Clean eating has been getting a lot of buzz the past couple of years. So what is it? Why should you eat clean, and how do you begin?
If you’ve seen the term “clean eating” floating around the internet but aren’t quite sure where to start, or feel overwhelmed by so much information, read on. I’m going to break it down and tell you everything you need to know: what clean eating is, why it’s so important, and how to start RIGHT NOW.
Clean eating has helped me get into the best shape of my life, and feel healthier, happier, and all around better than I ever have before. I hope these tips will help and inspire you to do the same! 🙂
At the end of the post, I have shared my printable Clean Eating Grocery List with all of my favorite staples, so don’t forget to download it!
What is clean eating?
Clean eating plain and simple is eating, whole, real, unprocessed foods. In a way, it’s almost more about what you SHOULDN’T eat than what you should eat.
Foods that are “clean” are unprocessed or minimally processed and refined. Clean foods are as close to their natural state as possible. An easier way to put this: stay away from all processed foods.
What are processed foods?
Processed foods are almost anything packaged, containing added sugars or salts, preservatives, coloring, flavoring, etc.
Anything containing refined carbohydrates are processed and do not count as a “clean” food. If you want to learn more about refined carbs, read my post: Why You Need To Quit Refined Carbs.
Why should you eat clean?
You’ll lose weight.
Losing weight is the first obvious reason. When you detox your body of sugars and refined carbohydrates that constantly swing your blood sugar levels, causing you to crave more, eat more, and gain weight; you will be shocked how much weight you can lose from changing your diet alone.
But, clean eating is about more than just losing weight and getting lean. It’s about improving your overall and long term health! Here are some other great “side effects” to eating clean:
You will be happier and less stressed.
Foods high in sugar take your insulin and dopamine levels on a daily roller coaster ride, and throw off your brain’s mood regulating chemicals. Think of drug addictions. When someone is addicted to a drug, they often truly believe they NEED that drug in order to function, be happy, etc. So if they don’t have it? They are irritable and depressed. This is the same thing that sugar does to your brain.
Your attention will improve, and your brain will function better. (AKA – YOU’LL FEEL SMARTER)
When your blood sugar is balanced and not fighting with the highs and lows from sugar, your brain fogginess will decrease and your mental clarity will increase.
You’ll sleep better and have more energy
When your blood sugars are balanced, your insulin levels are regulated. When this happens, your energy levels are more consistent, and it will promote good sleep patterns. Ever get that post-lunch crash after eating a meal high in refined carbs?
Your workout performance will improve
When your body is fueled properly and getting all of the proper nutrients it needs, you’ll have more stable, consistent energy, allowing you to perform better and not start to feel drained half way through your workout. It will also help you maintain your muscles and keep your strength.
There are so many other positive impacts of eating clean that I could go into, such as clearer skin, healthier babies (if you’re pregnant), fighting off inflammation, boosting your immune system, preventing disease, the list goes on. Hopefully the few benefits above will be enough for you to see the impact of clean eating or to research it more yourself.
How do I start eating clean?
1. Eat whole foods
To start eating clean, eat real, natural foods, that are as close to their natural state as possible. Eat fresh or frozen(without any added sauces or seasonings) produce instead of canned. Eat quinoa and 100% whole grains rather than white rice or white bread.
2. Choose organic when possible
Choosing organic will help you stay clear of pesticides or other junk that is added to our food. Non-organic livestock and poultry that produce the meats, dairy, and eggs we eat are given antibiotics and growth hormones, and there is still controversy over how much they affect human health. Some activists believe the antibiotics given to livestock are causing antibiotic resistance, and the growth hormones are affecting things such as young women and girls reaching puberty sooner.
If you would like to learn more about this topic here is a PubMed article explaining the matter.
3. Avoid processed foods
Try to avoid as many packaged foods as possible. If you can’t avoid them completely, look for foods with as few things in the ingredients list as possible.
4. Read labels and ingredients lists
As stated above, avoid foods with long ingredients lists. If there are ingredients you can’t pronounce, you should probably stay clear of them. Make sure you are looking at the sugar and trans fat content on nutrition labels. You’d be surprised to see how much sugar is in the bottle of Ketchup or BBQ sauce sitting in your fridge, or the flavored Greek yogurt you love, or the “healthy” granola bars in your cabinet 🙂
5. Understand what refined carbs are
Refined carbs come in two forms:
- Refined grains are grains that have had the fibrous and nutritious parts removed, such as white flour made from refined wheat.
- Refined sugars are processed sugars that do not occur naturally in fruit, such as sucrose(table sugar), high fructose corn syrup, and agave syrup.
For a more in depth explanation of refined sugars and refined carbs, read my post Why Refined Carbs Are Bad For Weight Loss.
6. Meal Prep
Meal prepping saves you time and money in the long run, and makes eating clean SO much easier. On a busy day, you’re more likely to choose convenience than healthy. This means having healthy meals prepped and ready to go is crucial. Read my post Meal Prep Like a Champ to learn all of my meal prepping secrets.
7. Download my clean eating grocery list
Other than being well educated, the best thing you can do is BE PREPARED!! Download my grocery list below full of “clean” foods, save it to your phone, print it out, use it to create your meal plans, and take it to the grocery store so you don’t have to question what’s “clean” and what’s not.
If you want to start eating clean but don’t know how, a couple “popular diets” to follow or use when searching for recipes are Whole30 and Paleo. Both of these diets focus on eating natural, whole food sources. Here are a couple of books I recommend and my other must-haves to help you get started: