Clean eating is a simple concept with big benefits. Eating clean brings awareness to where our foods come from, and is a commitment to eating foods with the shortest pathway to our plates.
The aim of clean eating isn't to count calories or eliminate food groups, but to enjoy the freshest foods with the greatest nutritional value. Clean eating emphasizes the enjoyment of preparing and sharing a meal. It's a path to a healthier lifestyle, one bite at a time!
Here are some basic rules to get you started on a clean-eating lifestyle.
Clean eating begins at your grocery store, farmers market or farm stand. The first step is to become familiar with which foods are sourced locally and what produce is in season. Start by asking your grocers or paying attention to signs in the produce section about how far your fruits, veggies, meat and fish had to travel to reach you.
Step two is to get in the habit of reading nutrition labels. Eliminate products with more than five ingredients or any ingredients you can't pronounce out loud.
Get comfortable in your kitchen and start cooking more of your own meals. Eating at home saves calories, reduces salt intake and is wallet-friendly. Avoid high-fat cooking methods like deep-frying or stewing in animal or vegetable fats; instead, steam or stir-fry to preserve nutritional value. Use olive oil in place of butter when possible, and replace salt with spices, herbs, garlic and lemon.
Eat A Lot More Veggies
Get your fill of low-calorie, nutrient-rich fruits and veggies by eating 2 ½ to 3 cups per day. Diets rich in vegetables and fruits have been shown to reduce the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and certain cancers. The optimum cooking method varies by vegetable, with some veggies getting a nutritional boost by cooking and others best when eaten raw.
When cooking, safe bets are steaming, baking, or sautéing to preserve the nutritional value. To boost your veggie intake, replace pasta with zucchini or spaghetti squash spirals.
Eat Whole Grains
Why are whole grains cleaner than refined? Products with "whole" in the name still contain the bran and germ (but it's best to make sure they're not overly processed, because these products often still eliminate much of the nutritional value), while refined products are more processed and are often stripped of their healthy fiber and vitamins. Choose whole wheat, quinoa, oats and brown rice. Pass on white rice, white bread, and packaged cookies, crackers and cakes.
Eat Natural Foods
Since eating clean means eating foods in their most natural form, it makes sense that processed foods with lots of added sugar are not a part of the clean equation. Skip candy, soda, prepackaged cookies and sweets altogether. Keep in mind that 4 grams of sugar on a food label equals 1 teaspoon of sugar, so 16 grams of sugar is like dumping 4 scoops of sugar in your food!
Read food labels carefully, and pay close attention to foods that contain sneaky sugars, like granola bars, cereal, oatmeal, canned fruit, spaghetti sauce, barbecue sauce, salad dressing, frozen deserts, fruit juice, lemonade, sports drinks and bottled teas. Look for low-sugar alternatives or make your own homemade versions.
Eat Less Meat
Eating clean doesn't mean eliminating food groups, but eating less meat can help eliminate extra saturated fat from your diet. Get in the habit of eating smaller portions of meat (a serving size is the size of a deck of cards), and filling up on vegetables, whole grains and beans. Look for locally sourced, organic, free-range, grass-fed animal meat when available and aim for one or two servings of red meat per week.
Eating clean also mean drinking clean. Drinking in moderation means one drink with your meal for women or two drinks for men. Steer clear of sugary mixed drinks, and opt to pour red wine for the heart-healthy benefits.
How can you make your meals cleaner?