You hear the term “clean eating” getting thrown around a lot. You probably have seen tons of food pictures across every social media platform (including some of mine), blasting out the praises for “clean-eating” such and such.
I would suppose the term “clean-eating” probably doesn’t sound extremely innovative or exciting….well, certainly, this concept is nothing new, however, it is interesting.
So what does clean-eating mean?
To me, clean-eating isn’t another fad diet. In fact, clean-eating is mostly the way I ate as a young girl to pre-college, before I unfortunately veered to try “fad diets” that were horrible.
Simply put, it’s a way to eat more nutritious wholesome foods from each of the food groups, and less of the not-so-nutritious foods, as well as reducing the consumption of added sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats. There is no calorie-counting, no elimination of food groups, just a good understanding of portion sizes for each of the food groups and a healthy appetite.
easy enough, right?
Well, the concept is easy to understand; the execution; however, is the tricky part. BUT, once you do a few simple tricks, you can easily eat cleaner almost immediately.
1. READ THE INGREDIENTS
Here is a good exercise. Go and find a product in your home that is labeled “all-natural” or “fat-free”, and check the nutrition facts on the back. What do you see?
When shopping for healthy foods at a supermarket, you probably peruse the shelves for products that look healthy and have the words “all-natural”, “whole-grain”, or “fat-free” listed on the packaging. Well, this is where it gets creepy.
Foods that are touted as “healthy” are not always so. Sadly, many food companies comfort and lull their consumers by mis-labeling their products as “healthy” in an effort to make money.
Honestly, I was very very surprised when I found out about all this, and a bit disappointed that my favorite brands were really after my money and not my well-being after all. My naiveté taught me a huge lesson about trusting anybody/companies that wants me to buy from them.
I now make it a point to read nutrition labels for all products that I purchase (with the exception of most produce like vegetables and fruits).
Any foods that contained added sugar, added sweeteners like aspartame or xylitol, or were high in saturated fat were ones that I proceeded with caution. Doing this was hard at first, because I had to say goodbye to many of my favorite foods (RIP regular Skippy Peanut Butter).
But, in doing so, I have cut down on the amount of added sugar I consume daily, and increased the amount of nutrient-dense food in my diet.
2. LIMIT YOUR ADDED SUGAR INTAKE
We, Americans, consume a lot of sugar. Like..A LOT! In fact, according to AuthorityNutrition, in 2008, the average consumer had 76.7 grams of sugar daily, equaling 19 teaspoons. This number is almost double the recommended safe amount of sugar to consume, which is about 9 teaspoons for men and 6 teaspoons for women.
Because a large part of the American population takes in such a large amount of sugar, illnesses such as obesity, heart disease, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and tooth decay (and many more) are becoming common-place and are slowly affecting more and more people who consume large amounts of sugar in their diets.
The really hard part about all this is how slowly the effect of sugar has on us; our bodies will put up defenses against the sugar toxins introduced from junk food, but if you keep feeding your body sugar toxins consistently over a long period of time, eventually your body will break down it’s defenses, and by then, your body will be kaput….sugar is that slow, silent killer that creeps closer and closer until it’s too late to escape. AHH!
This sounds like a bad horror movie, so I’ll cut to the chase. Added sugar is everywhere, especially in areas where we would least expect it, like the following:
Activia Yogurt: Contains 30g of sugar, with added ingredients of “sugar”, “fructose”, and “molasses” and “corn-starch” from the granola pieces
Nature Valley Granola Bars: Contains added sugar consisting of “corn syrup”, “sugar”, “tapioca syrup”, and “fructose”.
The kicker with sugar too is its addictive quality; since it holds almost 0 nutrients, your body constantly craves for more nutrients, sending you into a craving-driven mad dash for the second bag of gummy worms.
With that being said, keeping an eye out for foods with added-sugar is a great first step, like agave nectar, brown sugar, corn sweetener, dextrose, evaporated cane sugar, honey, maple syrup, and sucrose (to name a few). Many companies will tout these “naturally-drawn” sugars in their foods as healthier, but that may not always be true.
To put it simply, foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains contain simple sugars, and when found in whole foods, they are usually with a combination of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals. This is what makes food sugar good because the fiber in the food helps slow down the absorption of the sugar in your body, thus moderating your blood sugar levels.
Sugars added to food during baking, processing, or at the table, on the other hand, is problematic because you consume it without any fiber or nutrients to ease the sugar into your system, thereby causing you to crash your blood sugar levels and get cravings.
Check those nutrition labels to see if there is in fact any added sugar and how much there is in the food. The more you can limit how much you take in, the better your body will feel, since it will be detoxing all that nasty added sugar from your system.
Doing this helped me lose the stubborn weight I was fighting to take off for YEARS, and my cravings became less and less obtrusive; it took a while (like a few weeks) for me to notice a physical difference, but I noticed I was thinner, happier, and less irritable.
3. LOOK OUT FOR GRAINS THAT ARE “STRIPPED” OF NUTRIENTS
This includes any breads, pita, rice, or wraps touted as “whole-grain”. Once again, check that nutrition label.
Some “grain” foods are actually stripped of their nutrients, especially their fiber. Foods that are white, including white rice and white bread contain very little actual fiber. So it is best to avoid foods that contain “bleached flour” or “enriched flour” because the conversion process of turning grains into flour removes bran, which contains fiber, protein, and trace minerals, and germ, which contains B vitamins and trace minerals. Because the flour has been stripped of nutritional value, it must be “enriched” with vitamins like iron and B-vitamins to compensate.
Here is an example of another food item, Sara Lee White Bread that contains “enriched flour” AND added sugar:
Instead, switching to grains with whole grains (as listed in the nutrition label) actually contain more vitamins and nutrients (the bran and germ are preserved in the flour conversion process), thus giving you more nutritional value.
4. EAT LESS PROCESSED, WHOLE-SOME FOODS LIKE VEGETABLES, FRUITS, WHOLE-GRAINS, AND LEAN PROTEINS
Cravings are a killer, especially for anyone who has done any diet. I know because I have FAILED many diets because of my intense cravings. It is also partly the reason why I HATE fad diets.
When your body needs nutrients, it will go into hunger mode. Unless you eat foods that are fiber and nutrient-dense, your body will not feel completely satisfied, and will signal for more food. So, if you eat processed foods that are stripped of nutrients like vitamins and minerals, you will experience cravings, fatigue, hunger, and irritability. But, if you eat a well-balanced meal, equipped with all the nutrients you need for survival, you will feel full. Period.
It took me a while to embrace this concept; but it really does make sense. I noticed my cravings diminished after eating cleaner for a week, and whenever I would treat myself to a junk food, I felt like crap, and I would be less inclined to steer away from my nutritious food that makes me feel good.
SO WHAT TO DO?
Our bodies are incredible machines and, when given the right fuel, will run at optimal speed with a wonderfully strong immune system. And all this can happen with eating the right kinds of food, and being more aware of what we are putting into our bodies.
If you are ready to change how you eat and learn more about how to do the whole clean eating bit, I would love to work with you one-on-one to help get you started.
all you need to do is let me know:
What are some ways you live a healthier life? Got any good clean eating tips? Share and comment below!