Clean Eating 101

clean eating

There’s a lot of catch phrases and hot topics right now floating around in the health and fitness world. Sometimes they are confusing to the average person just glancing at it on a magazine cover or hearing about it in a news story.

There’s one that always confused me until I dug into exactly what it meant.  I guess I should say sometimes these terms are confusing because it can vary person to person in EXACTLY what it means.. meaning it can be subjective to that person.

The Paleo movement for example is one of those things. It can vary in interpretation and ideas depending on the person following it… from basic to extreme.

The thing I want to focus on today is the “clean eating” idea. I want to also give you some tips and ideas if that is something you may want to pursue or experiment with.

Perhaps I want to simplify the idea for you to take confusion from it and perhaps paint a simpler idea of it.

First, let’s give it a definition.  Clean eating simply means to work on removing processed or junk type foods from your daily diet and simply learning to eat more whole, real single ingredient foods. It’s about making better and more nutritious choices for your body the majority of the time.

I will also suggest when you begin eating more whole, real foods you’ll feel better. You’ll be more energetic and will be less bloated. ( for the rest of my little story whole foods simply mean as close to how nature made them as possible… or 5 ingredients or less)

Clean eating is not meant to be restrictive or keep you hungry. It’s not about depriving yourself.  It’s about learning to eat good food.  To have an appreciation for it that leads to health and wellness.

Clean eating is  a way to stay lean, healthy, and energetic.  I’ve slowly evolved into it, although I’m not what I’d call “ridged” in the process.  ( hey I still like birthday cake and chocolate sometimes! Thing is… I just can’t eat much of it anymore… which isn’t a bad thing either. ) As I said, not restrictive.

For me, I still enjoy some treats in life but this is where clean eating comes in varying interpretations depending on the person. Some are extreme and wont touch sugar.  I’m not totally ready for that 😉

Over time, I’ve simply learned what makes me feel better and I have learned to eat that way more. Not just that, I’m more conscious of how good nutrition affects my strength and athletic abilities. Feeding my body healthy foods goes a long way to keeping me strong out on the road.

Clean eating also needs to be viewed simply as a “lifestyle” and not a diet or some trend fad thing to pursue for a few weeks.  Actually, if you do practice eating clean (er) for a few weeks I’m pretty sure you won’t want to revert back to your old ways 😉

Next, let’s establish that you can’t fail at it. Each time you make better food choices, you’re winning.  If you begin to make efforts to eat this way, and stay consistent, you will slowly but surely work your way to doing it more and more.

With those simple thoughts in mind let’s look at some steps towards doing it:

Learn to cook your own food at home. You can control what goes in it, and control the added sugar, salts, ingredients etc

Learn to read labels. It’s not complicated. Know what you’re eating. Look at the ingredient list. There shouldn’t be a mile long list of ingredients.

Again, learn to avoid processed foods. This is anything typically in a bag, box or otherwise.  It’s also any foods you buy at a drive thru or that are precooked. Foods typically that are high in saturated fats, salt, sugars, refined foods and in general foods that don’t offer much in the way of nutrition.  These foods are often referred to as “simple carbs”.

Limit unnecessary additives like fats, salt and sugars when looking at foods. It might seem hard in the beginning but I’ll tell you, your tastes will change! There are things now that taste so “off” to me because I don’t eat them anymore and it really clips my desire for those not so nutritional food offerings. Once you get on track eating whole food, you’ll find your tastes changing for the better 🙂

Learn to shop for healthy foods which are usually found on the perimeter of the grocery store.  Meats, fruits, veggies, dairy products, etc are all usually found in the outer portion of the store. Of course, you can also find good sources of fruits, veggies, beans etc in the canned aisle. Just be aware of what’s been added to it. Opt for low sodium options if available. Make sure fruits doesn’t have added sugar.

Don’t think you’re going to make changes all at once. Aim for small gradual improvements and make those a habit.  For instance if you drink 3-4 sodas a day, don’t think you’ll just cut those all at once… well… you could but you’d probably go crazy. Try reducing it by one and drinking water in place of it.  If you don’t eat a lot of veggies or fruit, try adding one or two new ones in at your meals. Just go slow and take small steps towards doing it.  Make those changes every day,

Your goal should be having at least 50% of your plate filled with fresh veggies and fruits.  These are nutrient dense, the fiber is filling, and they are low on calories. It’s a win for you in all directions. Not only that these foods are loaded with vitamins, minerals and nutrients that make your skin and hair look healthy.

Other things would include plenty of protein in the forms of lean meats, dairy, and veggie sources.

Whole grain products, beans, legumes etc are also filling and a good source of vitamins and minerals.

If you are new to this idea… start small, start slow, but start. Ideally you’ll want to work on reducing sugar, or junk food, or anything that doesn’t contribute to good health. Remember this isn’t a fad or a quick fix. It’s a move to a lifestyle of healthier eating.

You’ll learn to make new choices and intentionally think about what you put in your mouth.  And yes, it will have to be intentional.

For instance, instead of chips and a coke for an afternoon snack, you might grab some fruit and raw nuts. You learn to change out sour cream for Greek yogurt ( trust me, you wont tell the difference) Choose whole grains over white bread products. Cut back on sugar and creamers in coffee, reduce sugary drinks for water etc.

clean snacks

Avocado makes a great substitute for mayo, and you’ll be getting healthy fats in your daily diet.

In summary, clean eating is trying to eat in a healthy manner the majority of the time foods that are as close to natural as possible.  It is minimal to no sugar, saturated fats or refined processed foods.

Remember, there are all thoughts out there on what “clean eating”  is from extreme to modest.. none are “the best”.  It’s based on a personal preference and beliefs.  If you make choices to eat better foods, you are on the right track.

If you try this for a couple weeks, I know you will feel more energetic, less bloated and sluggish and on your way to a more permanent healthy lifestyle 🙂

Do you practice clean eating? Have you tried it before? Is it new to you ?