For most, clean eating is a relatively new buzz word in the world of healthy eating, although the term actually dates back to the natural health food movement of the 1960s. It evolved for the sake of moral and societal values rather than health and nutrition issues. Clean eating, is in part, a mindful eating strategy that will maintain a healthy lifestyle, rather than a way to fast track weight lose. It is not a “cut-it-all-out” scheme but very much a “cut-it-down” and think before you eat proposal.
In a nutshell, eating clean is a simple and healthy approach to eating. It is a deceptively simple concept. It’s a lifestyle, with built-in flexibility, meaning it can be adapted to fit most any kind of routine. Rather than being shaped around the idea of ingesting more or less of specific food stuffs (for example, fewer calories or more protein) the idea is to be more mindful of the food’s pathway from its source to your plate.
The term “clean eating” can cover a variety of ways of eating. At its simplest, it is about eating whole foods, or “real” foods. Foods that are minimally processed, refined, and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible. This can be a challenge with modern food production methods but in a clean eating environment you will find plenty of whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats. “Clean processed” foods also exist and include items such as plain yogurt, cheese, whole-wheat pasta, and packaged baby spinach
Additionally, clean eating is also about being considerate of the environmentally impact of how and where your food is produced. Choosing organic or grass-fed meat, and purchasing sustainably-caught or farmed seafood, makes your proteins a more environmentally-sound choice. Fruits and vegetables can be purchased organic, as well as local and in-season to help cut down on their carbon footprint.
For some at the more extreme end, to be a clean eater means only eating organically sourced foods and eliminating those that involve the killing of animals. However, even if you only take baby steps toward eating cleaner initially – cutting back on processed snacks, for example, by choosing to eat an extra serve of fruit or veggies – will still make a positive impact on your health. By reducing highly refined foods and swapping these out for more natural foods, you will, unsurprisingly, lose weight and keep it off long term.
Clean foods are usually naturally low in fat, salt and sugar and what you will notice in a clean eaters pantry, is the absence of refined grains, salt, alcohol and added sugars.
If you are keen on the concept of clean eating here are five suggestions to help you get started. Even if you do not adopt all the suggestions to the nth degree, moving in this direction can only help your wellbeing.
- Ditch the sugar. Cleaning up your diet means limiting sweets and products heavy with added sugars – including those from low fat (high carb) yoghurts and cereals. You don’t have to worry as much about naturally occurring sugars in fruit and dairy.They come packaged with fibre, protein or fat to help blunt the effect of sugar on insulin levels and also deliver nutrients so you’re not just getting empty, sugary calories.
- Limit your sodium intake, especially from processed foods and meats and the table salt added prior to the meal. Coarse sea salt or kosher salt, sprinkled on dishes at the end of cooking, contain less sodium (teaspoon for teaspoon) compared to table salt.
- Pick whole produce that is fibre rich. Fibre is great for gut health that keeps the good bacteria happy. Avoid drinking your calories through fruit and vegetable juice sources.
- Eat less meat or at any rate, chose meat that is lean and unprocessed. When you do eat meat, choose options that have lived and eaten like they would in the wild (think grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon). Clean eating also means cutting down on processed meats like cold cuts, bacon and sausage.
- Convenience food is still OK, sometimes, just make sure that what’s in that can or package is the real thing with few other added ingredients. Read the labels. More importantly if eating out, know what you are eating and choose wisely. Check what the ingredients are and do not eat “blindly”.
A final word. Don’t limit your new clean eating and life style to only food – clean up your whole act. Take on and expand your cleaner lifestyle by getting plenty of physical activity, get enough sleep at night, managing stress in healthy ways other than using alcohol and put down that device!