“Clean eating” is a popular phrase that you’ve likely heard, but do you know what it really means? Like most trendy catchphrases, it’s more complicated than its simple nickname.
What is “clean eating?”
Clean eating generally describes a diet that includes mostly whole foods in their natural states. Clean diets are those that are heavy in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and that avoid fast food, junk food or heavily processed foods. Foods that fall into the category of “clean eating” are generally found on the perimeter of grocery stores, rather than the inside; i.e. the produce section and the meat counter. More simply, if it contains additives, comes from a box, or can be ordered from a drive-thru window, it’s not real food. Real food, according to those that adhere to a “clean eating” lifestyle, is natural food, rather than made in a factory or laboratory.
Interested in cleaning up your diet? 5 ways to eat clean without losing your mind.
The idea of clean eating probably sounds great! We already know how dangerous added sugar and chemical preservatives are to our bodies and we know that our diets shouldn’t rely on fast food or junk food. Committing to a clean eating lifestyle, though, requires a little prep work and simplification to take the guesswork out of eating well.
- Before reaching for a processed food, ask whether you can enjoy it in its more natural form. For example, if you enjoy applesauce as a mid-morning snack, replace it with a fresh apple to reap all of the nutrients. While applesauce is less processed (and therefore, “cleaner”) than an apple pastry might be, it still doesn’t have as many nutrients and benefits of eating the whole, natural apple.
- Focus on how you feel when you eat clean. Rather than making a clean eating diet feel restrictive or punishing, focus on the positives you feel from eating whole, natural, nutrient-rich foods. Do you have more energy, less anxiety, or better sleep? The more you focus on the positives, the easier it will be to skip the drive through on your way home from work.
- Start slowly. Before you throw out everything in your pantry, begin slowly by just incorporating more fresh fruit and vegetables into your meals. The less processed food and added sugar you consume, the less you will crave these foods. Throwing out everything in your kitchen and diving in head first is a recipe for burnout before you even get started.
- Shop the grocery store perimeter and read labels. Most truly “clean” foods won’t have labels and you don’t have to worry about preservatives, chemicals, or added sugar. For those items that you must buy packaged, look at labels and make sure you can pronounce everything on the ingredient list. If you can’t decipher the words on the ingredient list, it’s not at all a “clean” food.
- Take advantage of local, fresh foods. Enjoying the local farmer’s market is a great way to ensure that your food is fresh and natural. When you’re on vacation, try to opt for what is fresh and in season in that particular locale. Fresh seafood on the beach or apples from the apple orchard are easy ways to add flavor without preservatives while you’re enjoying a vacation.
Have you ever tried eating clean or developed your own version of the theme? Share your own tips and tricks in the comment section below!