It’s easily touted as one of the “trendy” terms that will come and go just like any health and fitness fad, except that there’s so much truth and countless benefits to eating clean. It gets tossed into an over-priced salad bowl along with words like “natural,” “organic,” “gluten-free,” etc which many people don’t even really understand. I know it seems ubiquitous and tiresome and if you’re not a fairly healthy eater to begin with, then it probably pushes you closer to getting in the car to drive to the nearest Shake Shack. You can cuss like a sailor all you want about it but even if you have a dirty mouth, if takes in clean food, I promise you’ll be better for it.
What does it mean to ‘eat clean’?
Eating clean means choosing carefully what you eat and choosing to consume it in its most natural state. In short: choosing food that is not processed. You like burgers? Make your own. Buy lean ground sirloin and make the burger patties yourself instead of driving to a fast-food joint where tons of things are put in the beef (if it is, indeed, beef). Same thing with chicken nuggets. Eating clean means knowing what goes into your food and making choices that will help you achieve optimum long-term health for your body. Maybe you have to make drastic changes, or maybe you just need to improve or modify your diet. Either way, the first step is deciding you want what is best for your health and taking the first step towards just that.
How do I get started?
First, you have to change your mindset. If using the word “diet” makes you approach meal time as an unexciting chore, then drop it. Instead of saying you’re going on a diet, look at it as a change in lifestyle. That’s what it is, essentially, anyway. You’re changing your lifestyle in such a way that you want to and will make better choices because you understand how important it is to feed your body only the best things.
Second, make fresh produce your best friend. Whether your goal is to gain or lose weight, adding lots of fresh vegetables in your meals is a good move. Your body needs lots of vitamins and minerals that are best acquired through eating fresh produce. Not to mention, the soluble fibre is an excellent aid in helping make sure your body absorbs as much nutrients as you can get from the other food you consume. A healthy dose of fresh fruit and veg also help make your skin glow.
Third, help yourself by shopping wisely. Avoid the inner aisles at the supermarket where most of the sweets and junk are found. Your best strategy would be to shop from the outside aisles where fresh produce, meat, whole-grain goods, nuts, etc are usually found. Although, a caveat from my experience, alcohol and cheese (and I love my wine and cheese) are also found around the outside perimeter, but let’s just chalk it up to helping you practice will power right away.
Fourth, drink lots of water. I’ve mentioned this before in previous blog posts, that often we are just thirsty, and not really hungry. Drinking lots of water helps curb cravings and hunger pangs. Water is the best fluid you can consume for your body’s optimum health. Keep your fluids clear and free from processed sugar. Coffee isn’t bad, but most of the coffee drinks these days are loaded with sugar (cream, chocolate or caramel sauce, whipped cream, flavouring, etc). Proper hydration also helps keep your joints working well, is great for your skin, and helps keep you alert.
Fifth, break up with processed sugar. I know, I know. It’s sometimes harder than actual breakups (I’ve been told!). But if your body is taking in anything that isn’t found in nature or that is naturally designed to fuel or help our body reach its optimum condition, you’re probably better off staying away from it. Fruits naturally have sugar in them, but those are better for you (in moderation) than what’s called ‘added sugar.’ Indulging in a treat like a chocolate cupcake, a donut, or a milkshake every now and then is not a terrible thing. Moderation is the key. But if it helps you to keep things in black and white, then look at sugar as something you MUST stay away from. Personally, this sort of thinking has become second nature to me, and it’s excruciating because I have a sweet tooth and love cupcakes and donuts. Every time I prep for a show or competition and the show day is drawing nearer, my craving for sweets get worse! I have no choice but to tell myself, “Suck it up, buttercup.”
Sixth, don’t obsess over calories, but rather, get wise about nutrients. Get familiar with your food, what goes in it, where it comes from, etc. You’re absolutely free to still buy food that’s wrapped in pretty packages and is sold in stores, just make sure you read the labels so you know what it’s made of. You’ll want to arm yourself with knowledge on how much of which nutrient or macro you’re getting in every serving (and how much one serving actually is!) if you really want to take healthy clean eating seriously.
Lastly, stay away from food filled with ingredients you can barely pronounce. Why? Because eating right is about choosing unrefined things, simple things, that haven’t been through heaven-knows-what before it reaches your mouth. Ingredients ought to be simple and natural instead of sounding like some experiment or the seventh planet of an ultra galaxy in some Sci-Fi novel. Eggs, flour, milk. That kind of simple. (Also, speaking of flour, if you’re needing flour for your recipes, there are countless healthy flour substitutes you can use: coconut flour, oat flour, almond flour, etc).
Eating clean is not as intimidating or difficult as some people think it is. It’s the best choice you can make in terms of nutrition and one whose benefits manifest almost immediately (clear skin, better mood). Life is too short to keep thinking and living the wrong way. Make better decisions today that you will thank yourself for tomorrow.
Do you have any questions? Or would you like to share your fitness journey with us? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.