Easy Clean Eating for Healthy Living
By now you’ve probably heard the phrase “clean eating”, but do you know what it actually is or how to go about using it as a way of eating?
Eating clean isn’t really a new way of eating. In fact, it’s eating in a way that our ancestors did by eating all natural whole foods. Eating clean is about eating the best and healthiest options in all the food groups while eliminating processed, sugary and fatty fried foods. The clean eating way of eating means embracing fruits, vegetables and whole grains as well as healthy proteins and fats.
Eating clean isn’t necessarily a diet. It’s more a way of eating. But, by eating this way, you do lose weight and become healthier.
Eating clean is more than eating fruits, vegetables and salads. It’s about eating food that is whole and in its most natural state.
The average American diet has been filled with processed foods, sugary sweets and fried fatty foods for many years. It’s led to a nation of people that are overweight, diabetic and have heart disease.
According to Fitness.gov (Source: http://www.fitness.gov/resource-center/facts-and-statistics/), the typical American diet exceeds the recommended intake levels or limits in four categories: calories from solid fats and added sugars, refined grains, sodium, and saturated fat.
- Americans eat less than the recommended amounts of vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, dairy products, and oils.
- About 90% of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet.
- Reducing the sodium Americans eat by 1,200mg per day on could save up to $20 billion a year in medical costs.
Healthy eating can reduce the risk of chronic illness and disease including the three leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer and stroke.
- 37 percent of Americans have cardiovascular disease.
- 34 percent of U.S. adults have hypertension, which is a major risk factor for stroke and heart disease.
- 36 percent of American adults have prehypertension — blood pressure numbers that are higher than normal, but not in the hypertension range yet.
- 41 percent of the population will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.
And the World Health Organization states that at least 80 percent of all heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes, and up to 40 percent of cancer could be prevented if people ate better, engaged in more physical activity and quit using tobacco.
That’s where clean eating comes in. Eating foods that are natural, unprocessed and whole provides the nutrients you need, without adding extra sugar, sodium or unhealthy fats. In this guide you will learn what clean eating is and its benefits and you. There are tips for easing into a clean eating lifestyle as well as recipes for getting you started.
What Is Clean Eating?
Clean eating started gaining popularity back in the mid-1990’s. Consumers were starting to pay attention to how foods were processed and grown. Health food stores were becoming more mainstream. Today, clean eating or eating clean is a way of life for many people of all walks of life.
Clean eating means everything from eating more fruits and vegetables to eliminating all processed foods. Basically, it means to eat whole foods. So instead of eating a banana nut muffin, eat a banana and nuts instead. It means using foods that have only all natural ingredients.
One way to replace those processed foods is to make homemade versions. Everything from energy bars to salad dressings can be created with whole natural ingredients at home. Clean eating recipes can be found for just about everything, from five-ingredient ice cream to homemade baby food and pickled veggies.
Whole natural foods provide the necessary vitamins, minerals and nutrients needed for the body to function at its best. Nutrients are the foundation for the structure and function of our body’s cells. The health and the way these cells function is determined directly by what you eat.
Eating clean gives you clearer skin, more energy, shinier hair and better sleep and moods as well as less aches and pains and clearer thinking.
Here are the basics of clean eating:
- Nothing white. No sugar, no white flour (bread, pasta, etc), and no white rice. The only white allowed is white vegetables. Read labels and ingredient lists.
- No alcohol.
- Only healthy sources of fats. Fats olive oil, coconut oil and nut oils are perfect. Fish and other foods rich in omega-3 fat are good sources.
- Lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean meats.
Clean eating isn’t a fad diet. It’s a common-sense approach to eating for a healthy lifestyle. It’s something everyone can do by choosing a variety of whole, unrefined foods in as close to their natural state as possible.
Benefits of Clean Eating
Now that you know what clean eating is, you might be wondering what the benefits of eating clean are. Well, there are many. Let’s take a look.
- You’ll feel better. It’s simple, really. Eating foods that are healthy and natural will make you feel better. Whole vegetables, fruits and lean proteins balance your energy levels, which leaves you feeling great all day. When you eat clean, you are able to absorb nutrients better and your energy levels skyrocket.
- Healthy foods promote cell growth, which in turn makes your skin, hair and nails stronger, shinier and healthier.
- You’ll maintain a healthy weight. Eating clean is the best way to sustain a healthy weight. You lose weight by eating a diet high in vegetables, fruits, lean meats and whole grains.
- You will build up your immune system. For a strong immune system, you need nutritious foods. Eating clean provides them. Building your immune system through clean eating allows the body to fight of illnesses more naturally and recover more quickly.
- Your thinking becomes clearer. Processed and junk food clouds you mind and can make you feel sluggish. On the other hand, eating clean, whole foods high in healthy fats like Omega 3 fatty acids keeps your brain functioning at peak ability. Your brain needs a balance of nutrients like proteins and healthy fats to function properly. Foods like spinach, kale, broccoli, beets, bell peppers and eggplants are rich in high level antioxidants. Prunes, raisins, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, grapes and cherries protect the brain cells. Salmon and tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and nuts boost Vitamin E levels.
- Boost energy levels. Clean foods boost energy with foods that slowly release natural sugar. People often turn to caffeine and sugar for a quick energy boost. This type of boost is actually a quick spike in your blood sugar that’s just a quickly followed by a crash. Foods that create a gentle and steady release of sugar include fruit combined with oatmeal or yogurt, cheese and natural crackers, apple slices and peanut butter or cottage cheese with veggies.
- You’ll experience better sleep. The vitamins and minerals found in natural foods allow your body to regulate hormonal functions during the day, allowing you to sleep deeper at night. Clean eating foods calm your nervous system and trigger sleep hormones that help you rest better at night.
Are you ready to feel the benefits of eating clean? Not sure how to fit it into your lifestyle? Read on for ways to incorporate it into a busy lifestyle.
Incorporating into a Busy Lifestyle
We all know that our lifestyles are busy. Who has time to make everything you eat from scratch every day? I mean, with work and family obligations, your time is already filled. So how can you incorporate clean eating into it? Here are some tips to help you out.
Begin by making the commitment. Make a menu plan.
Then to make it easier every day, you need to plan out your meals for the week. This is where a weekly or monthly meal plan comes in handy. A meal plan needs to include all meals as well as any snacks you plan to have during a day.
Take one day a week to create a month’s worth of meals. Get out your cookbooks and online recipes to put together your favorite meals. Once you’ve done this for a month or two, it’ll get easier. You can simply interchange the menus you’ve already created with a few different meals.
Include some protein, healthy carbohydrate and fat at every meal. Protein is an important muscle builder that helps curb your appetite.
Next you’ll need to stock your pantry and fridge. This is where you need a master shopping list.
This means adding lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats such as chicken breasts and fish to your fridge.
Keep frozen fruits and vegetables that are all natural, meaning they haven’t been packed in added sugar or salt on hand. It’s a good idea to have clean eating foods on hand in your freezer for those extra busy times when you don’t have time to run to the store for fresh foods.
Take advantage of a local butcher. A local butcher has fresh meats on display so you know exactly what you’re getting. An even better idea is to get to know your local farmers through the farmer’s market. They’re never reluctant to share with you how they grow and feed their animals.
Here’s a basic grocery list to get you started:
When you’re just starting out with clean eating, you may be intimidated on where to start. A good rule is to shop the perimeter of the store. This is a simple list for beginners. Adjust it for what’s available in your area.
Look for brands that have whole grains and are clean. Trader Joes brand of whole grain breads and Ezekial brand breads are a couple of suggestions.
Tortillas (make your own)
Dairy & Non-Dairy:
- Milk – Raw milk is the cleanest milk but may be hard to find. Organic, full fat milk is the next best thing.
- Yogurt – Always opt for plain Greek yogurt when you can.
- Cheese, in moderation only. Make sure it’s real cheese. Avoid pre-shredded.
- Unsweetened almond milk. Check the ingredients. It’s best to make your own.
- Unsweetened coconut milk. This is the kind that comes in the cans, NOT the stuff in the cartons.
- Chicken & Turkey (not deli meat)
- Beef can be part of a clean eating diet so long as you choose grass fed and humanely raised beef. Venison and bison have a similar flavor to beef.
- Pork. Avoid processed pork like ham, bacon or any other processed pork.
- Fish is considered clean, just be aware of the mercury found in most fish.
Stock up here. The produce section will be where you load up. One point of caution: don’t buy more than you can use in a week unless you plan on preparing and freezing some of it. You don’t want it to go to waste.
Any fresh fruit you enjoy. Fruits include:
- Berries of all kinds
- Star fruit
All fresh veggie you enjoy. Veggies include:
- Carrots, Celery
- Bell Peppers, all colors
- Any variety squash
- Kale, Spinach
- Chard, Collard greens
- Green beans
- Sweet potatoes
- Onions of any variety
- Green tea, Coffee
- Plain Oatmeal. Choose steel cut oats or traditional rolled oats. Quick oats are best used for baking.
- Canned items with no added sugar or sodium.
- Dry beans and legumes including lentils, black beans, chickpeas.
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat or whole grain (like brown rice) pasta
- Other whole grains such as barley
- Nuts, seeds such as Quinoa, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chia or flaxseed.
- Ketchup. Find a clean ketchup.
- Mustard. Look for ones without added sugar or choose Dijon.
- Honey, Pure Maple Syrup, Molasses.
- Spices. Never purchase seasoning packets.
- Whole wheat flour, Whole wheat pastry flour for baking, White whole wheat flour, Coconut flour, Almond Flour, or other gluten free flours.
When you bring home your foods from your shopping trip, it’s a good time to prepare it. Chop veggies and put into containers so they are ready to grab when need them. Marinate your chicken breasts in individual zip bags a few days before you are going to cook them.
Divide meat into the size of portions you need for each meal. Label everything well.
Consider making items ahead, like whole wheat pie crusts for fixing a quick quiche at the last minute or have clean eating pizza dough made ahead of time for a fast pizza.
Make your own junk food. Really, you can have potato chips if you make your own using clean ingredients.
Cook wild rice and brown rice up in a big pot and divide into individual servings in bags and freeze them. That way you have a microwavable rice bag ready to go.
Prep on the weekend for seamless weeknight meals. Precook proteins and grains like quinoa for quick additions to salads. Make a large container of salad dressing to be used all week.
Make freezer meals ahead of time. Take one weekend and make up a week’s or a month’s worth of meals you can freeze. Then simply take out the night before, thaw in the refrigerator and heat up the next day. Another option is to create crock pot meals. Assemble as much of the ingredients as possible and freeze in bags. Add to the crockpot for a wonderfully easy dinner ready when you get home. Search out recipes and tips online for ideas to use all those healthy ingredients.
Fitting a clean eating habit into a busy lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to make drastic changes in your life. It simply means taking a little extra time once a week or so to prepare your foods so they are ready when you need them.
Tips for Clean Eating
Maybe you’re ready to jump in to clean eating full steam. That’s great. But you might want to give yourself a little time to adjust. It can be a huge change for some people. Keep in mind that most recipes can be adapted to a clean eating plan.
For instance, you can have your pizza, cookies, ice cream and even cake or doughnuts as long as they are made with clean eating ingredients. Here are a few more tips to go clean.
- Limit processed food. This is probably one of the biggest changes in your diet. Processed foods are loaded with hidden sugars, sodium, unhealthy fats and preservatives. Clean foods are whole foods without added ingredients.
- Watch out for fat, salt, and sugar. Clean foods are usually naturally low in all of these ingredients.
- Don’t drink your calories. Reduce alcohol, sugary soft drinks and specialty coffees. Water should be your first choice. Other clean drinks include 100 percent fruit juice diluted with sparkling water.
- Eat more vegetables and fruit. Add veggies to everything. Spinach can be added to smoothies. Add sweet potatoes to brownies. Add all natural applesauce to cakes and other baked goods instead of oil. Mash cauliflower instead of potatoes. Add shredded carrots to turkey burgers. Sneaking nutrient rich vegetables and fruit into everyday foods is also a great way to get picky eaters (kids) to eat more of veggies and fruit.
- Choose whole grains/nix refined grains. Choose unrefined over refined foods like brown rice, millet, amaranth, and quinoa. Clean sugars include honey, maple syrup, and dehydrated sugar cane juice.
- Eat the right portions. Your plate should have more fruit and veggies than protein and grains.
Eating clean doesn’t have to be difficult or feel like a science experiment. Common sense is a lot of it. Doing away with anything processed or with added ingredients is the main thing to remember.
How to Make Any Recipe Clean
Let’s say you have a favorite family recipe for mac and cheese. Is it off limits now? No. I believe most recipes can be converted to a clean eating plan. It may take some experimentation and some time. Want to try it? Here are some basic guidelines for making clean substitutions.
Substitute the white stuff. Sugar can be substituted as long as you have a kitchen scale. Weigh the amount of sugar called for and then use the same weight in natural liquid sweetener like honey.
Brown sugar isn’t a clean option. It’s simply white sugar with molasses.
To substitute unhealthy oil for cooking, use a small amount of olive oil, say 1 Tablespoon, and replace the rest with chicken broth.
Replace oil in baking with no sugar added applesauce and fruit puree like pumpkin. Add extra spices and extracts to taste.
White flour can be replaced in both baking and thickening sauces. Use whole wheat pastry flour in baking or use whole grain flours.
For pasta dishes, use whole grain pastas instead of those made with white flour.
As with any recipe, exchanges and substitutions may change the texture and flavor. Have fun and experiment until you get one that you love.