What does eating clean mean?
Saying the words almost comes second nature to me now. They just slide off my tongue as if they’ve always been there, but when I think back, it really wasn’t all that long ago that I had absolutely no idea what eating clean meant. I hadn’t even heard of the term before, and I certainly didn’t practice it.
I think my first introduction to this term came when I picked up my first issue of Oxygen magazine. This was back in late 2007 when I started my journey. I had a long road ahead of me, and I sucked motivation from every medium possible. I was like a sponge at the time, and I tried my best to absorb the tips and guidelines shared in that magazine. Not long after, I picked up Tosca’s book, “The Eat Clean Diet”.
Since that time I’ve read countless magazines, newsletters, blogs, recipes, and websites that tote eating clean. Now it’s all I know.
But what is it?
This morning I received a personal email from a girl who is just starting her journey. She is where I was and is trying to take it all in. But the term eating clean dumbfounds her.
What is it? First and foremost I think the most important thing to share about eating clean is it’s not merely a diet. Not even close.
Eating clean is a choice for a healthier lifestyle.
You don’t eat clean until you get your desired results. You eat clean to not only get your desired results but also maintain them.
Eating clean is a way of life.
With saying that we can move on to what it really is.
Eating clean in my own opinion can be summarized by the following bullet points:
- Eating clean means choosing to eat whole, unrefined foods and staying away from processed, chemically-enhanced foods.
- Eating clean includes eating a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. Ideally you want to buy organic when possible (proven to maintain higher nutritional values), but any kind of fresh fruit or veggie is better than none. Fresh and frozen are ideal. You want to stray away from anything that might have been changed in any way. Canned foods are okay, and I do use them, but some of the most beneficial minerals and vitamins are lost in the process of canning. This is why fresh is the way to go when possible.
- Eating clean includes eating lean sources of protein – including fish, poultry, beef, and egg whites. Healthier options include but are not limited to salmon, tilapia, orange roughy, chicken, turkey, flank, and bison. These are some of my absolute favorite sources for lean proteins, but there are countless others.
- Eating clean includes eating healthy fats. Fats are not a “bad word” and are actually extremely beneficial as part of your clean eating diet. Healthy fats that I use daily include nuts, peanut butters, avocados, coconut oil, and olive oils. Ultimately you want to avoid saturated and trans fats. I found this link which breaks down examples of each – healthy and bad fats. Until you get used knowing which is which, keep this handy for easy reference. http://www.helpguide.org/life/healthy_diet_fats.htm. Just don’t leave fats out all together. Again, I’ve learned this from personal experience. I believe that some of my hormonal issues stemmed from my lack of healthy or any fats in my diet for too long a period of time. Healthy fats keep everything working smoothly and can actually assist you in losing or maintaining a lower bodyfat. Again, everything in moderation. Most authorities recommend 20-35% of your calories coming from healthy fats. If you are competing it might be lower than this for a time, but on average this range is a good rule of thumb.
- Eating clean includes eating whole unprocessed grains in moderation. Now this is the controversial part (IMO) of eating clean. Many of my followers and industry leaders choose to eat Paleo which means they opt to not eat legumes and grains as well as other things. That is completely okay and purely the choice of the individual. There are also some who deal with auto-immune diseases (such as myself) who can’t tolerate gluten as well as others and may choose not to eat grains. That is okay as well. As with many foods, my feeling is, anything in moderation is okay. It’s when any one food takes over your daily diet you might have a problem. I know this firsthand. Leading up to and while writing my oatmeal cookbook I completely overdosed on oatmeal, and that was before I found out I had Hashimotos which strongly discourages eating anything with gluten. Live and learn. When eating grains you want to steer away from anything “enriched” or “processed” like white bread, white rice, and instant oats. Choose whole grains available.
- Eating clean means simplifying. If you are like me you probably have a cabinet full of cookbooks full of fancy recipes that have a laundry list of ingredients required in order to make them. Eating clean means you cook with less. Air on the side of fewer ingredients. You want to keep meals simple, fresh, and naturally flavorful rather than covering them up with excess salts, gravies, sauces, and other condiments.
- On that same note eating clean also means buying products that include fewer ingredients. Make sure you know every ingredient listed, and if it’s something you don’t know or can’t pronounce, there’s a good chance it isn’t “clean” and shouldn’t be in your body. Steer clear.
- An extension to eating clean is drinking clean. When in excess sugary and diet sodas as well as alcohol can be harmful to your body. Each are full of harmful chemicals, empty calories, sugars, and fats – none of which are on an eating clean diet. Again, moderation is so key.
- I was brought up to eat 3 big meals a day – as I’m sure many of you were – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’d stuff myself at each meal and then snack on junk in between. When your focus is eating clean, you’ll want to eat 5-7 smaller balanced meals throughout the day. This means you’ll be eating a balance of carbs, fats, and proteins at each meal every 2-3 hours. Your meals will be spaced out from the moment you get up in the morning to the moment you hit the sack at night. This not only helps you feel satiated throughout the day, but it will provide your body the ongoing energy it needs to accomplish your daily tasks. As an added bonus, when you are eating the right foods throughout the day consistently, you’ll be revving your metabolism. That’s something we all want.
- In addition to eating the right foods, you want to be sure you’re drinking plenty of water. Water is what helps break down the foods you eat, helps in transporting important minerals and vitamins throughout your body, aids in eliminating and preventing constipation, helps detox the body of waste, helps regulate body temperature, and helps positively with metabolism. It will also help you “fill” that hunger void if you experience it in between meals. Rather than snacking on empty calories, having a glass of water helps you feel satiated – which ultimately carries you over until your next meal. Many suggest you drink 8 glasses of water a day. I try and shoot for half to a full gallon a day. You don’t necessarily need to drink that much, but chances are you should be drinking more than what you are currently.
Eating clean can feel overwhelming at first, but once you get the hang of it, it really is more simple than you might think.
It will help you feel stronger, live better, lose or maintain a healthy weight, and will help you tap in to energy you didn’t even realize you had.
The benefits of eating clean are countless.
Not to mention eating clean is yummy. There’s no rule that good food has to taste boring. Eating clean has come to mean so much to me.
I’m sure every person has their own reasons for doing it, but for me, it really is the foundation of my active lifestyle. My body is my “temple” so to speak, and why would I want to fill it with junk? Been there done that and didn’t like the results. This way, I do.