I love food. I love eating. And most of all, I love food that is good for my body. It has taken me some time to figure out what “eating healthy” actually means for me. But when I discovered clean eating, it all just felt right. And since starting with it, I have never felt so good or so healthy! Let me explain to you what clean eating is, and how to do it.
What is clean eating?
Basically, clean eating means only eating whole, real food. More specific, when eating clean, you eliminate refined sugars, additives and refined foods in general from your meals. That way, you will only eat things of which you know what they are. No more strange, unpronounceable ingredients, or compounds described by a number. Only real food that provides your body with what it needs.
Why would you want to eat clean?
Getting rid of all additives in your food may sound impossible, and I am not going to claim it is the easiest way of eating. But how much better your body will start to function, that is definitely worth it! When replacing “useless” ingredients by real food, you will supply your body with tons of nutrients that it can actually use. After eating clean for a while, you will feel more energetic and you will start showing a healthy “glow” all over. Oh, and if you suffer from that “four o’clock in the afternoon-dip”, things like that will most likely also disappear from your world!
Note: when I talk about “diet”, I am pointing at your normal eating habits. Though you can use clean eating to lose weight, its main purpose is to create a healthier lifestyle and bring your body in better shape. When done correctly, clean eating will help you find your natural weight balance. That means it can either let you lose, gain or maintain weight by it.
- Decide on your goals. To make the transition easier for yourself, write down a plan. First determine your ultimate goal. Do you want to eat completely clean? Or maybe you will aim to have 70% of your food clean. Whatever you think suits you best.
Then you can start working out how to get to that goal. Small steps are usually the easiest. You could start by focussing on one of your meals. Try to make your breakfast into a clean meal, for example. The next week, you can add your lunch to that. Then work your way onwards. If you write it all down, it will become much easier to stick to the plan.
- Evaluate your normal eating habits. Take a close look at what you eat on a daily basis. Where are you already eating quite clean, and where do you still need to improve? If you know which parts of your diet are a problem, you can try to find a substitution for them.
- Start reading labels. It will all become a lot clearer when you start looking closely at labels. For the first few days, just read through the ingredients to get into the habit and get familiar with the terms used. You will soon start to see where the hidden challenges lie, and which foods are secretly very clean. When reading a label, first look at ingredients described with numbers and scientific names. You would rather not eat those. After that, look at the other ingredients. Do you agree with eating all of them? Then it is ok.
- Plan your meals. Clean eating works best when you see the day as a whole and use all meals to complement your nutritional needs. By planning ahead, clean eating becomes a lot more easy and affordable. That way when you are hungry, you can just look at the plan and eat what you had in mind, instead of being tempted by other (fast) food. Plus you can make optimal use of ingredients by using them for several meals, and thereby avoiding waste. When deciding what to eat, you can stick to the following guidelines:
- Base your menu on plants. Eat lots of veggies and you already have a solid base in your diet. All kinds of plant-products are usually fine, and should form the biggest part of your food intake. Pay some attention to preserved fruits and veggies, as they sometimes have sugar or conservatives added.
- Meats, dairy and other animal products fit perfectly into a clean eating diet. Here you will have to pay some more attention, for a lot of these products are heavily processed. Preferably buy meat from a local butcher, and otherwise read the label carefully.
- Value your grains, they are the perfect complement to your diet. Always use whole wheat grain products and try to keep them as basic as possible. Pay attention when buying things like bread, they usually contain a lot more additives than you might expect! So if possible, bake such things yourself. (But I know that is not always realistic, so try to find the most clean option.)
- Snacks are meals too! Don’t forget that snacks are also part of your diet. That means you can also use those to reach your daily nutritional goals. Therefore include them in your meal plans as well, they are just as valuable as any other meal.
- Keep it simple. Good food does not require millions of ingredients. The best meals could be based on just a few components.
- Use your brains. In many cases, using common sense will serve you well. If some ingredient sounds suspicious, it probably is.
- It is ok to make exceptions. For a normal, social person, it is almost impossible to eat completely clean. That is no problem. Just be aware of it and try to eat as clean as you can.
- Don’t expect an overnight miracle. Change takes some time. One day of clean eating will not instantly make you extremely healthy. Clean eating works toward long-term benefits, so it is better to start with small steps and gradually build on that. After one or two months, you will start to really feel the difference.
If you want to know more or have a question, feel free to send me a message!
What do you think of clean eating?