You’ve heard about it, supermodels Gisele and Miranda Kerr are fans, health bloggers live by it and we bet your Instagram feed is cluttered with its praise, but what exactly is clean eating?
In a nutshell, clean eating involves avoiding refined and processed foods, and filling up on healthier unprocessed whole foods. A lifestyle change rather than a diet, clean eating can help break bad eating habits and encourage mindful eating.
You may dismiss it as the latest health trend but clean eating is a lot less complicated and far less faddy than it sounds.
Question your food choices
Modern diets rely heavily on processed foods. Supermarkets are filled to the brim with pre-packed, processed and convenience goods. It’s so easy – and normal – to pick up a bag of spaghetti or pasta and a premade sauce. No one would ever think it odd. But, with clean eating it’s important to question: where did that food come from? Is that harmless looking bag of pasta pumped full of preservatives and stabilisers? Equally, is that pasta sauce laden with sugar?
It’s this questioning that separates clean eating apart. Unlike many diets, clean eating doesn’t revolve around counting calories or avoiding specific food groups. The focus rests firmly on the origin of food, encouraging you to think about the path it’s trodden to get to your plate rather than what’s in it.
What are the benefits?
Backed by a number of well-respected studies, the benefits of eating clean stretch far beyond the perks of a standard diet.
On the whole, processed foods are nutrient poor and full of empty calories. Whereas, a diet fuelled by whole foods, fruits and vegetables is thought to aid in the prevention, and cure, of a number of serious conditions including cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
If you needed further convincing, getting good nutrition from eating clean could help you lose weight, feel fuller for longer, improve digestion, boost energy, and remove harmful toxins from your body.
So, what’s off the menu?
Anything pumped full of chemicals, manufactured in a factory or full of ingredients you can’t pronounce: if you want to follow the clean eating lifestyle, all processed foods must go.
Ready meals, pre-prepared sauces, pizzas, hot dogs, chocolate (yes dear reader, chocolate too), cakes, biscuits and baked beans. Any food with any kind of additive – be it salt, refined sugar or preservatives is out.
Whilst it may sound restrictive, eating clean makes you feel good. Just like giving up sugar, it’s hard at first but rewarding in the long run.
So what should I be eating?
Whole, unprocessed foods. Fresh fruit and veg, fresh eggs and meat, grains, seeds, unsalted nuts and grass-fed dairy products. Ideally, foods which either, have very few ingredients, or don’t have an ingredient label at all.
If that sounds a bit basic, just remember what you can eat:
Tenderloin steaks with red onion marmalade, crab salad-stuffed eggs, Mediterranean stuffed chicken breasts, pan-fried prawns with long-stemmed broccoli, quinoa curry, grilled pork chops with spicy salsa, sundried tomatoes on whole wheat ciabatta and almond pesto pasta – to name but a few dishes.
For your sweet tooth: whole wheat pancakes drizzled in honey, flourless cacao brownies, popcorn, peanut butter honey oat bars or banana ‘ice cream’ (you won’t believe how easy this is!).
The success to clean eating
Baby steps. Start slowly and do your research. When you’re in the supermarket: start reading ingredient labels. Begin to question where that particular item came from; if abroad, how many miles has this food travelled? How do the manufacturers’ keep it edible?
Add more fruit and veg to your shopping trolley and add an extra portion to each meal. It’s incredible how quickly you can increase the amount of fruit and vegetables you eat each day.
Start looking for whole food alternatives to your diet staples: instead of white rice, opt for unrefined grains like quinoa or brown rice. When it comes to meat, grass fed is best. Free from obesity-causing hormones and mycotoxins, grass fed meat is full of natural goodness and nutrition.
Ready to commit to clean eating? If you want to learn more, read our next post for easy to follow clean eating food swaps…