Eating clean is a great way to feel better, lose weight and improve your health. But it’s not a diet. There aren’t ultra-strict rules, “bad” foods or hard-to-track points.
Instead, you simply focus on one thing: Eating as healthfully and naturally as possible.
Though that’s certainly easier said than done, the one thing that makes clean eating different from just “eating better,” is that it’s built around real food – not food that’s been processed, canned, manufactured or flavored. You eat food from the earth, natural, raw and in its purest form.
Still sound overwhelming? I can help with that. Check out my simplified guide to clean eating below.
The Pillars of Clean Eating
Before we go into the nitty gritty details of clean eating, let’s first go over the pillars of clean eating – what the lifestyle is built around and focused on. Once you know and understand these, you’ll be able to make better eating decisions for yourself and get on the track to a healthier, slimmer you.
The pillars of clean eating include:
- Focus on unprocessed foods – When eating clean, you want to avoid foods that have been tampered with – foods that have been flavored, processed or changed in any way from their natural form. Sure, chicken breast is healthy, but when it’s packed, shaped into a nugget, breaded and fried, do you really think you’re getting all the nutrition you can from it? Definitely not.
- Eat raw – You want to try to eat raw as much as possible. Natural, unprocessed foods are still OK to eat if they’re cooked, but they don’t hold nearly as much nutritional value. Plus, cooking requires unhealthy additives like butters, oils and sauces – things that have definitely been processed and played with. Whenever you can, eat foods in their rawest form – straight from nature. Just be sure to wash them first.
- Eat in – It’s pretty hard to eat clean at restaurants or even other peoples’ homes. To really ensure you’re eating as clean as possible, try to make home-cooked meals and snacks as much as you can. Now, if you’re busy or strapped for time, you may have to pre-make your meals on the weekends. Grill some chicken, pack up some salads and prep your breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the week on a Sunday afternoon, and enjoy fast, healthy meals all week long.
- Drink clean, too – Clean eating isn’t all about the food. You should be drinking clean, too. That means drinking water with every meal – and throughout the day – and cutting out things like soda, coffee and alcohol. Remember, drinks are processed, too (sometimes even more so than food.)
These are just the basics, and though they might sound limiting, the truth is you can eat about anything you normally would – you just have to find some good alternative ingredients and be ready to put in a little extra work in the kitchen.
For example, if you’re craving a pizza, you can create a clean, veggie based pizza instead of ordering from the local Pizza Hut. You simply use cauliflower or zucchini as the crust, make a fresh pasta sauce with organic tomatoes and basil, and top it with your favorite veggies, red onions, jalapenos or any other veggie you like.
You can also stick to old standards, too, like salads, stir fries, grilled chicken and turkey breasts, and healthy veggie kebabs. These are not only full of healthy, nutritious ingredients, most of them are pretty quick to cook, so they’re easy to make in a pinch – even when you’re hard up for time.
Be sure to take stock of your pantry before starting a clean eating transition. You’ll want to remove any processed foods, and load up on plenty of veggies, fruit, nuts and other healthful ingredients. You don’t want temptations to lure you away.
Easing into It
If you want to eat clean, you don’t have to jump in 100-perent right away. If it’s going to be a big change of pace for you, consider easing into it the lifestyle instead. Start adding a few more veggies to your meals, and begin phasing in some healthier substitute ingredients where you can. Then, each week, do a little bit more. In a few months’ time, you’ll be eating completely clean without even thinking twice!
Often, the easiest place to start eating clean is with lunch – especially if you have a spouse or family member who’s not going to enjoy a clean-eating dinner. At lunch, you can opt for a salad, a homemade soup or stew, raw veggies and hummus, nuts, seeds, fruit and more – something portable, quick and healthy. Just be sure to work in a healthy snack, too. You don’t want to get hungry and give into any cravings once the 2 o’clock slump hits!
Are you considering clean eating? If so, let me know your questions and concerns in the comments. I want to help you get your healthiest and fittest, so fire away.