The latest buzz amongst the health-conscious, “Clean Eating,” is a concept that stresses on consuming healthier, whole, unprocessed foods. And, although the phrase is relatively new, the principles of this plan are not.
The principles are based on current nutrition science and are similar to recommendations made by public health organizations. This sound approach to eating and living well maximizes your energy and optimizes your health, making it more than just a diet. It’s a lifestyle, with built-in flexibility – meaning it can be adapted to fit most any kind of routine. So while my idea of ‘Clean Eating’ might differ slightly from your idea of ‘Eating Clean’, the core principle behind the approach still stays the same.
“Clean Eating” dates back to the natural health food movement of the 1960s, which shunned processed foods for the sake of moral and societal values (rather than health and nutrition issues). Eventually it landed in gyms, where it gained momentum among body builders and fitness models. Recently, however, it has come alive again, rejuvenating and inspiring a new generation of healthy eaters.
Today the concept of clean eating has became more refined and developed. Here are the 8 core principles of Clean Eating that are worth following:
1. Choose whole, natural foods and seek to eliminate or minimize processed foods
Processed foods are anything in a box, bag, can, or package, and although there are always a few exceptions to the rule (like a bag of fresh green beans), the majority of your foods should be fresh. Most processed food has added preservatives and chemicals to increase shelf life, and these are undesirable if you want to eat clean and lead a healthy, holistic life.
2. Choose to eat local produce that respects seasonal changes
We live in a society where we no longer respect seasons. Most people have completely lost touch with the idea of eating with the seasons, and because of that we’re losing the nutrition in these foods due of the lack of freshness and the time spent in transit. Strive to lean towards the foods that are available locally and seasonally. That means you don’t have to buy special ‘Organic’ food just to ensure that your food contains no preservatives, chemicals and pesticides. If you shop at the local farmer’s market rather than at a high-end grocery store, chances are that you will only come across seasonal food. Imagine the seasons as cycles that our bodies go through – roots in the winter can warm you up, young tender greens and shoots in the spring to awaken your body, juicy fruits and vegetables in the summer to cool you off, and feasting in the fall to prepare your body for another winter. Many foods that are harvested for shipping all over the world are intentionally picked under ripe and sometimes sprayed with chemicals to maintain their freshness. And by eating only what is in season, you can avoid that!
3. Choose unrefined over refined foods
While it may not be possible all the times, you can up your intake of whole grains like brown rice, millet, amaranth, and quinoa. Beans and legumes are also important. Clean sugars include honey, maple syrup, and dehydrated sugar cane juice. Refined foods have most of the nutrition and fiber value stripped away in order to make the food more palatable and longer lasting. And since the aim here is to Eat Clean, its best to eat unprocessed, as close to natural state as possible.
4. Watch out for fat, salt, and sugar
This is easier than you think, particularly if you’ve cut out processed foods, which are responsible for most of our excess calories and high levels of fat, sugar, and salt. Think a bag of chips or frozen packed of barbecued ribs? Clean foods are usually naturally low in all of these ingredients. However, as long as you use ‘Clean’ ingredients to make your food fresh every day, you don’t have to worry much about not eating enough fat, sugar or salt.
5. Include some protein, carbohydrate and fat at every meal
Most of us typically do well with carbohydrates and fat, but we often lack protein, especially in the early part of the day, like at breakfast and lunch. Protein is an important muscle-builder, and it can also help curb your appetite. When eaten throughout the day, it keeps us feeling full longer. A word of caution here – Be aware of the kinds of meals you put together and space out your protein. Not all protein is created equal, so make your choice a little more wisely.
6. Don’t drink your calories
High calorie drinks like specialty coffees and soft drinks, on average, tack on an extra 400 to 500 calories a day. Choose water first or unsweetened tea (any flavor). Other clean drinks worth trying are: low-fat or skim milk, buttermilk, lemonade sweetened with honey and 100 percent fruit juice diluted with sparkling water.
7. Eat five to six small meals throughout the day
This usually pans out into three main meals and two or three hefty snacks. Eating this way prevents you from skipping meals and overeating. It also keeps your blood sugar levels steady so energy doesn’t lag and you stay active and productive all day long. However, the ‘snacks’ do not mean packaged snacks but rather wholesome foods – bowls of fresh salad, some fresh green grapes in a bowl of fresh yogurt, a handful of nuts or a crisp apple are all good options.
8. Focus on Nutrients
Most people focus on calories and not nutrients. That approach is redundant, because as long as you eat healthy nutritious food, a good workout should keep you in shape. Regular physical activity is a must for many reasons. Not only does it decrease fat, strengthen and build muscle, and help you burn more energy even while resting, it also keeps your heart, lungs, and bones healthy and strong. So don’t worry about calories all the time, concentrate on getting high nutritional value from all food you eat so that you have stable blood sugar levels, more energy and more happiness in life!
Getting clean might just mean tweaking what you’re doing now, or it might require you to turn over a whole new leaf. Either way, it’s definitely WORTH THE EFFORT. So, Eat Clean, Get Lean!
If you are interested in clean eating, you might also like to read: Organic And Natural Foods: The Better Choice Or Just a Pricey Fad?