Ah… Clean eating. It’s about time this post came about! What is it? How do I do it? Why should I eat clean? What about when I eat out? These are questions I get asked often. Don’t be overwhelmed! I am going to attempt to answer all of your questions.
What is Clean Eating?
To begin, “eating clean” is not a fad diet. Rather, it is a philosophy that encourages YOU to be more aware of the foods you are consuming.
There is no specific science to it and no insane calorie restrictions. It is simple as this, when you begin to replace the processed and unhealthy foods from your diet with fruits, healthy fats, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins, your body will respond in remarkable ways.
The definition of clean eating varies from person to person; so take what you will from the core principle (below) and adapt it to your lifestyle.
My version: Clean eating went from a diet to a complete lifestyle for me. It is the way I approach food and the preparation of food. Overall, this has led me to improving every aspect of my life. For me, eating clean and getting my body to where I wanted it to be meant cutting out all gluten, grains, dairy, and soy. This may not be the case for you; you can eat clean regardless of what you choose to restrict from your diet! It’s about being aware.
Here is what you need to know… Clean eating is cutting out all processed foods and replacing them with whole foods. It is simple; you want to eat foods as close to their natural state as possible. I bet if you really look at the ingredients in some items in your kitchen, you’ll be very surprised at what some of the “healthy” products out there are filled with.
What foods are not considered “clean”?
- Foods that are processed or contain processed ingredients
- Foods loaded with preservatives
- Foods with added sugar
- Foods with high levels of bad fats (trans fats- cookies, cakes, chips, etc.)
- Foods that have been stripped of their nutritional value
- Foods that have been injected with chemicals and other additives
So… for example, consider replacing white flour, refined sugar, white bread, and enriched pastas with whole-wheat, brown rice, quinoa, and natural sugars such as raw honey and stevia.
Here’s the deal…
- Believe me, I know it’s hard in the beginning. We are used to eating bowls of cereal, drinking soda and sugary juices, and popping in a frozen meal for convenience. But ask yourself, how do you feel? If you are committed to cutting these things out of your diet, you will notice a difference in how you feel AND how you look.
“But it is expensive…”
- Actually, eating clean is not more expensive, it just requires more preparation. Often these whole foods are cheaper to buy than processed packaged foods are.
Where do I begin?
- Read your labels: ALWAYS! The shorter the ingredient list, the better. A general clean eating rule of thumb is to keep the ingredient list to as few ingredients as possible. If you can’t read or pronounce the ingredients, maybe it’s likely you shouldn’t be eating them, right?
- Don’t be fooled by what the food industry deems as “healthy” — you’ll often find it is quite the opposite.
- Get your family or roommates on board. Do yourself a favor and remove temptations from your kitchen.
- Shop local and organic whenever possible.
- Shop the perimeter of the supermarket; if something can sit on a shelf or in your cabinet for months or years, it is HIGHLY processed. Avoid it. (Yes ALL cereal is highly processed, you guys!)
- Check out my ultimate shopping list and my kitchen staples for my shopping guides.
Be Realistic… The 80/20 Approach:
- Nobody is expecting you to be 100% all the time! The 80/20 approach is simple; you are consistent with your eating and exercising 80% of the time. The other 20%…. Enjoy yourself. You can go out to dinner and have some of that birthday cake without feeling guilty. If you are eating a clean diet and living a healthy lifestyle 4 out of 5 days you are in good shape.
- So… treat yourself occasionally; but define what that means for you. Once a week? Once a month? Treating yourself every single day won’t get you to your goals; And just make sure that your treats aren’t you binging on all the things you’ve been good about all week! Figure out what works for you and stick to it. Remember- you are working at being consistent, not perfect!
- I know it may seem overwhelming. But start slow, you’ll get there!
- Meal Prep! Preparation is key. Make a meal plan for the week along with a shopping list. Prepare meals so you never have to resort to the vending machine.
- You don’t need to overdo it….
- It’s great if you’re eating vegetables, but if it’s covered in breadcrumbs and processed cheesed and baked for an hour it’s losing nutritional value. So what can you do? Keep it simple! Lightly steam or roast your veggie with a little extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, himalayan sea salt, and freshly ground pepper.
- You don’t have to eat boring! Experiment with spices. All my recipes use clean ingredients and are fully satisfying.
- Eat 5-6 small meals every 2-3 hours: Eating small meals frequently will help prevent energy crashes because you are stabilizing your blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar spikes, excess calories are stored more readily as body fat.
- Watch your portion size. Eating clean doesn’t mean eat as much as you want.
- Drink a lot of water!
How do I eat clean when I’m out?
- Guess what? You can eat out. No problem! Just be aware… What do I mean? Think about it! Yes, it may not be as 100% clean as a meal you would prepare at home. BUT, If you keep it simple and go with things like seafood, lean meats, and vegetables you’ll be in good shape. An extra plus if the restaurant serves grass-fed, organic meats and wild fish!
- I always ask how my food is prepared, and then I order it without sauces/more specifically cream sauces, cheese, breadcrumbs, and certain fats/oils. I always let the staff know about my food restrictions and most places are extremely accommodating. You’ll be feeling great when you leave the restaurant not having ordered that cream-based pasta dish and fried appetizer!
- Remember: You do not have to cut a million things out of your diet at once. Ease into it. You’ll constantly be learning more and feeling your body change in positive ways and you’ll want to continue! Make goals for yourself and be consistent; consistent does not mean you have to be perfect 100% of the time!
If you have further questions, feel free to email me at Lexiscleankitchen@gmail.com!