Clean eating is not a diet. It is simply eating foods in their most natural state.
The principles of clean eating are based on nutritional science and recommendations made by public health organizations. Clean eating is about making choices for optimum long-term health for your body. It's a lifestyle with built-in flexibility!
Here are my top five principles to eating clean:
- Choose whole, natural foods. You want to eliminate or minimize processed food from your diet. This includes anything in a box, bag, can or package. There are exceptions to this rule (such as fresh bagged or frozen veggies or fruit), but most of what you eat should be fresh.
- Choose unrefined over refined foods. Think beyond "refined white flour". Almond flour, brown rice flour, coconut flour and oat flour are all excellent ways to reduce the simple carbs of any recipes and still create delicious baked goods. Look at using clean sugars such as honey, natural maple syrup and dehydrated sugar cane juice.
- Steer clear of excess fat, salt and sugar. Processed foods are responsible for most of our excess calories, high levels of fat, sugar and salt intake. Clean foods are usually naturally low in these ingredients and do not contain added sugar or sweeteners.. Avoid anything with "added sugar"!
- Don't drink your calories. High calorie drinks like sodas and specialty coffees can tack on an added 400-500 calories a day! I won't even go into all the artificial, toxic ingredients in sodas... Choose water first, or even unsweetened teas. Coffee is fine, as long as you don't use all the heavy creams and refined sugars.
- Balance your diet. Balance and moderation are key components to clean eating. You don't have to avoid carbs or dietary fats entirely; You do want to enjoy your meals! Try to adjust your portion sizes to fit your goals and ideally aim for protein, carbs and fat at every meal. I like to try and eat 5 small meals a day to keep my blood sugar levels steady, avoid skipping meals or overeating. This also keeps my metabolism up!
In summary, approach clean eating as a lifestyle, not a diet. This could mean just tweaking what you're doing now, or turning over a whole new leaf! You don't have to write off the bad foods you love forever... You still get to enjoy your food, especially if you want to be successful. I allow myself at least one cheat meal a week (though sometimes I regret it), and I find this helps me stay on track. Once you get the hang of clean eating, label reading and into a routine, you will be in control of your health, not your unhealthy habits.
For tips on meal prepping, check out this previous post.