In today’s world, healthy eating may seem like an uphill battle for many of us. With so much conflicting information out there concerning what is and isn’t healthy, it’s enough to make your head spin. Avoid fat, eat fat, avoid carbs, eat carbs. You have undoubtedly heard it all before and have probably at some point given up on caring all together. When it comes to diets, I have personally tried them all and can tell you from first hand experience that they just don’t work. At least in the long run they don’t. Trying to exist on cabbage soup, grapefruits or only meat alone will eventually fail you since our bodies weren’t designed to survive on one restrictive food group, but knowing this hasn’t stopped us from trying to do it anyway. We all want instant results, but unfortunately, that’s just not how it works. If you’re looking to find health at the bottom of some lemon/maple syrup/cayenne pepper concoction, you aren’t going to find it.
In the short term, any diet can yield results, but those results vanish into thin air the minute we return to our former eating habits, which we all know is inevitable. Does anyone really go on a super restrictive diet because they want to watch their efforts fly right out the window the minute they take a bite of real food? Well apparently the answer is yes, considering that diets are a multi-billion dollar a year industry. Why do we keep subjecting ourselves to this yo-yo lifestyle? It certainly isn’t in the best interest of our bodies, and constant yo-yo dieting is both unhealthy and dangerous. So you may be asking yourself “what does it mean to eat lean and clean? Isn’t that just a fancy spin on another diet?” The simple answer is no, eating lean and clean is not a fad diet. It is a lifestyle. Clean eating is literally cleaning the junk out of our everyday meals, and replacing it with food that comes straight from the land the majority of the time. That means no more processed, chemical laden foods or artificial ingredients that you can’t pronounce. Fresh, in-season foods that come from mother nature should be your rule of thumb. To sum it up bluntly, here is a list of foods we want to avoid when trying to eat clean:
- Refined Starches and Refined and Artificial Sugars
- Unhealthy Fats (corn oil, peanut oil, canola oil, safflower oil, etc.)
- Grain Based Alcohol (beer, grain based liquor, etc.)
- Processed Foods
- Grain Fed Animal Protein
- High Calorie Juices and Sports Drinks
Now, if you’re thinking that you are going to starve to death eating this way, you couldn’t be further from the truth. When you are only eating nutrient dense foods, your body is continually getting the fuel it needs to function properly. The elimination of hard to digest, empty calories means no more roller coaster energy levels that leave you both tired and starving. Foods that you should eat include:
- Healthy Fats (unrefined virgin coconut oil, avocados, olive oil)
- Fruits and Vegetables (organic when possible – see The Dirty Dozen list on essential organic purchases)
- Raw Nuts and Seeds
- Grass Fed, Free Range Meats
- Leafy Greens
- Fresh Herbs and Spices
- Gluten Free Grains (millet, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat and gluten free specified steel cut oats)
- Lentils, Beans and Chickpeas in Moderation
- Brown Rice in Moderation
- Gluten Free Pasta and Crackers in Moderation
- Nut Milk (almond, coconut, etc.)
- Natural Sweeteners (stevia, coconut nectar, organic pure maple syrup, honey)
- Wine in Moderation
- Water, Water and More Water!
You don’t need to analyze calories or become obsessive about food when starting a clean eating lifestyle. No specific food is really restricted to you as long as its’ in its’ natural, whole state. To start out, just aim to include as much fresh produce into your diet as you possibly can on a daily basis. Eating a green salad before each meal, or a green shake before breakfast will help keep your digestive system moving as it should, filling you up so you don’t overeat. Whatever you do, don’t make it complicated. In order to stick to this lifestyle, you need to enjoy what you’re eating and have fun with your food. Don’t be afraid to experiment in the kitchen or try new things. You may be surprised by how little you miss the dairy, gluten and processed foods you once thought you couldn’t live without. You also may be surprised by a few of the health benefits that clean eating provides. This includes:
- Better Skin, Nails and Hair
- Better Digestion
- Weight Loss and Better Weight Management
- Increased Energy
- Better Overall Health
While the common myth may be that healthy foods are more expensive than their processed alternatives, that simply isn’t true. It is actually less expensive to eat healthy, clean foods, but it does require a little more time in the kitchen and some proper preparation to maximize the longevity of your produce.
In the end, remember to keep it simple. It isn’t complicated unless you make it complicated, and you don’t have to become obsessive to start reaping the benefits that clean eating provides.