By: Julia Barber
You’ve probably heard of the term “clean eating,” but do you know what it actually means to eat clean? It can be a pretty broad term that everyone has their own personal version of.
To clear up some common misconceptions, let's start with what clean eating is NOT: Clean eating is not a fad diet or a detox. It’s not about starving, depriving, or restricting yourself. It’s not about counting calories and it's not about focusing on what you can’t eat.
Clean eating is a way of eating and living that can improve your health and well-being. Simply put, clean eating means eating whole foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. Foods in their natural form are minimally processed and contain little to no additives, preservatives, or artificial ingredients. When eating clean you’re encouraged to eat fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats.
Eating clean is important because it fuels your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to function at its best, in addition to eating a balance of macronutrients. Eating quality, nutrient-rich food improves heart health, brain health, can assist with managing your weight, build a stronger immune system, increase energy, and improve sleep, among other life-changing benefits.
So how do you eat clean? You’d be surprised how much easier it is compared to trying to figure out the rules of some complicated, restrictive diets. Below are a few tips to help you clean up your diet for good.
Eat More Fruits And Vegetables
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, most of us are not getting enough in our diet. Fruits and vegetables are undeniably healthy! They’re loaded with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They are also naturally low in fat, sodium, and calories.
Fruits and veggies are ideal for clean eating! They require little preparation which allows them to be as close to their natural form as possible and also provide an array of health benefits. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk of some diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and some cancers.
Here are some quick and easy ways that you can incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet:
Keep fruits where you can see them. Keeping washed and ready to eat fruits out where you can see them such as on the counter or on the top shelf of the fridge in a glass dish makes it easy to grab some on the go for a quick snack.
Make your salads as colorful as you can. You can add berries, chopped apples, carrots, cranberries...the options are endless. You can also experiment with mixing different types of greens such as kale, spinach, or arugula.
Make it a meal. Chop and toss veggies in a quick marinade for some flavor. They can be grilled, sautéed in a pan, or cooked in the oven for a nutritious meal or side dish.
Read the Ingredient List
Taking the time to read food labels is an easy way to identify just how clean that food is. Focusing on eating whole foods that don’t need a label is always best, but a lot of packaged foods can be part of your clean eating as long as they contain healthy ingredients. Here are a few things to look for when reading the ingredient list:
Look for added sugars. Some sugar is highly processed and if you’re trying to eat clean you’ll want to use small amounts of natural sweeteners occasionally. Names for added sugars: sucrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, and fructose.
Know your fats. Look for foods low in saturated and trans fats and cholesterol.
Limit sodium. It is recommended for Americans to consume less than 2,300 milligrams per day. Most of the sodium you eat is likely to come from processed foods, so when reading the label make sure to choose foods lower in sodium.
Use Healthy Ingredient Swaps in Your Favorite Dishes
Clean eating isn't about focusing on what you can't eat, it’s about being grateful for all the delicious, healthy foods that you get to eat. To embrace this posture of gratitude, focus on swapping out some of your regular unhealthy ingredients for some healthy alternatives.
Swap breakfast cereal for oatmeal. Being in a rush can tempt you to pour a bowl of cereal because it’s quick. But oftentimes breakfast cereals are high in sugar and carbohydrates and low in fiber and other nutrients that your body can benefit from at the start of the day. Try swapping your morning bowl of cereal for a bowl of oatmeal loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. To speed up the process try overnight oats, or buy your oats already prepared.
Switch regular spaghetti noodles for spaghetti squash or zoodles. Craving spaghetti? Well, making this switch can satisfy your craving with half the calories and carbs.
Try adding some fruit to your water instead of reaching for juice or soda which can be loaded with extra calories and sugar.
Consider A Prepared Food Service With Clean Ingredients
You can have all the tips and tricks in the world to start eating clean but there’s still one thing that tends to set us all back...time! If you find yourself with little time to cook and prepare your meals ahead of time, a meal prep service may be the answer to your prayers.
It’s important to do your research and make sure that the meal prep service you choose uses clean ingredients. Find a service that focuses on the essential elements of quality ingredients, macronutrient balance, and portion control. You want one that uses lean proteins that are free of hormones and antibiotics, complex carbohydrates, heart-healthy fats, and micronutrient-packed fruits and vegetables. These are all key things to look for when choosing a meal prep service.
Clean eating emphasizes nutritious, minimally processed foods. Remember, foods are best for us when they are as close to their natural state as possible. It's a lifestyle about making better, more nutritious choices for your body, not depriving yourself of your favorite foods.
Embrace complex carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Know what you’re looking for as far as ingredients and what to avoid. If you made it through this hopefully eating clean makes sense now and you’re ready to be about that lifestyle!
About The Author
What you put in your body is the most important piece to achieving your goals. That's why trainer, nutrition coach, and chef Jillian Tedesco started fit-flavors to help others succeed. See how they can help you at fit-flavors.com.