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When I initially decided to stop dieting, eat better and focus on nourishment, I used clean eating as my guide (that’s where the name Clean & Delicious came from) and I’ve since had a lot of people ask me what exactly does it mean to eat clean.
Let me start by saying, ‘eating clean’ means different things to different people so this is simply my definition of eating clean:
Eating real whole, unprocessed foods as close to their natural state as possible, most of the time.
So eating vegetables, fruits, high quality carbs like sweet potatoes and grains, good quality protein sources, and healthy fats like nuts and avocados.
One of the most important things to realize is that clean eating is a life style and not a fad diet.
It’s step by step improving the quality of the foods that you’re eating so that you can be in charge of your energy and your health and not fall victim to the cravings and mood swings that often come with eating highly processed, nutrient-void foods that leave us feeling hungry and out of control.
And know, that this doesn’t have to look any one way.
You can eat clean and be a vegetarian. You can eat clean and be a vegan. You can eat clean and be a weight lifter, a meat eater, a yogi. You can eat two meals a day or six meals a day (I think you get where I’m going with this).
Ultimately, you have to commit to finding what works for YOU but the common thread, the tie-through is that you are eating real whole, unprocessed foods as close to their natural state as possible, most of the time and that you are ENJOYING the foods that you are eating.
Here are 5 easy guidelines that helped me when I first transitioned to eating clean:
Cooking is the easiest way to stay in control of your ingredients because you always know what you’re working with. And that doesn’t mean you never eat out or order in, you just try to cook more then you don’t, which is technically just 51% of the time.
2. READ YOUR LABELS
Learning to read your labels is a good way to begin to understand what you are eating. General rule of thumb; try to stick to foods that have 5 ingredients or less and that have ingredients that you can recognize and pronounce.
3. AVOID HIGHLY PROCESSED FOODS
Not all processed foods are a problem. Oatmeal is slightly processed, quinoa is lightly processed, same with brown rice and frozen veggies. These aren’t the processed foods I am referring to.
We want to avoid foods that are highly processed meaning they have gone through many processing steps to create the final product. These are foods the are made in factories vs. gardens and farms.
Think of it like this, the more a food is processed outside of our bodies the less nutritious it will be for our bodies. The goal is to have our bodies do as much of the work to process the food as possible (not the factories). A great indicator of highly processed foods are the ingredient lists. If you have a food with a long ingredient list, chances are it is a highly processed food.
One of the main issues with highly process foods is that they contain an overload of fats, salts and sugars which will skew your tastebuds because the unnatural, excess of flavors literally bombard the palate and you will lose the ability to taste and appreciate the natural flavors of real whole food.
This, my friends, is why healthy eating can get a bad rap. If you are accustomed to eating highly processed foods, real whole foods won’t taste good to you which is why we want to baby step our way out of those habits.
4. AVOID ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS AND COLORS
Simply put, artificial flavors and colors are not food, they are food like products that are designed to bypass the logical part of your brain and trigger the pleasure points so that you find yourself wanting more and more.
They offer absolutely no nourishment and because they are not real food, your body doesn’t know what to so with them. As a matter of fact, studies have shown that artificial sugars actually trigger the body to crave more sugar.
5. MACRO NUTRIENT BALANCE
Be aware of your carbohydrate, protein, and fat balance. This does not mean you have to count and track your macro-nutrients all day long, but you do want to be sure you are having a good balance of proteins, carbs and healthy fats.
Most people I have worked with, tend to get in too many processed carbohydrates and not enough healthy fats. It’s something to keep in mind for yourself.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to find foods you really like and enjoy eating.
Ultimately, eating clean is a lifestyle and for us to make anything a way of life it has to be sustainable which means you must enjoy it.
Trying to willpower your way to healthier eating will never work and is simply not sustainable. This is why most extreme diets fail, because we can only stay on them for so long before we find ourselves shoulder to shoulder with a pint of ice-cream.
So play, experiment, give yourself space and time to find food that work for you and that you truly enjoy eating, so you can have the health and energy that you crave and deserve!