I’m sure you’ve heard the term “clean eating” a few times. But what exactly does clean eating mean? You might also be wondering if it’s just another diet that will leave you feeling like a failure because you can’t keep up with the rules and restrictions?
I’m breaking down the basics and giving you my seven guidelines for clean eating.
Let’s start with what clean eating is not.
It is not a diet with preset formulas that become so restrictive it’s almost suffocating. In fact, it’s not really a diet at all. Clean eating is more about a lifestyle change – a different way of thinking about the food you put into your body. The choice to pursue clean eating allows for flexibility in your diet that can be adapted to almost anyone’s routine or any dietary restrictions.
In my research, I came across this definition of clean eating:
“Clean eating is a deceptively simple concept. Rather than revolving around the idea of ingesting more or less of specific things (for instance, fewer calories or more protein), the idea is more about being mindful of the food’s pathway between its origin and your plate.”
Here are seven guidelines to help you in your journey towards clean eating.
No more processed food.
Replace processed foods (foods found in a box, bag, can, or package) with natural, whole foods that are minimally processed. However, things like bagged spinach or canned tomatoes are an exception.
Reaching for fresh foods as close to their natural state as possible will leave you feeling more satisfied in the long haul.
Eat more produce.
You’ve heard the phrase “Eat the rainbow,” right? Consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables throughout the day will ensure that your body is getting the nutrients it needs to sustain lasting energy and keep you strong and healthy.
Whole grains are your friend.
Just because something is advertised as “multigrain” doesn’t mean it’s a healthy option. Look for “whole grain” listed as the first ingredient and try to consume more unrefined grains, such as brown rice, millet, amaranth, and quinoa.
Nix the added and artificial sugars.
Giving your taste buds an overload of added sugars can become addicting. You know, the sugars found in baked goods or your favorite sweet drink. And don’t even get me started on artificial sugars – just consume the real thing in smaller quantities. Natural sugars from fruit, honey, maple syrup, and sugar cane juice are considered “clean” and can be a part of a healthy diet in moderation.
Be mindful of salt.
Most processed foods contain a high salt content, which is why many Americans are hooked on these foods, causing the good-for-you-foods to appear bland. But that’s not the case! By eliminating processed foods from your diet, you can reset your taste buds to enjoy the natural flavors of whole foods and ultimately, crave them.
Keep caffeine and alcohol to a minimum.
This is a tough one for me because one, I like my coffee in the morning (and most afternoons – who am I kidding?) and two, I like my wine. But in order to achieve clean eating most days of the week, I try to limit myself to one cup of coffee a day and save that glass of wine for the weekend. If I’m craving coffee in the afternoon, I often opt for hot green tea or a green smoothie instead.
Increase your water intake.
Drinking a lot of water throughout the day can be a challenge because you might find yourself getting up to go to the bathroom frequently. But look at this way – little breaks of movement throughout the day are good for you, so use them to your advantage.
It is recommended that adults consume eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. I make sure I have a water bottle with me at all times to help me keep my water intake up. Try some of these tips if you find yourself struggling to with your daily water intake.
With any healthy diet, it’s important to eat a balance of produce (fruits and vegetables), healthy fats, whole grains, and lean protein at every meal. And of course the occasional indulgence is encouraged, even by health experts!
I have found my journey towards clean eating a rewarding and simple one by focusing more on whole, fresh foods and less on those found with a long list of ingredients.