You may have read the term clean eating in web articles about nutrition. But what exactly does that mean? It's another way of saying eat healthy, fresh foods and avoid or reduce intake of processed foods. Clean eating is common sense eating. It doesn't mean giving up meat or animal products, it means being more responsible and choosing grass fed beef instead of cheap, packaged meats; wild-caught fish instead of factory farmed fish, and organic poultry without the skin. It means taking responsibility for your health by making intelligent choices regarding what you eat and drink.
Stock Up on Fresh Foods Instead of Junk Food
Even if you grew up on junk food and restaurant meals, it's easier to change your eating habits than you think. Start with tweaks to your diet and build from there. Reduce portions of unhealthy foods and include a salad or grilled fish for dinner. Bring an apple to snack on at work instead of buying cookies from the vending machine. As you introduce more fresh, unprocessed foods to your diet, you'll feel more energetic. Exercise will no longer be a chore, and you'll actually enjoy the physical activity that drained you when you ate an unhealthy diet.
A clean diet fuels your body with proteins, healthy fats and other nutrients you need to recover faster after an intense workout. Research has shown study subjects who ate a kiwifruit right before bed fell asleep 35% faster and slept longer. You'll pay fewer visits to the dentist because you won't eat as much added sugar, and you'll have clearer skin once you abstain from greasy foods.
Reduce or Avoid Consumption of Sugar, Salt and Bad Fats
Excessive amounts of salt, sugar, preservatives and bad fats reduce the nutritional value of food. The ingredients that make junk food taste so good strip nutrients from food, add calories and increase your chances of developing cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Don't add salt to food you prepare at home, and avoid potato chips and other high-sodium snacks. Use spices to flavor meals and side dishes. After using cayenne pepper, turmeric, thyme, basil, garlic and rosemary to spice up dishes, you won't miss salt-drenched junk food.
Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners
Cut down on sugar. The American Heart Association recommends women consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day; for men, the limit is 9 teaspoons. Sugar is listed by many other names on ingredient labels, including beet sugar, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, saccharose, sweet sorghum, and sucrose.
Sugar substitutes are just as bad for you as sugar. Studies show drinking diet soda or eating foods made with aspartame and other artificial sweeteners can cause weight gain, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Learn to enjoy desserts flavored with cinnamon, ginger, vanilla and other sweet spices. Drink water to stay hydrated instead of soda, and sweeten tea with honey.
Play It Safe – Avoid GMOs
Look for the non-GMO label on boxes and cans. Scientists create genetically-modified organisms (GMO) foods by inserting genes from one plant into another plant. Many holistic health advocates believe the herbicides and pesticides sprayed on GMO crops are harmful and may cause cancer or autism. Genetic modification may increase the amount of allergens in a treated food.
According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 57% of adults in the U.S. believe GMOs are unsafe, while 88% of scientists belonging to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) believe genetic engineering of the food supply is safe. GMO foods haven't been around long enough for there to be any conclusive, independent studies on its safety. (The first GMO food appeared on store shelves in 1994.) Protect your health and play it safe - eat organic fruits and vegetables and packaged foods made with all-natural ingredients.
Clean Eating - The Good News
Everything you need for a clean diet is in your local supermarket. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads, unsalted nuts, dairy products, fresh fish, poultry, beef and spices. If you have access to a health food store and farmer's market, it will increase your choices. To make shopping easier, make a list of clean foods to take with you to the store.
Clean Eating - The Bad News
You'll need to cook. Unless you're content to eat a raw food diet, you'll have to spend time in the kitchen. If you're used to eating out or ordering pizza, cooking may seem daunting at first. You won't need many cooking utensils to make simple meals. A few pots and pans, cutlery, measuring cups and spoons, a can opener, rubber and metal spatulas, a ladle, cutting board and gratter are enough to get you started. As you become more confident about your cooking, you can add bakeware, a crockpot, a blender, juicer, food processor and rice cooker.
When you prepare your own meals, you'll discover a new world of fresh, delicious foods. If family members are joining you on your sojourn into clean eating, shopping and preparing meals together can be fun and bring you closer after a long day at work or school. Instead of spacing out in front of the TV with high-calorie take-out food, prepare a light, nourishing meal and socialize with your spouse and/or children.
Here are a few simple recipes for lunch or dinner:
If you think the only acceptable dinner salad consists of lettuce, tomatoes and a few tablespoons of Thousand Island dressing, you're in for a surprise. A fresh pineapple and avocado salad entices your taste buds and supplies plenty of Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin C, fiber and folate (vitamin B9). Dip avocado slices in olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and ground pepper, and top with fresh pineapple and onions. Another simple side dish, roast broccoli with olive oil, chili powder garlic and black pepper
For a main dish, try marinated salmon with mango-kiwi relish Salmon has Omega 3's like avocado, plus Vitamin D, selenium and niacin (Vitamin B3). It will only take a few minutes to combine honey, olive oil, black pepper and low-sodium soy sauce into a marinade and soak the salmon in it. Gill the fish over medium heat, and add the relish.
Doesn't that sound a lot tastier than another fast-food burger?
Most recipes take a few minutes to half-hour to prepare, so even if you're tired and hungry after work, you'll still get dinner on the table in no time.
A few tips for fast, healthy cooking:
- Use extra-virgin olive oil instead of vegetable oil or butter to grease pans. Olive oil is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats. A staple of the Mediterranean Diet, it may lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of stroke, breast cancer and depression. A Spanish study showed participants who fried foods in olive oil didn't raise their risk of heart disease.
- Even if you use olive oil, don't make frying foods a daily habit. Roast, bake, steam or grill food to avoid adding fat and calories to meals.
- Buy choice or select cuts of beef and trim fat before cooking. Choose light-colored turkey or chicken breast and remove skin for a healthier meal.
Clean Eating and Weight Loss
You'll naturally keep weight off if you adhere to a clean diet. Once you keep high-calorie processed and sugary foods off your plate (or relegate them to a once in awhile treat), it'll be easier to maintain a desirable weight. And you won't need to go traditional weight loss diets. It will take awhile for you to lose excess weight once you change over to clean eating, but the weight will stay off as long as you avoid returning to your old habits.
Clean foods are nutrient dense and contain fewer calories than most packaged snack. This helps you with weight loss and maintenance while satisfying between-meal hunger. Substitute Spicy Baked Chickpeas for corn chips or pretzels. The cayenne pepper, olive oil and garlic powder used have anti-inflammatory qualities and will jazz up your taste buds, while chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) are high in fiber and muscle-boosting magnesium. And for a quick, spicy dinner, put some shredded chicken and salsa in a slow cooker in the morning and enjoy the finished product when you get home.
Healthy, Packaged Foods Do Exist
Not all packaged foods are bad for you. Some health-conscious companies use only natural ingredients and replace sugar, sodium and refined flour with wholesome alternatives. Read ingredient labels and avoid buying products containing high-fructose corn syrup and other sugars.
Replace instant oatmeal with all-natural brands of steel-cut oats, groat, quinoa or organic kasha, generic dairy products with organic milk, yogurt and Greek yogurt, and junk food snacks with dried fruit and unsalted nuts. Trader Joe's and Whole Foods stock many healthy packaged foods. If you prefer to do some of your food shopping online, check out Amazon.com's food and spice section for healthy items not stocked in your local market.
Buy Frozen Fruits and Vegetables Instead of Canned
If fresh fruits and veggies are too expensive for you, buy the frozen version. Frozen produce is sent to the processing plant right after it's picked, and it's frozen when while still fresh, with vitamins and minerals intact.
Canning veggies and fruits extends their shelf life. It doesn't affect the fiber or nutritional content of produce, but canned vegetables may contain salt for added flavor and calcium chloride to retain shape. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables for immediate consumption, and fill your fridge with frozen produce to cook weeks or even months later. Canned fruits and veggies aren't as desirable, due to the use of BPA in cans, but they still retain the nutrients you need for better health.
Clean eating is just like exercising, studying or any other good habit. It may take awhile for you to get used to it, but once you do, you'll wonder why you didn't start sooner. Eating fresh, whole foods offers ongoing health benefits to help maintain your ideal weight and live a happier, fuller life.
Boost the vibrant effects of clean eating by including Revv Natural Energy Supplement from Wheatgrass Love as part of your healthy new lifestyle. This good-tasting chocolate mint wafer contains wheatgrass, B-complex vitamins, choline and L-taurine to skyrocket your energy.
What is your favorite “clean eating” recipe? Let us know in the comment section.