You are what you eat.
You’ve heard that cliche a hundred times, but it’s a good one to keep in mind when you start down the path toward clean eating. Your body is a direct reflection of the food you’ve given it. Like a machine, if you give your body good fuel, it will be in optimum shape, and if you give it bad fuel, it might not react as positively.
People who attempt a healthier lifestyle often tend to focus on physical activity and neglect the dietary side of the situation. Yes, your body does need exercise, but it also needs fruits, vegetables, vitamins, minerals and proteins, which will supply it with nutrients and energy.
Clean eating is a way to provide yourself with natural, healthy, vitamin-rich, unprocessed foods. Consuming these can help you feel great, have good physical health and a calm, balanced mind. All of this can be achieved mostly through dietary changes, supplemented with exercise. Great news, right? Looking good is directly correlated to feeling good, so when you approach the matter at hand with this mantra, you become more conscious about what food you put in your body.
Clean eating means you mostly consume natural, whole foods like vegetables and fruits, grains and lean proteins. Eating clean also means staying away from over-processed junk food, such as trans-fats, man-made sugars, candy and fast food. In short, if what you’re consuming was man-made, stay away.
You might consider clean eating as a diet of sorts, but it is most accurately deemed a lifestyle choice. Unlike a diet that lasts a couple of months, this can be a permanent way of life.
There are numerous approaches to clean eating, but most of them remain faithful to the basic outline mentioned above. Consuming fresh fruits and vegetables in large amounts is crucial. If it comes from a tree, bush or vine, without being altered by man, it is considered clean.
Meat or lean protein is also an important part of the diet. Avoid buying meat that has been processed or pumped full of hormones. If you can, use a local butcher. Grains are also primordial, but go for grains that haven’t been broken down. Buy as close to natural as possible.
Maintain adequate hydration, another vital part of eating clean. Consume copious amount of water, and cut out sugary sweet drinks, especially those that contain high-fructose corn syrup. According to studies, sugar-sweetened beverages account for seven percent of calories in the average American diet. Cutting those drinks out effectively and quickly reduces your sugar load.
Apart from keeping you hydrated, water also provides numerous other benefits. It flushes out the body, aids in weight loss and increased productivity, and can reduce the risk of colon and bladder cancer.
Reading labels is another necessary skill to have when learning to eat clean. You must keep informed about what goes into the food you consume. Choose foods that contain as few ingredients as possible in order to avoid over-processed food products. A list of between three and six ingredients is recommended. This ensures the food is as close to its natural state as possible, which provides you with the most complete and wholesome nourishment possible.
Just as reading food labels is crucial, so is meal planning and preparation. Eating clean promotes eating five to six meals per day. With a bit of meal planning, you’ll have healthy fare ready to go. It will help you avoid succumbing to quick, unhealthy alternatives like fast food.
Clean eating can offer a surplus of rewards, like a better mood, more energy, better overall health and even a feeling of “un-fogging” the mind, which can help you be more connected with your body, mind and spirit.
This way of fueling your body can be quite a transition to make, and might even feel a tad overwhelming at first. Remind yourself that adhering to this lifestyle might be more of a process than you first expect, especially if there are a lot of changes to be made. Taking it slowly is the best approach. Accept how much discipline it takes to eat clean, and know that with hard work, nothing is impossible.
Paola Noriega is a writer, sociology student, musician and mixed-media artist. She has enjoyed writing and reading, particularly poetry, since a young age. She plays ukulele, bikes and studies Japanese. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and two cats.