More and more people are making the shift to eating healthier, unprocessed, whole foods. Farm-to-table restaurants, which emphasize locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, are gaining in popularity. Processed foods a/k/a convenience foods often contain excessive amounts of sugar, fat and/or sodium, and consuming these foods regularly can lead to health problems such as heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and cancer.
Enter clean eating. Clean eating is, very simply, eating food as close to its natural state as possible. And it’s not so much about restriction. Eating clean is making positive choices about what we eat so that we feel better, look better, and live healthier. It’s also about eating well – fresh, locally grown foods taste better, and have more nutritional integrity since they don’t lose nutrients in the shipping process.
Eating clean isn’t complicated, but it does take some forethought and planning. Here are some basics to get you started:
- Fruits and vegetables are mainstays of a clean diet. The latest dietary recommendations are for five to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Variety is key for optimal health benefits, so don’t be afraid to mix it up. Try peaches, nectarines, apricots, oranges, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, melons. A salad of leafy greens is a delicious way to include vegetables – make it a habit to include one at lunch or dinner. A vegetable stir fry is a great side or main dish, as is a market mix of seasonal vegetables roasted lightly with olive oil.
- Protein is an important component of a clean diet – it helps build muscle, and keeps you feeling fuller longer. Look for lean meats (grass-fed when possible.) Organic free-range chicken raised without antibiotics or hormones, or wild caught salmon are also great choices. Nuts – almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans – are loaded with nutrients and fiber, and are also a good source of protein.
- Whole grains. Whole grain foods are packed with nutrients including protein, fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants, and trace minerals (iron, zinc, copper, and magnesium). White breads and pasta are processed, and high in refined carbohydrates. Learn to read labels, and choose whole-grain breads, cereals, English muffins over white and refined. Try brown rice, and choose whole wheat pasta. Start your day with a bowl of whole grain cereal. Simple changes like these are easy ways to start to make the shift.
- Healthy fats. Processed foods typically contain trans fats from partially hydrogenated oil, and foods such as butter, ice cream, and red meats contain high amounts of saturated fats, which can increase the risk of disease. Opt for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – “the good fats” – which lower disease risk. Foods high in good fats include vegetable oils, such as olive, corn and canola, as well as nuts, seeds, and fish, such as salmon and anchovies.
- Water. Water is an essential component of clean eating. It keeps your organs functioning properly, and detoxifies. It hydrates cells, and affects both physical and mental performance. There are differing opinions on how much is enough, but the general recommendation is often in the area of 64 ounces a day (eight 8 oz glasses.) Some of this can include juice, but the more pure water you can drink, the better. Drink it often.
Adopting a clean way of eating can make a huge difference in how you look and feel. Besides improved health, eating this way can help you better manage your weight over time and eliminating processed, unhealthy foods offers benefits in the form of reduced risk of disease. You’ll have better energy, be more productive, and sleep better. And fresh, real food simply tastes better. Begin a cleaner style of eating, and experience it for yourself.