What Is Clean Eating?
Clean eating is deceptively simple. The trend revolves around eating only whole, or real, foods. This means consuming food that has been un- or minimally processed, refined and handled. Essentially, food that is as close to its natural form as possible.
Clean eating sounds simple enough, but in the modern world of food production, simply eating whole foods can be challenging. Processed food includes foods with:
- Additions of any kind including salt, sugar, fat, preservatives, vitamin enrichment and more
- Form manipulation like mashing, cooking and other forms of preparation
- Unnatural components created in a lab (ex: names of ingredients you can’t pronounce)
Under these guidelines, processed foods can include everything from hotdogs to mashed apples (to make applesauce). It’s important to stress, however, that not all processed foods are bad. Processing often removes toxins or bacteria and allows people to eat foods that aren’t in season. The key to clean eating is avoiding ultra-processed foods.
Core Principles of Clean Eating
Despite the seemingly limited food options, clean eating is relatively simple and centered around four basic principles.
- Eat more real foods – Eating whole foods goes hand in hand with good health. Avoid fast food or highly-processed convenience foods.
- Eat for nourishment – Strive to carve out enough time to eat nourishing, balanced meals. Eat at home more often and prepare your own healthy recipes. When you eat, choose your foods wisely and aim for foods that will nourish your body rather than simply make the hunger pangs fade.
- Focus on plant-based foods – Plant-based diets rich in fruits and veggies support healthy weight, healthier-looking skin and hair and provide your body with critical vitamins and nutrients.
- Live a ‘cleaner’ lifestyle – Regular exercise and proper amounts of sleep can promote a better mood and encourage you to make healthier decisions throughout the day. It can also leave you feeling healthier overall, just knowing you’re doing something beneficial for your body.
How to Shop ‘Clean’
If you’re truly dedicated to clean eating, you’ll have to say goodbye to your favorite bag of potato chips. While clean eating doesn’t mean you have to stick to raw foods, you should try to choose foods with no label or few ingredients on a label if it has one. Be more mindful of your choices by asking yourself a few questions about your grocery store selections:
- Where did this food/its ingredients come from?
- How much has it been processed or handled?
- Are there artificial colors or flavorings?
- Can you pronounce the names of all the ingredients?
Path to a Healthier-Feeling You
Changing your lifestyle and diet overnight isn’t realistic. It will take some time to cultivate and stick to healthier habits. If you slip up, just remember not to give up! Your best bet will be to start slow and ease your way into big changes.
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