Clean eating! It doesn’t mean washing your veggies before you cut them. (Although you should do that!) Simply put, clean eating is an eating style (NOT a diet) where you eat only whole, unprocessed foods that are free from artificial ingredients and additives. It could also be described as eating only foods that are in their most natural state. In this simple beginner’s guide to clean eating, I’ll go over some of the reasons people eat clean in the first place, some of the biggest misconceptions about clean eating, and some easy ways you can start eating clean TODAY.
Reasons to Eat Clean
Clean eating is a beneficial lifestyle choice for a variety of reasons! Check them out below.
- Food is powerful: it can heal you… or it can make you sick. Food is our bodies’ fuel, it’s what gives us everything we need to keep on living. When you fuel your body correctly, it can function at top efficiency, often healing itself. When you eat clean, you seek to fuel your body with the best food possible. In the same respect, eating poorly can compromise your body, making it unable to protect itself and function properly. Catherine, who runs Foods that Heal You (and who I know and love :)), has seen so many people turn their lives around once they start eating well. They go from daily pain and fatigue to feeling the best they ever have (you can read about that here and here). I personally saw it happen for my mother, who used to have pain just getting out of bed everyday, and now she can comfortably do yoga 2-3 times a week. And of course, I’ve seen it happen for myself. Since I’ve started this lifestyle, I sleep better, I have more energy, my skin is sooo much clearer, my hair is shiny, and I haven’t gotten sick in a couple of years. I’ve also seen an improvement when it comes to my kidney stones, which were so big the pain would hospitalize me. But now I notice them passing while still small enough to cause only slight discomfort.
- Eating whole, nutritious foods keeps you at a healthy weight. As I mention below, clean eating is not primarily a weight loss program, BUT eating well invariably keeps your body at a healthy weight. So there are several people who lose weight when they make the switch. Since it isn’t a ‘weight loss diet’ though, there isn’t any deprivation involved, and no post-diet weight gain because it’s a lifestyle change. And trust me, once you start eating this way you won’t want to go back. Sure, I crave candy and donuts sometimes, but I limit myself because eating more than a little honestly makes me sick to my stomach, not to mention tired and bloated.
- Eating clean can make you look healthier too. Aside from making you feel healthier, eating whole, nutritious foods tends to make you look healthier too. This means glowing skin, shiny hair, healthy fingernails, etc. Because these things are direct indicators of internal health, it makes sense that eating well improves these areas.
Common Misconceptions about Clean Eating
- Clean eating includes things like vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free. Not necessarily. Although you can eat clean and be these things, these things are not inherently a part of clean eating. Meat and gluten can be a healthy staple of any clean diet.
- Clean eating is expensive. Only if you don’t know what you’re doing! Many times, clean eating can be a cheaper alternative, because you end up making your own food at home. Because of this, you’re saving the money that companies charge for processing and packaging. (I eat clean on ~300 dollars a month)
- Clean eating is a weight loss diet. Although some people lose weight when they switch to clean eating, weight loss is not the primary purpose. The purpose is to put the best food into your body that you can, and often this leads to eating higher quality and healthier foods, which then lead to the weight loss and overall improvement of health.
- Clean eating is hard to do. Not at all! Getting started is easy, and when you take it one step at a time, the transition is quite smooth.
How to Start Eating Clean Today
Start by making just one substitution in your diet.
- Buy plain yogurt and add fruit instead of buying flavored yogurt which contains added sugar, unidentified ‘natural’ flavoring (there is a raspberry flavor that is harvested from the anus of a beaver… but it’s still called natural!), or preservatives.
- Buy peanut butter who’s only ingredients are peanuts and salt
- Eat a piece of fruit or a vegetable. Remember, anything you can buy that looks the same as when it was picked off of the plant is considered clean (well, after you wash it of course)
- Make your own breadcrumbs! (choosing a sprouted grain bread really cuts down on the processing your food goes through before it gets to you)
- Make your own taco seasoning, or any other kind of seasoning you can think of that usually comes in a package (free of artificial coloring and with so much less sodium)
- Pop your own popcorn instead of buying the microwave kind. (just warm up some coconut oil in a pot, add 1/4 cup of kernels, close the lid, and wait for it to stop popping. I usually top mine with olive oil and salt)
- Eat raw nuts instead of roasted (which tend to be coated in salt or sugar and can contain small amounts of neurotoxins)
- Make your own almond butter (it’s literally just crushed up almonds, and so simple to make)
This is just a short list of suggestions, but you can start to see that making one or two of these changes isn’t really too hard. The secret is to make one change at a time, and when that becomes a habit, add a new change. You’ll barely notice a difference day-to-day, but over time there is a very noticeable change in how you feel.
Now at this point, if you’re like me, you might be thinking those suggestions are all well and good if you’re cooking at home, but what about during the day when you’re at work or in class? I’ve got you covered! I did some digging when I first came across this dilemma, and I’ve compiled for you a list of The Top 5 Snacks to Keep in Your Bag to Make it Easy to Eat Clean (and still satisfy that 3pm vending machine craving). Just click the picture below, and you can get free access to the list, plus access to my entire library of free resources!
So what do you think? Did I cover everything or do you still have questions? Be sure to leave a comment if you do! I’d love to help out.