Nutritional guidelines have changed significantly over the past two decades. I think people are becoming even more confused as to what to eat as there is so much information floating around the internet. There is however, one major movement that many of us agree on, and that is people want to feel good about what they are putting into their bodies. We are hearing the term ‘clean eating’ frequently mentioned but what does this term really mean? Nutrition is constantly evolving as more studies and research are being conducted. Those who eat clean are more focused on the type of food itself rather than how much they consume. Here’s my take on what clean eating means to me.
Learn to eat whole foods
Whole foods are simply foods that are taken from the ground or a tree and consumed in their natural state, no preservatives added and not refined. Too keep it simple, if you purchase a blueberry walnut muffin, just eat the blueberries and walnuts. Many muffins not only contain large amounts of fat but also refined products such as oil. Eating whole foods is the process of not having any ingredients added to them so their valuable nutrients are not taken away. This doesn’t mean you need to have blueberry bushes or a walnut tree in your backyard, it simply means you can buy these foods in their natural state from a local farm or the bulk section in your local grocery store.
Grains such as quinoa is an example of a whole grain. It’s not refined like white rice where it’s fiber and nutrients are stripped, bleached, and preservatives added. When you strip away all the nutrients, you are left with nothing and in order to enhance the taste, colours and artificial flavours are added which provide no nutritional value.
Un-sweeten your foods
As a society, we consume way too much sugar. If you eat food from a can, jar, or box, get into the habit of reading the labels to see how much if any sugar is contained in the ingredients. Sugar can be very addictive and is added to many processed foods. Reading labels is the only way to find out what is in your food. If you don’t understand the ingredients, then maybe it’s a good idea to research what products you are putting into your body. If you are limited to which foods you can purchase, then make sure that sugar is near the end of the list of ingredients.
Soda, fruit juice, baked goods are not whole foods. In fact, there is very little if any nutrients in these foods. They may taste good but they are actually harming your body with excess calories and depriving the body of foods that are required to fight illness and disease. Learn to replace these products with water and try baking your own foods where you know exactly what ingredients you are consuming.
Limit processed foods
Filled with sodium, sugar, and fat, eliminating processed food from your fridge and pantry is one way to clean up your eating habits. Some jars and containers use chemicals to preserve the food from going bad so if you can find time to make it yourself, even better. Again, processed foods provide little or no nutrients and fiber. The average North American diet consumes well below the average daily fiber intake and the culprit is the amount of processed food eaten. Don’t be fooled by the terms ‘trans fats’, ‘low in fat’ ‘calorie free’, but rather focus on the type of ingredients itself when purchasing processed food.
Not all foods contained in packages are processed or unhealthy. Whole wheat bread or pasta still has many of the nutrients inside of it and it is a much better choice than consuming white bread or white pasta. Beans which are packaged are very high in nutrients and a staple of clean eating. Again, reading the labels will educate you on what is in your food. If you understand the ingredients and you can locate these ingredients in your own kitchen, you are well on your way.
Eliminate animal protein
Dietary cholesterol is only found in animal products and is the number one cause of heart disease. The myth that we require meat for protein and dairy for calcium is simply not true. Protein is found in plants and plentiful at that, while calcium can be found in dark leafy greens. Our bodies are not designed to consume animal products and it’s not only affecting our health but destroying the environment and causing horrific suffering for innocent animals.
Learning to replace animal product with a whole foods plant base lifestyle can be a bit overwhelming when it comes to your taste buds. Learning how to substitute animal protein with plant protein is a lot easier than you think. Our daily dietary intake of protein should only be about 10% and many people are well above this number.
Increase fruits & vegetables
Do you ever wonder how whole food vegans rarely get sick? There isn’t a secret to this but rather the vitamins and nutrients that are located in fruits and vegetables to help fight common illnesses. Fruits are loaded in fiber and vegetables are low in calories. Eating a vegetable right out of the garden or picking a fruit off a bush or tree is as natural as it gets. There are many farms around now that offer you to go and pick your own produce.
You can also do-it-yourself with creating your own dishes with fruits and vegetables. Instead of buying a frozen stir-fry package that is loaded in sodium and preservatives, you can create your own by mixing up the variety of vegetables with some whole wheat noodles and make your own sauce. You can also make your own jam without sugar by adding a few other whole ingredients. Fruits and vegetables can be consumed all day long and are great at any meal.
Think about the big picture
Clean eating is not just about increasing fruits, vegetables, and grains while eliminating animal products, refined and processed food but rather choosing not to pollute our bodies with chemicals and substances that are bodies were not meant to break down. Consuming foods that are not genetically modified or injected with hormones and antibiotics is not only good for our health but unsafe for the environment.
Clean eating is not a trend or diet but rather a movement.
I think of clean eating as preventative medicine. Many common diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, common cancers, and many others can be prevented and even treated by switching over to a whole foods plant bas lifestyle. From benefits such as shinier skin, to weight loss, to an increase of energy, eating foods in their natural state makes sense to me and is the only way. We are taught from an early age to have a reductionist way of thinking when it comes to consuming food. This is simply not the case. There is a multitude of nutrients and vitamins found in whole foods and learning to try a variety of foods enhances our taste buds.
Those who eat clean simply eliminate or reduce processed food, refined sugar, salt, and animal protein. We’ve seen clients as well as ourselves who have transformed their lives by losing weight, increasing their energy levels, increase their sleep quality, and even reverse some disease.
Give it a try, what have you got to lose except the weight.
Art & Maureen