There are so many opinions, guidelines and rules out there telling you how to “eat clean” that it can be a bit daunting to figure out. We all just need to step back, take a deep breath, and stop over-thinking it all. At it’s core, eating “clean” simply means to consume whole, real foods.
Although the whole clean eating lifestyle was made popular by the bodybuilding/fitness world, it can be practiced by anyone. It doesn’t require a laundry list of exotic, hard-to-find foods, or demand that you starve yourself or give up carbs (love my carbs!). It doesn’t involve eating only foods that taste like cardboard or dirt, and it absolutely does not mean that you have to give up things that you love like dessert, or pizza! Bottom line, clean eating is NOT a diet.
What clean eating does do is teach you to make good food choices that that ultimately lead to a healthier, happier you. It will introduce you to new flavors, new foods, and a new way to look at food. It will train you to listen to your body and how to fuel your body with the nutrients it needs. Perhaps one of the more popular effects of clean eating is it can help you lose weight…a lot of weight in some cases. Bottom line, if you want to feel better, sleep better, live better, and have more energy, clean eating is the way to go, and it’s much easier to do than you think.
So how do we eat clean? As a wife, a mother of two, and a full-time career woman, I do my best to provide myself and my family clean, whole, real foods about 80% of the time. We train hard about 4 – 6 times a week, so a little flexibility works for us. Here’s a list of 11 things that define how we eat clean.
No. 1: Fresh is Best
- Fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, fresh meats, etc. are certainly the way to go.
- Frozen vegetables work too, I just make sure that the only ingredient is the vegetable!
No. 2: Organic, Grass-Fed, Local, From the Farm…you get it
- Let’s be honest, this little “rule” can often be expensive, so I follow it when I can. Budgets. blah.
- Notice I didn’t put “Natural” or “All-Natural”. These types of foods may be packaging that makes it look healthy, but be aware that these FDA descriptors are very vague by definition and can still mean that antibiotics and hormones were given to the plant or animal that make up the contents of the product. So I try to avoid anything “Natural”…it’s just a marketing ploy!
No. 3: Read Labels
- If I can’t pronounce the ingredients, I won’t buy it
- If there is a complicated laundry list of ingredients, I won’t buy it
No. 4: Avoid Foods High in Sugar & Foods with “Fake” Sugar
- Whether it’s actual sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or organic brown rice syrup, added sugar is everywhere and in far more foods than you could ever imagine. Check your labels people!
- Fake sugar like Splenda or Equal (labeled as sucralose in ingredient lists) may be zero-calorie, but they are NOT good for you. Stevia is my favorite zero-calorie option and is actually an herb, not some engineered chemical substance.
No. 5: 100% Whole Grains All the Way
- We stay away from the white or refined carbs: white (bleached) flours, white rice, white potatoes, white bread, white pasta, white sugar, etc.
- My kitchen is never without whole grain pasta, quinoa, brown rice, oats or whole wheat flour.
No. 6: Embrace the (Healthy) Fat
- Healthy fats are not the Devil. In fact, they are essential to your health.
- We typically only eat the full-fat versions of foods like cheese, milk, or peanut butter, and, instead of butter we use coconut oil or olive oil. (And we eat A LOT of avocados)
No. 7: Eat More, and Eat Often
- I used to think losing weight required eating next to nothing. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. You have to feed your body to improve your body. I’ve learned from experience that if you don’t, you will most certainly hit a wall, stop all progress and quite possibly revert back to your old eating habits, or worse, cause some serious metabolic health issues. YOU. MUST. EAT!
- We eat 5 – 6 meals a day. They aren’t huge meals, but they are certainly enough to fill us up and keep our metabolism running efficiently.
No. 8: Balance
- We incorporate a balance of lean proteins, complex carbs and healthy fats into every meal.
- There are exceptions to this rule depending on our fitness goals at that time, but generally speaking we tend to make 40% of our daily consumption consist of lean proteins, 40% complex carbs and 20% healthy fats.
No. 9: Drink Water, Then Drink Some More, and More, and More…
- We try and drink at least 1 gallon of water a day. (This is hard, not gonna lie!)
No. 10: Treats, Cheats and Letting Loose
- Eating clean doesn’t mean we no longer indulge in things like ice cream or pizza. We train hard and eat clean most of the time, so a little pizza or a cupcake isn’t going to kill us!
No. 11: Have Fun!
- Food is fun. Flavor is fun. Discovering new ways to make something good for you is fun! If your eating clean and you’re not having a good time doing it, then step back, re-evaluate your methods and look around for some inspiration…this website perhaps?? 🙂
Don’t be afraid to define your own way of eating clean. Start small by replacing one fast food meal a week with something you made from scratch. Or go big and clear your kitchen of all the processed foods and replace them with fresh fruits, veggies and whole grains. Either way, give yourself about 3 weeks of clean eating, and you’ll be left asking yourself why you didn’t start sooner!