The term “clean eating” has been popping up all over news outlets and personal blogs lately. People are adopting clean eating primarily to improve their overall health, yet for many there are additional benefits, such as weight loss and increased energy levels. Some people have even found results with eating clean that included regulating cholesterol levels, lowering blood sugar levels, improving complexion, and more.
Clean eating is the simple concept of consuming foods in their most natural state, when they contain the most nutrients.
Clean eating is not a diet. It is a lifestyle. As with most lifestyles, there are guidelines rather than hard and steady rules. And because of that, there are some different interpretations of clean eating and some different ways of adopting a clean eating lifestyle. (Follow along with fellow Babble blogger Andrea Howe’s journey to clean eating in her Gwyneth Made Me Do It column here.)
Some people may follow the guidelines to the letter, while others may shoot for overall consistency. Here are the guidelines to a clean living lifestyle:
The 6 Simple Steps to Clean Eating 1 of 8
Consume lots of water 2 of 8
Drink plenty of water. Some clean eaters recommend no less than two liters a day and others say a half a gallon to a gallon. The point is to consume lots of water, because water helps to transport nutrients throughout our bodies. Also, keep in mind that clean eaters typically drink their water from a glass or reusable canteen rather than from a plastic bottle which might be made from potentially harmful materials.
Eat several small meals 3 of 8
Just like they are drinking water throughout the day, clean eaters are consuming food several times a day. Long periods of time without eating can cause our bodies to retain fat. In my research, I read recommendations of anywhere from four to six small meals, and two to three meals and small snacks. Meals generally consist of a lean protein, fruits and/or vegetables, and a complex carbohydrate to keep the body energized and burning calories efficiently. Some of the more strict clean eaters consume their complex carbohydrates earlier in the day for optimal energy burn.
Since this is a lifestyle, I suggest doing what works for your body and your schedule, as long as you keep in mind the importance of eating in small portions several times throughout the day.
Watch out for chemicals 4 of 8
Clean eaters avoid processed foods, as well as those with added preservatives, added sugar, and high levels of saturated fats or trans fats. Clean eaters also opt for whole grain alternatives to white flour and pasta. They also typically seek out organic produce and dairy as well as free-range and grass-fed meats and dairy, avoiding items that were fed or grown with hormones and chemicals.
While some people prefer to remain free of dairy and wheat/gluten, that is a personal preference rather than a guideline of a clean eating lifestyle.
Eat natural, whole foods 5 of 8
Clean eaters consume fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, healthy proteins, and whole grains. They are keen on reading labels and buying foods that are minimally processed, without additives and preservatives. Strict clean eaters have a "two ingredient" rule, not purchasing any items with more than two ingredients because those are more likely to be processed. In general, more processed foods have more chemicals and fewer nutrients. Clean eaters consume essential fatty acids, those which are unsaturated and not trans fats.
Avoid over-cooking 6 of 8
Clean eaters prepare foods in a way that maintains as much of their natural state and nutrient composition as possible. When it comes to cooked meals, those that are baked, steamed, or lightly sautÃ©ed are another staple of the clean eating lifestyle.
Additional guidelines 7 of 8
Lastly, here are a few optional, though often recommended guidelines for a clean eating lifestyle:
- Limit your alcohol intake. Some clean eaters do not consume any alcohol, while others allow one glass of antioxidant-rich red wine per day.
- Limit caffeine intake. Some say that one cup of coffee is fine while others eliminate caffeine altogether.
- Consume humanely raised and local meats.
- Have fewer meals which contain meat or fish.
- Purchase produce that is in season and grown locally.
- Eat a variety of foods. Aim for colorful vegetables and vary your meals.
- Eat slowly. Make a conscious effort to enjoy your meals.
The bottom line 8 of 8
Simply put, clean eating is about living in a way that improves your health and well-being.
It is about eating nutrient rich natural foods and eliminating the rest. (Click here for a list of 20 clean eating staples to keep in your home.) Mostly, clean eating is about finding a balance of healthy choices and deliberate consumption.
Here's to your health!
If you practice a clean eating lifestyle, do you have anything to add to this list? How has adapting this lifestyle worked for you?
Pease note that this post is intended to share information and ideas, as well as to create conversation. Please consult a medical professional before making changes to your lifestyle.
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