“Eat clean, train mean, get lean”… one of those classic motivational quotes. But what on earth do people even mean when they say eat clean?
…”Oh I know, another fad diet” – Not so fast!
The definition and process of clean eating is actually quite simple and is based on the concept that instead of focusing on how much you eat, you change your focus to what you eat and where your food comes from!
Read this article and we’ll tell you what’s really behind clean eating, and why the hell it’s so popular.
What is Clean Eating?
So I’m guessing you’ve probably heard gym goers and some of your friends ranting about clean eating… telling you to stop eating this and stop eating that- but what is clean eating?
For a start, clean eating is not a diet- so if you’re looking to lose 10 pounds in one week … that isn’t in the form of a bank note (good luck with that), you might want to go somewhere else. There are many different perceptions of what clean eating is that are circulating around the nutrition and fitness industry, but in generalised terms, clean eating is consuming a healthy diet that avoids processed and refined foods and instead bases your diet on whole foods. This means instead of cutting the “carbs” or the “cals” you are required to focus more on the pathways of the food, including where it is grown to how it gets to your plate.
What Does Clean Eating Involve?
When people think about clean eating they may associate it with dieting. But the term “diet” means to restrict oneself to small amounts or special types of food for a temporary period of time in order to lose weight. Although diets are associated with weight loss, this weight loss is usually only temporary whereby the completion of most restrictive diets often results in a regain of weight. So first things first let’s get the top facts:
Clean eating is not a diet you can give up in a couple of weeks and start again- it’s a lifestyle change, which involves improving your diet and eating habits and retraining your long term relationship with food. This means clean eating is not about withering down your calories to a bare minimum and consuming only lettuce!
Most low calorie diets, although may lead to a temporary loss of weight are very bad for our health and metabolism, leaving you nutrient and energy deprived. In terms of nutrition, no matter what your goals are, you need to meet your metabolic requirements- especially if you’re exercising regularly. With clean eating you can structure your diet to achieve an optimum nutrition, help manage diseases, avoid developing diseases, lose weight, remove toxins, and just generally feel better!
Clean eating is about eating healthy the majority of the time, avoiding process and refined foods, while trying to consume more fresh fruit and vegetables, protein, natural healthy fats and whole grains. However this does not mean you have to deprive yourself of all your favourite foods. Clean eating should not be about sacrificing food, it’s about finding healthier alternatives! Does this mean you can ever have another cupcake or bag of crisps again? – Of course not! Now that would be silly! Clean eating is about eating healthy MOST of the time- if you’re working hard and fancy a thick slice of cake- why not! As long as it is in moderation!
It’s important not to become obsessed with clean eating, as this can often result in a negative relationship with food. It’s for this reason that some people avoid using the term “cheat meal”- the key to clean eating is to eat clean most of the time but still have some flexibility. You may find however, that as your lifestyle changes your taste buds will also adapt and after a while you’ll stop craving the sugary snacks and start craving healthy food.
How to Get Started:
If you’re just getting to grips with clean eating the first thing to know is that there is no specific food plan! This means you have to account for your personal preferences and likes! Tailor your food choices to your diet and food sensitivities! E.g. if you’re gluten free or lactose intolerant. To kick off you’re clean eating lifestyle you should try to consume more:
Fruit & Vegetables
Eat more plant foods! By this I of course mean fruit and vegetables,.The idea behind clean eating is to stay well away from foods that have been manufactured and altered by humans. Consuming more fruit and vegetables is a big part of clean eating. You can eat as many vegetables as you want when you’re clean eating, so stock up on leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables such as spinach and broccoli! Fruit and vegetables are incredibly important for our health, whereby the added fibre and huge source of vitamins and micronutrients can not only contribute to weight loss, but also to improving your general well being.
However, when it comes to fruit you need to apply the “moderation” concept. Fruits contain sugar- and yes although this is natural sugar, too much of anything can become harmful in the body. If you consume to much sugar this can cause spikes in blood glucose levels affecting hormones and insulin secretion.
Eat High Quality Meats
When eating clean it’s important to consider the source of your meat. Aim to eat high quality lean meats and high quality red meat from grass fed animals. This means getting your meat straight from the butcher and grinding them yourself- after all we don’t know exactly what is added to packaged meat. Although price may be more expensive, grass fed meat is healthier with less harmful chemicals present!
For vegetarians, make sure you’re consuming a good source of protein from foods such as legumes and pulses!
Eat Health Fats
Believe it or not, fat burns fat! Good fat that is! Healthy sources of mono unsaturated fats from foods including salmon and nuts are great for losing weight and getting healthy! Eating healthy fats has not only been associated to fat loss but also to decreases in cholesterol and blood sugar levels!
Drink Plenty of Water
This is a rule you should already be following! Make sure you are always hydrated and drinking plenty of water- pure water! Often enough we can often mistake dehydration for hunger, whereby increasing your water intake can not only help fill you up but also aid digestion. You should be consuming at least 8 glasses of water a day!- more if you are exercising.
Use Good Quality Supplements
When it comes to supplementation this is really your decision to make. Are you getting enough nutritents, vitamins and minerals from your diet alone? If you’re looking to increase your protein intake but maybe can’t afford to buy grass fed beef a good protein supplement such as our whey protein isolate may become incredibly beneficial. I also recommend a good multivitamin if you’re not getting enough fruit and vege and our ultimate superfood formula SuperFood XS.
Foods to Avoid
If you’re serious about changing your diet for the better, consuming more healthy foods is one aspect, however the other is to start cutting out the junk and swapping so-called healthy foods for real healthy foods. When Cleaning up your diet try to avoid:
You don’t have to pay much for processed food but the costs for your healthy are high! Processed foods are usually super high in calories, saturated fat, sugar and hydrogenated trans fats, as well as other toxins, preservatives and chemicals! Consuming processed foods can not only prevent your fitness progress but they are also super harmful for health and can increase your risk of heart disease and some studies have shown poor diet can also increase the risk of cancer. Try preparing your meals in advance so that there is no option or reason to purchase a Mc Donald’s or crisps in the lunch time meal deal!
Many commonly consumed foods undergo a large amount of processing and refinement that diminishes their nutritional value and quality, for example refined flour. If you want to cut down your body fat percentage and eat clean you need to focus of the journey your food makes to the plate! Cut out refined foods and refined extrinsic sugars (sugars that are not natural) as these foods could be bringing your fat loss to a halt! If you really want to eat clean it is also important to avoid artificial additives such as sweeteners. Although sweeteners are calorie free they are also made in the lab and are not natural! This means you should start looking to eat more whole grains including brown rice and whole wheat grains.
Sugar Sweetened Beverages
Are you drinking your calories? So many people are unknowingly drinking there calories through consuming sugar sweetened beverages. Supermarkets and manufacturers have managed to convince us that consuming fruit juices is good for our health. Although a glass of fruit juice now and then might not affect your health, fruit juice in general is full of added sugars, sweeteners and additives, even diet fizzy drinks are packed full of sweeteners! If you’re trying to achieve your 5 a day make sure you get it through real food!
We all know drinking isn’t overly healthy, but did you know alcohol is actually a toxin? Consuming too much alcohol is not only harmful for health but alcoholic drinks are also loaded with sugar and calories- a double whammy! However if drinking is a big part of your social life and you’re going to drink- do it in moderation!
Take Home Message
If you’re clean eating it is important to remember is this a lifestyle and you should be eating healthily 80-90% of the time. Within your clean eating plan make sure you have room for flexibility and a social life and remember it’s about finding healthy alternatives rather than cutting out all food. Always read packaging labels- manufacturers can be clever in the way they present and market food, claiming it to be “low fat” – when in reality the sugar content is sky high! Overall make sure you are getting a balanced diet high in rich nutritious foods and low in saturated fat and sugars.