I’d definitely say I’m a clean eater, and eat this way about 99% of the time. I haven’t always been like this, but now that I’ve found what works, I’ve noticed a big change in my energy and how I feel after eating. Many people complain of fatigue and sleepiness after meals and it really has so much to do with diet. As do many things like being overweight, skin problems, health problems, and on and on.
To eat clean you don’t have to prepare all foods from scratch, eat all raw or organic, never eat out. It’s not about taking away but rather adding foods in. Eating clean all week allows me to take a cheat meal (right now it’s bbq chicken and goat cheese pizza) and it not be a big deal.
Some benefits from clean eating:
1. Weight control
2. Clearer skin
3. Less fatigue/more energy
4. Digestive problems have gone away (no gluten or cow’s dairy for me)
5. Less health problems
That’s just to name a few.
How to get started in clean eating:
1. Add in green stuff (think leafy green vegetables like collards, kale, broccoli, spinach, as well as other vegetables like okra, peas, sea vegetables, romaine, sprouts, cucumber, etc.) Vegetables are the most calorically dense foods and you should eat them in abundance (steamed, sauteed, baked, or raw is best; plain or with a little olive oil or coconut oil, hold the salt. Stay away from deep fried or ones that are breaded.)
2. Smoothies! Go for frozen fruit, and unsweetened vanilla or chocolate almond milk. Feel free to get a little fancy here adding in things like essential fatty acids (oil, ground flax, chia seeds, etc.), spices (cinnamon, cardamom), bee pollen, “superfoods” (acai, pomegranate, goji, etc.), green powders or greens (fruit helps mask the taste beautifully), and avoid adding any sugars…the fruit is sweet enough on its own!
3. Have at least one vegetable with each meal, and try to vary it up. They’re all different and have different vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Fresh or frozen (see #1 for ideas). Corn and potatoes really count more as starches than as vegetables.
4. Drink lots of water. Plain or with lemon. It helps clean the body and keeps you hydrated and less likely to snack or eat when you’re not really hungry. Hunger is often confused for thirst.
5. When buying packaged foods, keep the ingredient list short and make sure you can pronounce the ingredients.
6. Surround yourself with healthy foods, keep them within reach (especially for after work and after school snacks). Fresh fruits and vegetables (bananas, pre-chopped melon, berries, baby carrots, tomatoes, peas, hummus, hard-boiled eggs, Larabars or Pure Bars, homemade trail mix of raw unsalted nuts and no-sulphur dried fruits, etc.). Stock your fridge and freezer full of this stuff too.
7. Don’t keep offender foods around. That’s not to say don’t occasionally enjoy them. Just don’t leave them lying around on the counter. I’ve found that things in eye sight tend to be grabbed first, so if you’ve got boxes of cookies sitting on top of the fridge, you’ll be more temped to eat them than if they’re not there. Do still enjoy the occasional treat, but that’s what it is….a treat, not an everyday indulgence.
8. Cut the added sugars and go for naturally sweet foods like bananas, berries, peaches, apricots, papaya, sweet potatoes, and coconut. Cereals and condiments are especially bad at adding in lots of sugars. Avoid high-fructose corn syrup like the plague. If you like to sweeten your coffee or tea, slowly start to cut back how much you’re adding, and switch to stevia, but be wary of other added in ingredients. NuNaturals no-alcohol-added is a good one to start with.
9. Avoid artificial sugars. Your body is like a BMW and you only want to put the best fuel in to keep it running in pristine condition. The best fuel doesn’t include fake stuff. Opt for honey instead, or real cane sugar (rapidura, turbinado, raw sugar)…See #8 though! 😉
10. Go for dark chocolate (the higher the % cacao, the more antioxidants). Cacao is really great for you, but milk chocolate has too much added sugar and milk, and too little cacao. Go for dark chocolate and be wary of portion amounts!
11. Eat clean proteins (no hormones, no antibiots, no nitrates/nitrites, etc.). This includes: chicken breast, turkey, lean ground beef, bison, venison, ostrich, elk, wild fish (tuna, salmon, mahi mahi, halibut, sardines) – [farmed fish does not have the health benefits], shrimp, eggs, etc.
12. Eat healthy fats. Clean eating does not mean “fat-free.” In fact, fat-free foods are usually loaded up with sugar and salt to make them taste better. Your body needs fat to function, and eating fat doesn’t make you fat; eating too many carbs make you fat – it’s all about balance! Go for extra-virgin, cold-pressed oil (olive, coconut, sesame, avocado, almond, walnut, and other nut and seed oils), avocadoes, and nuts and seeds. Coconut oil is best for cooking, but olive oil is a good option too. Use the pricier dressings as a finishing touch on salads, steamed vegetables, or soups. Stay away from using too many vegetable oils because they will throw off your omega balance (they contain too many omega-6 fatty acids).
13. Go nuts for nuts. A handful is a good amount – go for raw, or roasted with no salt or sugar added. Almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts, and macadamia nuts. They’re great for you, help curb hunger, and are a good source of healthy fats.
14. Learn to cook and plan ahead. Now that I’m at my pharmacy rotations 40+ hours per week, planning and cooking ahead plays a huge role in helping me stay healthy. While everyone else runs to the vending machine for their afternoon pick-me-up, I grab one of my snacks out of my lunch bag (usually a smoothie, some trail mix, a Pure Bar/Larabar/Vega Vibrance bar, or some kind of crunchy vegetable with hummus. I do some prep work at the beginning of the week (chopping onions, and other vegetables), so that when I’m tired and I get home, it’s easy to throw together a stir fry or a salad. Start slow with cooking, if you’re just beginning – yes, it’s a little daunting, but you will start to learn what works together, what doesn’t, what temperatures to use, and how long to cook something.
15. Use herbs and spices! These brighten up all my meals. I love dousing my steamed broccoli in an all-purpose mix I have that combines some of my favorite herbs (rosemary, basil, oregano, black pepper, and others). Spices like curry and garam masala work really well on cauliflower. Or just go simple with some black pepper….no salt. 😉
16. Experiment and keep an open mind. Try one new fruit and/or vegetable per week, and if you don’t like it at first, give it another try later. I usually give something 2 chances, and if I don’t like it the 2nd time, I probably won’t like it.
17. Keep it simple!
Any clean eating tips you would add? What has clean eating done for you?