You may have heard the phrase “clean eating,” but do you know what it actually is or how to go about using a clean eating plan for weight loss?
I sure didn’t.
Clean eating isn’t a new way of eating. It’s a label for what many of us have been doing. Actually not enough of us.
It’s eating in a way that our ancestors did by eating all natural whole foods. Eating clean is about cutting processed foods out of our diet. It is also eliminating sugar-laced and fatty fried foods. And eating the best and healthiest options in all the food groups. This means embracing fruits, vegetables and whole grains as well as healthy proteins and fats.
Eating clean is not a diet. It’s more a lifestyle.
When you think of a diet, you think of counting calories and measuring food quantities.
But, by eating clean, you do lose weight and become healthier. When I eliminated processed foods in 2015, I lost 25 pounds in 90 days.
Note: While eating clean includes whole grains, I eliminated all breads for 90 days. And I love bread! So that was difficult for me.
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 American diet includes too much processed food, sugar, and fried fatty foods. It’s led to a nation of people that are overweight, diabetic and have heart disease.
According to Fitness.gov, 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 recommended for a healthy diet.
Reducing the sodium by 1,200mg per day on average could save up to $20 billion a year in medical costs.
Healthy eating can reduce the risk of chronic illness and disease. These include 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 higher than normal, but not in the hypertension range yet.
- 41 percent of the population will have 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 is preventable. 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 gained popularity back in the mid-1990’s. Consumers were starting to pay attention to processed foods. Health food stores were becoming more popular.
The food industry was changing with the times, too.
I remember back in the 80’s Kellogg’s renamed their cold cereal product “Sugar Pops” to “Corn Pops.” Same thing with “Sugar Smacks.” It became “Honey Smacks!”
Only the name changed. It was still unhealthy.
Today, clean eating or eating clean is a way of life for many people of all walks of life.
Clean eating is everything from eating more fruits and vegetables to eliminating all processed foods. 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. Use whole natural ingredients to make everything from energy bars to salad dressings. There are clean eating recipes for five-ingredient ice cream to homemade baby food.
Whole natural foods provide important vitamins, minerals, and nutrients needed. Nutrients are the foundation for our cell structure and function. What we eat determines health and the way these cells function.
Benefits of eating clean include clearer skin, more energy, shinier hair, and better sleep. It also includes fewer 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 like 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.
Note: I have modified the basics. I eat white rice once in awhile as it is easy to digest. But I do limit the portion size. Also, I include a glass of wine with my meals on occasion. I also eliminated breads (whole grains) for 90 days in the beginning. I did this to check my tolerance for wheat.
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. Select minimally processed foods as often 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.
- First of all, you will lose weight by eliminating highly processed foods.
- You’ll feel better. It’s simple. Eating healthy foods will make you feel better. Whole vegetables, fruits and lean proteins balance your energy levels. And leave 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. So your skin, hair, and nails are 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. Clean eating improves the ability to fight off illnesses and recover faster.
- Your thinking becomes clearer. But, eating clean keeps your brain functioning at peak ability. Clean eating provides your brain with the balance of nutrients to function. Foods like spinach, kale, broccoli, beets, bell peppers and eggplants are rich in 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 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 as quickly followed by a crash. There are clean food snacks that create a gentle and steady release of sugar. These include fruit combined with yogurt, cheese and natural crackers. Other examples are 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 levels. They can calm your nervous system and trigger sleep hormones that help you rest better at night. This allows you to sleep deeper at night.
Are you ready to feel the benefits of eating clean? But you are 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.
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. Or even make a week’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 interchange the menus you’ve already created with a few different meals.
As a Food Service Officer in the Navy, we used a five-week rotating menu. It helped us load out the right amounts of food for long at-sea periods. Because there are no grocery stores at sea! Of course, we restocked provisions from one of the underway replenishment ships on occasion.
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.
Your shopping list should include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats. I prefer grass-fed ground beef, wild salmon, chicken breasts and white fish. One of my favorite lean meats is bison (or buffalo). It makes a great burger! My buffalo burger includes a brioche bun, grass-fed cheddar cheese, slice of tomato, lettuce, and condiments.
Use frozen fruits and vegetables that aren’t packed with added sugar or salt. It’s a good idea to keep clean eating foods on hand in your freezer. It’s for those extra busy times when you don’t have time to run to the store for fresh food.
Go to a local butcher. A local butcher has fresh meats on display so you know exactly what you’re getting. Or get to know your local farmers at the farmer’s market. They’re never reluctant to share with you how they grow and feed their animals.
Clean Eating Summary
Clean eating isn’t a diet fad. It’s a way of life. To me it is a lifestyle change.
Like any type of change, though, it can be tough to do at first. The trick is to give yourself time to adjust. Go slow and don’t beat yourself up when you fall back on processed stuff. Just make an effort to do better.
Also, it is okay to indulge yourself. Once in awhile!
Keep things in balance. Slowly add new natural foods to your diet. There are so many choices. So experiment and see which ones become your favorites. Bison is mine!
Make menus to help you keep on track. Adjust your favorite recipes to ones that use natural ingredients.
Changing to a clean eating lifestyle can be a fun and healthy way to try new foods and enjoy cooking new recipes.
Plus, you will enjoy the weight loss!
As always, I love feedback. So leave me a comment and let me know what you thought.