegan cheese is a hit or miss. It can have some strange ingredients in it, so it’s not necessarily better than real dairy cheese. I think it’s a total toss up there, so I just try to leave out cheese whenever possible.
Protein is great. Just be aware of where your protein is coming from. Buying organic, sustainably-raised proteins is the way to go. While it is much more expensive, it is way better for you and for the environment.
Keep in mind we do not need to eat meat with every meal, as there are plenty of other plant-based sources of protein you can mix in. Limit your red meats, too. They are not bad once in a while, but they can be hard for your body to break down.
What Your Clean Eating Plate Should Look Like:
The best tip on clean eating is to always fill up your plate with leafy green vegetables first. They should take up about 50% of your plate, if not more. If you fill up on the good stuff first, there is less room for the other stuff! The fiber from these greens also helps you feel full, so even though you’re on a “diet,” you don’t have to go hungry.
If you are struggling with weight loss, low energy, or health aliments, try making some simple shifts to clean up your diet! But don’t stress out over it and don’t try to implement all these changes at once. Just like any lifestyle change, clean eating can take some time to get used to, but I can say from personal experience that it is so worth it!
So next time you hear someone ask, “what is clean eating?” you can tell them: clean eating is a way of getting back to eating only what we were meant to be eating: whole, natural, untouched foods. Not over-processed and packaged foods that have a 20-year shelf life.
Check out some of these food docs on Netflix and get inspired to kick start your clean eating
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