Clean Eating. Eating Clean. Have you heard these lately?
Chances are that you have.
The health industry is promoting this more and more with books and magazines raving about its benefits.
But, do you really know what it is? What are its benefits? How do I get started?
Well, let’s try to answer some of these questions here and introduce you to the Clean Eating lifestyle.
Clean Eating Explained
For me, it seems like the whole concept of “clean eating” is a new dieting concept; but, this is not correct.
In fact, the ideas behind clean eating are far from new.
It is a hot topic in many health magazines and promoted strongly by many athletes, bodybuilders, fitness models and celebrities who have embraced the clean eating lifestyle.
However, some suggest that it originated from the 1960’s shift toward natural health foods which is now commonly referred to as “whole foods” which is, essentially, the consumption of foods as close to their natural state as possible.
In my opinion, there were likely many whose diet consisted of such natural foods far before the phrases whole foods, natural foods or clean eating were even coined.
Yet, the difference between then and now is perhaps the widespread availability of processed, artificial (“junk“) foods for consumers.
Regardless of its origin, clean eating is not a diet nor is it promoted as one.
Simply put, clean eating is a lifestyle of eating whole, unprocessed and natural foods as opposed to processed, artificial and sugary foods.
The clean eater avoids simple carbohydrates foods usually consisting of refined sugar and white flour, as well as processed foods, preservatives, bad fats and other unnatural ingredients.
The goal is, basically, to eat foods that are as natural as possible.
As an alternative, the clean eating diet should consist of lean proteins, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, brown rice, and whole-grain pastas, breads and crackers, for instance.
Clean eating is not limited to food choices, though.
Some of the clean eating “rules” or principles are:
- Eat 5 to 6 small meals per day.
- Eat every 2 to 3 hours.
- Combine lean protein and complex carbohydrates at each meal.
- Drink at least 64 ounces of water daily and avoid sugar-heavy beverages and alcohol.
- Do not miss meals.
- Avoid all processed, refined foods (white flour, sugar, etc.)
- Avoid saturated and trans fat.
- Avoid sugar-heavy beverages (juices, soda) and alcohol.
- Eat fresh fruits, vegetables and lean protein.
- Eat appropriate portion sizes.
Also important to the Clean Eating lifestyle (and others) is what some call the 80/20 rule when practicing a clean eating lifestyle.
To adhere, you should eat clean with appropriate proper sizes at least 80% of the time with the other 20% eating foods that may be processed or not considered “clean.”
Of course, proper portion sizes should still be followed during this 20%.
Likewise, many health professionals also apply the 80/20 more related to overall dieting and health goals suggesting that 80% of our results come from nutrition (what we eat) whereas 20% is a result of exercise and activity.
If anything, we see that our food choices play a very large part in our health and can make-or-break any weigh loss goals.
Benefits of Clean Eating
Tosca Reno has nearly become a household name when it comes to eating clean.
On her book, she promotes the diet as “Fast Fat Loss that Lasts Forever.”
Although this may be true for many, eating clean can be a major lifestyle overhaul for many, especially those accustomed to eating sugar, fast food and white breads and pastas.
Yet, the transition to clean eating also reaps long-term health benefits that make any transition toward cleaner eating choices beneficial.
Even though weight loss may be one of the benefits of clean eating, remember that clean eating is not a “diet” but is intended to be a new lifestyle.
Sporadically eating clean is, obviously, better than never eating natural, unprocessed foods but you will not experience the benefits of the clean eating described here and by health professionals.
Besides weight loss, clean eating also offers benefits such as clearer skin, improved sleep, increased energy, healthier and shinier hair and increased mental clarity.
Your overall health and wellness will be better, and you will have more lean muscle, decreased risk for certain diseases and conditions less consumption of artificial ingredients and preservatives.
Clean eating requires commitment, advanced planning and healthy choices.
It will not cost you extra money but will require more time to plan and prepare some foods in advance.
It is not about starving your body, nor is it as complex as it may sound right now.
Start with a few small changes, even one at a time if this works for you.
Perhaps start with eating breakfast each morning, then gradually move onto eliminating soda and replacing it with water, tea, sparkling or flavored water, and even some 100% juice in limited amounts.
Another great step in the clean eating lifestyle is to pack your lunches for work and replace your vending machine snacks with healthier choices you bring from home, such as almonds, fruit or granola.
You can also replace your white bread (maybe used in your lunch) for whole-grain beads.
Another good choice are whole-grain, high fiber wraps or tortillas if you need a change every once in a while.
Lastly, always be conscious of your portion sizes.
Whether you are eating clean or not, most people consume portions far larger than necessary.
Research proper portion sizes and stick to it at each meal.
You can use the eyeball method.
For example, 3 ounces of chicken or meat is approximately the size of a deck of cards.
There are many tips available for ensuring you eat not only the best food choices but also the proper amounts.
Finally, be sure to drink plenty of water.
If you need to start anywhere, start here by drinking anywhere from 2 to 3 liters per day (10-12 cups).
Your body will appreciate the extra hydration, begin to flush out toxins and even help you feel fuller throughout the day.
Alternatives to “Clean Eating”
Truth is that strictly following the clean eating lifestyle may not be for everyone.
When you have kids, a busy schedule or travel a lot, the reality of hauling a cooler around to ensure healthier foods surround you may not be possible.
It sure sounds good on paper, but may be much harder to implement on a day-to-day basis.
For me, I have enough of a challenge trying to find the time to just pack my lunch the evening before having found myself, just last night, baking chicken in the oven at almost 10:00 p.m.–my attempt to eat clean the following day.
So, should people who face these challenges just give up and decide “clean eating” isn’t for them? Definitely not.
Your goal should be to eat healthier and make better food choices.
If you do not have time to pack your cooler and find yourself staring at the McDonald’s menu, opt for the grilled chicken wrap or a grilled chicken salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
Taking the kids to the local ice cream parlor after little league?
Try ordering a low-fat or non-fat yogurt instead of your usual chocolate dipped cone.
Or, try a smoothie.
These tasty treats are becoming extremely popular today with many shops offering healthier, 100% fruit choices from which to choose.
Yep, you guessed it!
This means we have fewer excuses for going for the chocolate dipped cone.
Another terrific way to start eating better without adhering strictly to the clean eating rules is to just stop eating late at night.
Eating dinner, and no more.
You will notice that you feel better in the morning and may even find yourself more motivated to continue on making more positive changes.
Generally, though, once you start learning about the healthier food choices, it will become more natural and easier on a day-to-day basis.
Clean eating is not intended to be a fad but rather a permanent part of your daily food choices.
Do not get overwhelmed.
It is, essentially, a great place to start toward healthier eating and living.
Start with a few small changes to begin your journey toward a healthier you!