Lately the internet is full of diet plans and recipes centered on the concept of eating clean. But what exactly is this diet trend all about? Clean eating is eating foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. This means avoiding processed foods and instead relying on a diet mainly made up of fruits and vegetables, meat and seafood, dairy, and healthy whole grains. Of course, this is not the same as a raw diet, where food is kept in its natural state (not cooked).
The average American eats significantly more processed foods than fresh foods, making a switch to a cleaning eating diet a huge lifestyle change. In fact, Americans eat more processed foods than any other nation. As more Americans struggle with obesity, food intolerances, diabetes and heart problems, clean eating should be seriously considered by anyone who wants to clean up their diet and improve their health. Additionally, a clean diet gives you control over exactly what you are putting in to your body. No more additives, preservatives and dyes with controversial or unknown side effects.
In order to adopt a clean eating diet, you will have to commit to reading nutrition labels on all of the foods that you buy. This is arguably the most difficult aspect of adopting a clean eating diet because it is time consuming and restrictive. This includes reading (or asking for) the ingredients and nutritional content in restaurants and can cause dining out at fast food locations to be nearly impossible. So what are you looking for when reading nutrition labels? There are obvious junk foods items you should avoid, but there are also some ingredients that do not follow clean eating guidelines which are not as obvious. Some of the ingredients or foods to avoid include artificial dyes, fillers, trans fat, high fructose corn syrup, processed foods, MSG, sodium nitrite, BHA, fat replacers, artificial sweeteners, refined flour, refined sugar, preservatives. Once you begin reading labels, you may be surprised to realize that many of the processed foods you once considered healthy actually contain some of the ingredients you should be avoiding. In fact, many foods that are marketed as health foods do not follow the clean eating guidelines, such as sweetened yogurt, crackers, cereals, diet soda and baked goods.
When adopting a clean eating lifestyle, your diet should consist of healthy fats (such as olive oil, coconut oil and avocado), 100 % whole grains, dairy (use full-fat products), seafood, organic tofu or tempeh, produce, meats, nuts and herbs. Ideally the sweeteners you use for treats or baking should be date sugar, honey, maple syrup, stevia, cacao nibs and dark chocolate. As with any diet, it is important to remember that all foods should be consumed in moderation for maximum benefits and diet variety.
While it’s true that a clean diet would have you buying organic whenever possible, you can certainly buy non-organic as your budget requires. If your budget allows for just a few organic products, stick to the “dirty dozen” list for your organic products and buy non-organic for everything else. There are also other ways to save your clean grocery list such as growing your own fruits and vegetables and not buying any beverages. Stick to drinking just water for maximum health and budget benefits. And while it may seem like processed treats, sauces, salad dressings, chips, crackers and entrees are inexpensive, these purchases add up quickly and are often more expensive than cooking from scratch.
Eating clean requires a significant lifestyle commitment. Reading nutrition labels means grocery shopping trips cannot be rushed and some of your favorite foods and restaurants may be banned from your diet. However, fueling your body with healthy, fresh foods will make a positive impact on your life and will certainly be worth your sacrifice. However, the ultimate goal should be about finding a balance that works for your life and your family. If cutting out all processed foods just is not practical for you, it is certainly possible that you can still make some clean eating changes. Adopting even some clean eating habits will be beneficial to your overall health.