We live in a society where, unfortunately, eating food that is not full of pesticides, preservatives and unknown byproducts is really, really hard. You can walk into pretty much any general supermarket or grocery store, pick up a box of well…anything… and there will be ingredients you cannot pronounce and more than likely have never heard of.
The solution? Clean eating!
That’s all fine and dandy on paper, but what does it mean and where do you start?
Clean eating includes:
Eating Whole Foods: The short? Whole foods are foods which you eat in their natural state. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meat, dairy products, nuts and seeds. The long? The ideal diet includes organic fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds. This eliminates pesticides and chemicals from getting into your body through your food supply. Unfortunately we live in a society where it can be geographically challenging as well as financially challenging to eat everything organic. If you’re unable to purchase or find every fruit and vegetable organic, start with the clean 15 and dirty dozen which is a list of the top 12 pesticide coated fruits and vegetables and should always be consumed organically, and the 15 with the least amount so if you do have limitations, they’re the route to go for non organic. Clean eating. If your diet includes animal products, it’s very important to eat meat which is organic, hormone and antibiotic free. Antibiotics are given to animals so more can be packed into a small space and avoid disease spreading. Hormones are given to animals to speed up their growth and in many cases produce larger than average sizes for their species. Clean eating.
Avoiding Processed Foods: The short? Eliminate anything with an ingredient you can’t pronounce. The long? (and realistic). Just because you can’t pronounce something, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad. When I think of the term processed foods I think “made in a lab”, and not necessarily something thats come in a box or a can. Not everything with a technical term is a pesticide or cancer causing. But to begin with, keep your diet full of foods in their natural states listed above. But realize that not everything in a package is necessarily bad. If you do eat pasta or bread, make sure the ingredients say whole grain and not just wheat flour or whatever it may be. The key is whole. There are many brands are out there that are organic, whole foods while still falling into what I consider a processed food category. Amy’s makes a lot of products including canned soups that include an ingredient list with literally nothing but organic vegetable and spices. Bob’s Red Mill makes a whole line of organic flours in both gluten free and non gluten free. AND for prices comparable to conventional brands. Mary’s organic, gf, non GMO crackers will always be a household favorite. SO while I personally make 98% of what we consume from scratch and using natural, whole products, sometimes this thing called life takes over and it’s important to have those packaged and processed options available. By researching brands and where to purchase them (seriously? Costco has tons all of the time, even main stream grocery stores do. Not everything needs to be bought from a health food store) becoming familiar with the scary seven (the top pesticides, preservatives and overall garbage in our foods) and go from there.
Eliminate Refined Sugars: The short? artificial sugars, sugars found in snacks, cereals, dressings and sauces, desserts and convenient foods. This includes soda, sugary coffees and premade juices (for the most part). The Long? Sugar in moderation is not going to send you down the path to diabetes and health demise, but avoid refined sugar – high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, white sugar, fructose, dextrose, sucrose (or anything ending in -ose) and ALL artificial sweeteners (think the sweet n low, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, and the very well known aspartame). If you need a little sugar kick, try some fruit, cane sugar, raw, unrefined sugar or if you like it in your morning tea or coffee try some honey, coconut oil or stevia. Pure maple syrup or honey are easy substitutes if you’re the baking sort. Or? I usually substitute the butter AND sugar for a healthy dose of coconut oil instead. This one is the kicker for most people. We live in a sugar addicted society, and sugar withdrawals are very real.
Eat Healthy Fats: The short? Kick the ice cream and chips to the curb. The long? Fat has a bad rep. But the truth is fats are essential for our well being. Everything from brain function, reproductive function, our skin and hair. Stick to olive oil (for dressings or low heat cooking), Ghee or coconut oil (for flavoring, baking, high heat cooking), avocados, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds.
Eat High Quality Protein: The short? Eliminate processed meats and vegetarian ‘meats’. The long? Protein is essential for muscle, tissue, organ and cell repair. As well as keeping our hair, skin and nails in tip top shape. Protein is key for many metabolic processes that keep our bodies..well…alive. It also helps keep us full longer (so that’s why any diet you read or follow will include protein of some sort with each meal). The key is to eat quality proteins. this includes antibiotic and hormone free chicken, dairy, eggs and fish if you go the animal route and beans, nuts and seeds, legumes and soy products.
Those would be what I consider to be the top 5 guidelines of clean eating. Of course there are other very important parts and tips:
Drink plenty water, preferably filtered or distilled. By keeping your liquids to water, you instantly eliminate the refined sugar from beverages, processed drinks and drink packets and water naturally falls into the whole foods category. Water also helps with elimination and cleansing of the body.
Make your own meals and eat at home. I cannot stress this point enough! By taking the time to plan your meals and make them at home with ingredients you know fit into your whole foods diet, you eliminate the guess work of whose cooking what and how for you. Not only is it better for your body and mind, but it’s financially smarter also.
Do not limit your food intake. If you’re eating a diet consisting of whole foods, your body will physically be satisfied. We crave foods and tend to over eat because even though we’re eating a large quantity of food, our body’s are looking for quality. So if you’re hungry, eat. Chances are your body needs something.
It’s NOT about being perfect. The short? you’ll fall on the boat. The long? If you’re making life long changes, you’re going to be in situations where you do make choices that aren’t ideal. Be okay with this. In our house we bring in only whole foods. Foods that do fit to plan. I want to know that since we eat almost every meal either at home or with ingredients from our own kitchen, we are eating clean and healthy almost all of the time. Because not every one else is. Not every restaurant follows these rules and principals. And you live a life, and that includes being at other people’s homes for dinner or out for dinner at places you may not have control over. So I like to know that for those times where things happen, we know they are the very rare exception to our rules and not the norm.
And there you have it. The best thing about adopting a clean eating diet is that regardless of your dietary restrictions, personal or religious choices, where you’re starting from or what your goals are, eating clean can be adapting. You can be a meat eater and eat a clean diet; you can eat is kosher, gluten free, vegetarian, vegan or a little bit of it all. It’s a lifestyle change that’s meant for long term health, body and mind benefits and results.
Like any lifestyle, permanent, long term changes it takes time. You do not need to go empty your entire house of things that don’t fit into a clean eating lifestyle. But when something that doesn’t runs out, instead of replacing it with the same thing look for a healthy alternative that does fit into the clean eating ideals.