Eating clean is eating whole foods, and thereby avoiding processed and junk food. Eating clean is great because:
- Eating clean helps to maintain a healthy weight, which in turn reduces the risk of disease and illness.
- You are eating a variety of foods with a variety of essential nutrients and minerals.
- You are also getting a great combination of micronutrients from this variety of food, which helps to reduce your cholesterol level and regulate your blood sugar.
- The whole foods you are eating keeps your hunger at bay, so you are less tempted to eat snacks and foods with empty calories.
- The whole foods you are eating are also full of insoluble fiber, so it helps keep your digestive system performing at its best.
- Avoiding artificial ingredients in processed food keeps your body working efficiently.
Easy Ways to Eat Clean
Eat your veggies
Vegetables, in its unprocessed, raw form, are a great source of vitamins and fiber while low in calories. The recommended daily amount for adults is 2.5 to 3 cups. Juicing vegetables is a great way to achieve your daily amount, or try adding peppers, onions and broccoli to your whole-wheat pasta.
Say no to (refined) sugar
Refined sugar is very processed, and therefore, not clean. Limit your intake of baked goods, soda and candy. Yogurt, tomato sauce and cereal seems like great clean choices, but make sure you read the label to see how much sugar is really in these packages. If you have a sweet tooth, reach for fruits, which have “good” sugar.
Limit processed foods
Processed foods are a haven for sugar, fat, sodium and a bunch of ingredients you can’t pronounce. Instead of reaching for these unhealthy pre-packaged meals and snacks, make your own from scratch. Love those frozen chicken fingers? Easily make a healthier version by baking chicken breast cutlets, dipped in egg batter and rolled in breadcrumbs made from ground-up day-old bread and salt-free seasonings. Or make sloppy joes in no time by cooking ground beef, tomato sauce and spices on low in a crockpot. Please note that not ALL packaged foods are bad. Check the labels. Frozen spinach and canned chickpeas are “clean” food sold in packages. Although processed, they still have a lot nutrients intact.
Keep your food salt-free
As mentioned above, processed foods are full of sodium. When you’re cooking from scratch, use herbs, spices, vinegar and citrus to flavor your snacks and meals instead of salt or soy sauce.
Say yes to whole grains
With whole grains (compared to refined grains), bran and germ are not removed, which keeps the nutrients in the grain. In packaged foods with grains, make sure the word “whole” is in the ingredient list. Quinoa, oats and brown rice are also clean, although they don’t require the word “whole” before them. Studies have shown that those who eat whole grains are more likely to have lower body mass indexes (BMI) and less belly fat than people who eat refined grains.
Focus on healthy fats
Eating clean doesn’t mean cutting out fat. Actually, any healthy diet should include some healthy fats such as olive oil and the fat found in nuts and fish. These kinds of fats are great for your heart and raise your “good” cholesterol. “Bad” fat is usually solid at room temperature, so avoid anything that seems to congeal if you leave it out. Incorporate healthy fats by replacing mayo-based dressings with vinaigrettes and use avocado or peanut butter instead of cream cheese.
Eat less meat
Eating less meat means eating less saturated fat (see above). A serving size of meat is about the size of a deck of cards. In Western cultures, we are eating way more than that in a sitting. Besides limiting your meat intake, try incorporating vegetarian proteins (beans, tempeh and tofu) into your diet.
Lower your alcohol intake
No, you don’t have to stop drinking, but you should keep your alcohol intake to a moderate level. That means one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. Studies have linked moderate alcohol intake to benefit your heart, but excess alcohol dehydrates you and is empty in calories. Keep your alcoholic beverage clean by ordering drinks without added sugar.