Clean Eating 101

I wouldn't necessarily say that Eating Clean is a challenge, but I will ask you to challenge yourself for 5 days to try it, and see what eating clean does for your body! You can get my complimentary 5 Day Clean Eating Meal Plan here. A PDF copy will be delivered right to your email! Recipes included!

Eating clean put simply is the practice of avoiding processed and refined foods and basing your diet on whole foods. That’s a pretty vague definition thought right? There’s a bit more to it. In fact, you can structure your diet around Clean Eating to get proper nutrition, help manage diseases, avoid developing diseases in the first place, lose weight, remove toxins, and just feel better. And by “diet” I don’t mean a restrictive DIET containing DIET foods, by diet, I mean your nutrition, what you put into your body every day. Your Daily Diet.

You may be wondering just what the heck “clean eating” is! I can assure you, it is NOT a fad diet. It’s more of a lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle that you can use throughout your life. The beauty of clean eating is that you can really eat such a variety of foods! Almost any recipe can be made into a clean recipe.

So what is Clean Eating?
Well, don't freak out, but this next statement is totally true: there aren’t many fitness goals you can reach without eating clean. Seriously, you cannot get healthy without eating healthy. You can exercise until your heart wants to jump out of your chest, but you can't out-exercise a bad diet. If you aren’t feeding your body good things, you’ll negate any exercise you’ve completed. Simply put, eat garbage, your body will feel and look like it. Eat good stuff, and you will get that healthy glow, energy, weight management, and overall health. You are what you eat right? We've heard that our whole lives, but it never made much sense to me until I started eating clean.

The Basic Principles of Eating Clean

• Eat whole foods: Whole foods are foods that haven’t been tampered with, in the lab or the manufacturing plant. The foods you eat on this plan are straight from the farm: whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, grass-fed and free-range meats, lowfat dairy products, unsalted nuts, and seeds.

• Eat LOTS of fresh vegetables and fruits. If it comes from a plant, eat it. If it’s made in a plant, don’t!

• Eat Lean protein: When you’re including meat as protein into your diet, please remember this simple rule, buy from the butcher. If your meats come in pre-packaged plastic, they undoubtedly have additives. You can even go so far as asking the butcher to grind your turkey and beef for you. Other sources of protein can include foods that are not meats, like eggs and yogurt.

• Avoid processed foods: Processed foods are any food that has a label. A label means that more than one ingredient was used to make that food. You don’t have to eliminate all processed foods (like whole grain pasta or natural cheeses), but if you can’t pronounce an ingredient on a label, don’t put that food in your shopping basket. Shop the perimeter of the store, the middle aisles are all manufactured foods, not whole and real foods.

• Enjoy Grains - Eat grains that are still complete and haven’t been broken down into “glue”. Stick to brown rice, whole wheat and other whole grains. Start to read labels, I don’t know how many breads I’ve picked up at the store that say they are whole grain. But when I take a look at the ingredient list, white flour is the second ingredient after whole wheat flour!

• Eliminate refined sugar and flour. Refined sugar provides nothing but calories. Other sweeteners can be used, but with all the good foods you add to your diet, refined sugar and white flour really has very little place in the eating clean plan.

• Cook your own meals. Instead of buying meals in a box, cook meals from scratch. That’s not as hard as it sounds! Clean, whole foods need little preparation beyond chopping and sautéing to make satisfying, delicious meals your family will love. A lot of clean eating is in the way you prepare foods. When you cook, use minimal oils. And when you do use oils, make sure they are olive oil, coconut oil, or something similar.

• Eat Fewer Ingredients. Try not to purchase foods that have more than 3-6 ingredients in the ingredient list. And be sure you recognize each and every ingredient. If you find a “mystery ingredient” such as “spices”, contact the company! Ask them what they consider to be spices. If it’s anything other than honest-to-goodness herbs and spices, avoid it! And remember, as a general rule of thumb, if you can’t pronounce it, it probably shouldn’t go into your body. There are some exceptions, but for the most part, this is true.

• Stay away from artificial ingredients and sweeteners. This is a big one. And most people don’t realize how big it truly is. Artificial sweeteners are rotten, poison for your body! For sweeteners, stick to natural sweeteners like honey and stevia, eliminate artificial sweeteners like Splenda.

• Combine protein with carbs. When you do snack or eat a meal, make sure that meal is balanced. For the most satisfaction from your diet, and so you’ll be less tempted to eat junk food, combine protein with carbs or carbs and fat. This simple act will fuel your body and eliminate hunger pangs.

• Concentrate on the correct portion size. American dinners are usually 3 times the size of what you actually need! Eat 5-6 small meals per day. This may seem like a lot at first. But remember, you are eating smaller portions. If you really have a hard time with this, prepare your regular three meals and a snack for the day, and divide lunch and dinner in half. You’ve instantly got 6 small meals! By eating smaller meals throughout the day you can help rev up your metabolism and reduce the chance that you’ll eat some Funyuns rather than that whole grain cracker with nut butter and strawberries. You’ll fuel your body with nutritious foods throughout the day. You never get so hungry on this plan that you’ll feel deprived or feel the need to cheat. And truly, the cravings you once had for sugary foods will dissipate, Shakeology helps here too, and when you do taste a sugary or salty food, it really won’t taste the same. Eat clean for 3-6 months and your taste buds change. It’s really something!

Is Clean Eating Expensive?

Well, that's kind of a loaded question. It can be, without careful planning. I've got a great article for you to start with! Just click here and learn how to eat clean on a shoestring budget, like mine!

How Can Whole Foods and Eating Clean Help You Stay Healthy?

It’s easier to maintain a healthy weight, which reduces the risk of several diseases.

Eating a good variety of foods ensures you get adequate amounts of most essential nutrients.

Whole foods keep you satisfied longer so you’re less tempted by junk foods.

Foods high in micronutrients (whole foods) can help reduce cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar.

There are some nutrients we haven’t yet identified that are present in whole foods but not in supplements.

Whole foods help keep your digestive system regular.

Eating a healthy diet makes you stronger so you can stay more active.

Avoiding artificial ingredients keeps your cells strong so your body systems work efficiently.

If you feel good, you’re more likely to take care of yourself in other ways. And you are more likely to exercise!

Spicing Up Your Meals When Eating Clean

When you cook, do not add salt! Use pure spices instead of spice blends. Example: Use garlic, thyme, pepper, instead of “Mrs. Dash.”

Healthy food has an undeserved reputation for being boring or bland. Whole, fresh foods are actually delicious on their own, with no added seasoning. Unfortunately, many of our palettes have been changed by too much sodium, sugar, and additives in our food. Good news is, that will change back the more you eat healthy! In the meantime, there are healthy ways to add flavor to clean foods. And the best news, herbs and spices are "free foods" you can eat as much as you like and not tick off anything in your calorie boxes of life!

Basil: Basil leaves contain flavonoids that act as powerful antioxidants. It’s also high in vitamins A and K and has a good amount of potassium and manganese. You can use fresh or dried basil. Use peppery and minty basil in tomato sauces, salad dressings, pesto, sandwich spreads, soups, and chicken, beef, pork, and fish dishes.

Marjoram: Heavily fragrant and contains many phytochemicals — including terpenes, which are anti-inflammatory — lutein, and beta carotene. Plus, it has lots of vitamin C and vitamin D. Marjoram is delicious in any dish made using beef and is perfect with vegetables like tomatoes, peas, carrots, and spinach.

Mint: Often used for upset stomachs because it soothes an irritated GI tract. But did you know it may be a weapon against cancer, too? It contains a phytochemical called perillyl alcohol, which can stop the formation of some cancer cells. Mint is a good source of beta carotene, folate, and riboflavin. Use it in teas, in desserts, as part of a fruit salad or lettuce salad, or as a garnish for puddings.

Oregano: Used in many Italian dishes (one of my faves!) This strong herb is a potent antioxidant with the phytochemicals lutein and beta carotene. It’s a good source of iron, fiber, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin A, and omega-3 fatty acids. More than just spaghetti sauce, you can add oregano to salad dressings, soups, sauces, gravies, meat dishes, and pork recipes.

Parsley: Remember when you used to avoid that parsley garnish on your plate at the restaurant? If only you knew how healthy it is! This mild and leafy herb is an excellent source of vitamin C, iron, calcium, and potassium. Plus, it’s packed with flavonoids, which are strong antioxidants, and folate, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Use it in everything from salads (as a raw green) to rice, grilled fish, and sauces, and dressings.

Rosemary: Rosemary contains terpenes, which slow down free radical development and stop inflammation. Terpenes may also block some estrogens, which cause breast cancer. Use this pungent and piney herb in soups, stews, meat, and chicken dishes. Chop some fresh rosemary to roast a chicken, cook with lamb or beef, or mix with olive oil for a dip for warm whole-wheat bread.

Sage: Sage contains the flavonoid phytochemicals apigenin and luteolin and some phenolic acids that act as anti-inflammatory agents and antioxidants. Perhaps sage’s most impressive effect may be against Alzheimer’s disease by inhibiting the increase in AChE inhibitors. Its dusky, earthy aroma and flavor are delicious in classic turkey stuffing (as well as the turkey itself), spaghetti sauces, soups and stews, and frittatas and omelets.

Tarragon: This herb tastes like licorice with a slightly sweet flavor and is delicious with chicken or fish. It’s a great source of phytosterols and can reduce the stickiness of platelets in your blood. Tarragon is rich in beta carotene and potassium, too. Use it as a salad green or as part of a salad dressing or mix it with Greek yogurt to use as an appetizer dip with some fresh cucumber or cooked mushrooms.

Thyme: One of my favorite chicken seasonings! This herb is a good source of vitamin K, manganese, and the monoterpene thymol, which has antibacterial properties and may help protect against tumor development. It’s fresh, slightly minty, and lemony tasting, making it a great addition to everything from your morning eggs to dinners featuring chicken and fish.

Cinnamon: Because cinnamon is just so good for me, I have forced myself to like it! Weirdo right, who doesn't like cinnamon? Me, and my little sis too. Must be a family thing. The aroma of cinnamon is one of the most enticing in cooking; just the smell can help improve brain function! Okay, Okay, I'll use it, geez! It can also reduce blood sugar levels, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and overall cholesterol levels. Cinnamaldehyde, an organic compound in cinnamon (go figure!), prevents clumping of blood platelets, and other compounds in this spice are anti-inflammatory. Add cinnamon to coffee and tea, use it in desserts and curries, and sprinkle some on oatmeal for a great breakfast.

Cloves: Cloves are actually flower buds and are a great source of manganese and omega-3 fatty acids. They contain eugenol, which helps reduce toxicity from pollutants and prevent joint inflammation, and the flavonoids kaempferol and rhamnetin, which act as antioxidants. Cloves are a great addition to hot tea and coffee as well as many dessert recipes, including fruit compote and apple desserts.

Cumin: Another great with chicken spice! This spice is rich in antioxidants, which may help reduce the risk of cancer. It also has iron and manganese, which help keep your immune system strong and healthy. Add cumin to Middle Eastern recipes, rice pilafs, stir-fried vegetables, and Tex-Mex dishes, gives a great Mexican food spice when mixed with a bit if Chili Powder.

Nutmeg: Nutmeg is rich in calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins A and C. It can help reduce blood pressure, acts as an antioxidant, and has antifungal properties. The lacy covering on nutmeg is used to make mace. Keep a whole nutmeg in a tiny jar along with a mini rasp to grate it fresh into dishes with spinach, add it to hot tea, use it in curry powder, and add it to rice pudding and other desserts. I love it in my coffee or Shakeology!

Turmeric: This spice is one of the healthiest foods on the planet, and I'm totally guilty of not knowing how to use it! Curcumin, a phytochemical in turmeric, can stop cancer cells from reproducing and spreading, slow Alzheimer’s disease progression, and help control weight. In fact, researchers are currently studying curcumin as a cancer fighter, painkiller, and antiseptic. Turmeric gives foods a pretty yellow color and is an inexpensive substitute for saffron. Use it in Indian foods, egg salads, sauces, tea, and fish and chicken recipes.

Courtesy of Me, and some content from Clean Eating For Dummies by Jonathan Wright & Linda Johnson Larsen

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