“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” – Nikola Tesla
What exactly does it mean to “eat clean?” We often hear this term thrown around as something we should strive for, but determining what “dirty” things we should avoid to attain this goal can be confusing and difficult. The short answer is, clean foods are minimally processed and do not contain chemicals, preservatives, flavourings, or other additives.
If you are looking to start eating cleanly but don’t really know where to start, then let this be your guide. Once you understand what it truly means to eat clean, this lifestyle will become not only easy to maintain, but enjoyable as well, as you will begin to feel the benefits almost immediately.
While some of these tips may seem obvious, they can be easy to forget, particularly if they aren’t part of your daily routine.
1. Eat More Fruits and Veggies
Everyone knows that vegetables and fruits are healthy, and most people would probably agree that they could be eating more of them. Not only are they loaded with nutrients, they require minimal work to enjoy. They can be picked, washed, and eaten with little or no preparation.
Fruit is often considered nature’s perfect food, as you can hold it in your hand and simply eat it — no cooking or utensils required! Whizzing some up in a blender for a morning smoothie, perhaps with some spinach or kale, couldn’t be easier, and smoothies are undeniably delicious.
Simple tips to incorporate more fruits or veggies include:
- Have a smoothie full of fruit in the morning, before eating anything else
- Eat one large salad during the day
- Make sure to use a variety of colourful vegetables
- Always have something green with your dinner, and make sure it takes up more of the plate than protein or carbohydrates.
Fruits and vegetables are the backbone of a clean and healthy diet.
2. Limit or Eliminate Processed Foods
Want to know what foods aren’t clean? Look no further than processed foods. Not only are they loaded with chemicals and preservatives, but they almost always contain ingredients that have either been genetically modified or sprayed with pesticides.
Processed foods barely resemble their natural counterparts and are usually stripped of fiber, minerals, and other important nutrients. In their place go sugar and other unhealthy ingredients that give the food flavour and extend its shelf life.
Processed foods take less energy to digest and absorb than whole foods do, which means your body doesn’t have to work as hard to access those calories. This will cause you to gain more weight over time, as many studies have shown. In one such study, healthy adults consumed a 600 calorie meal that contained either whole or processed foods. The group that consumed whole foods burned twice as many calories while digesting their meals than those who ate processed foods. Contrary to popular belief, a calorie is not just a calorie — where it comes from matters.
3. Avoid Sugar
For those who don’t have a sweet tooth, this might seen like an easy one, but you’d surprised by how much sugar is hiding in processed foods. From condiments and sauces to nondairy milks and yogurt, sugar is in everything, especially if it’s “low fat.” These foods may be marketed as healthy and better for weight loss, but they contain vast amounts of sugar — a surefire recipe for weight gain — to replace the flavour that was lost from taking all the fat out. So even if you are already making an effort to avoid sweets, be sure to eliminate processed foods as well.
And if you are craving something sweet, eat some fruit! There are also healthier sugar alternatives, such as dates, pure maple syrup, and unpasteurized honey, which won’t affect you the same way that refined sugar will.
4. Read Labels
Reading food labels is essential if you want to achieve or maintain good health. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, then quite simply, you shouldn’t be eating it in the first place. The best way to avoid this altogether is to buy foods that don’t have ingredients, but are ingredients themselves — whole foods. These are foods that have not been altered or had anything added to them, so the only ingredient would be the food itself. Apples, carrots, potatoes, rice, oats — I think you get the idea.
Obviously, that isn’t always possible. But consider how much waste you could avoid by opting for whole foods more often. They generally come without packaging, and sometimes they even come in their own biodegradable and organic package, like an orange peel. (Nature is so cool.)
When you do purchase foods with a label, however, focus on the ingredients and the sugar count. Don’t worry so much about the calories and fat content, as it’s better to have high calories and lots of nutrients than low calories with loads of added sugar.
5. Limit or Avoid Alcohol
Consuming alcohol is not only socially acceptable in our society, but also often expected, with little regard to the impact it can have on our health. Most people simply don’t know that alcohol is carcinogenic and, aside from its affect on our liver, poses many other health risks.
If you must consume alcohol, do so in moderation. While red wine, for example, offers some potential health benefits, they don’t make up for the negative aspects of wine’s alcohol content. If clean eating is your goal, alcohol should be taken sparingly, if at all.
6. Choose Water More Often
Most people are chronically dehydrated. We consume many beverages throughout the day, but many of them, like coffee, actually make us more dehydrated. Make water the primary thing you drink throughout the day. Add fresh fruit and herbs, lemon juice, or sliced cucumber if you don’t enjoy the taste of plain water, or opt for herbal teas. Eliminate sugary beverages like soda and even fruit juices, which are loaded with sugar and don’t properly hydrate.
Beverages sweetened with sugar have been linked to diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
One of the best things you can do for your health is to drink a glass of warm water with lemon immediately upon waking. This will stimulate and help to clean out your digestive system, making food easier to digest moving forward. It’s also a great way to get in some vitamins and minerals with minimal effort.
7. Choose Free Range and Organic Meat and Animal Products
This applies only to those people who consume meat and animal products, obviously. If you do eat meat, be sure to buy organic meat from animals that have been allowed to roam freely and graze as they would naturally, not force fed corn and other filler foods. Avoid any and all meat and animal products from conventional factory farms, as these products are not only loaded with growth hormones and antibiotics, but the animals they come from have been mistreated and were fed unhealthy food, which will impact your health, too.
And if you do eat animals and animal products, do so in moderation. Drastically limit your consumption of animals and animal products. Animal cholesterol is related to numerous different ailments and diseases, including cancer and heart disease.
8. Avoid Refined Carbohydrates
Refined carbohydrates are foods that have been highly processed and are very easy to over-consume because they have been stripped of fiber and protein, which make you feel full, and have already been broken down into simple sugars, which your body quickly absorbs and turns into fat. Refined carbohydrates provide little nutritional value, and include things like white bread, pasta, cookies, sugary drinks, and basically anything made with white flour. If you choose to avoid processed foods, you will be avoiding most refined carbohydrates by default.
You can still have bread and pasta and other carbohydrates, just consider choosing a whole and/or sprouted grain option, like brown rice and brown rice pasta, oats, and millet. These offer many more nutrients and will actually make you feel full so your body knows when to stop eating.
9. Eliminate Vegetable Oils and Spreads
There really is no way around this one: ALL vegetable oils should be avoided. Not only are they linked to a number of serious health concerns, they are usually produced using genetically modified ingredients as well. Just stop using them! This includes any margarine or oil spreads and vegan butter alternatives.
Choose cold pressed coconut or olive oil or grass fed butter or ghee.