The term "clean eating" is popping up everywhere, but what exactly does it mean? Does it involve a diet plan? Does it mean that your current diet might be "dirty"? If you're wondering what it means to eat clean and whether or not you should add this concept to your lifestyle, read on!
What Makes Food "Dirty"?
First and foremost, clean eating is a metaphoric expression, so it doesn't mean other foods are actually dirty. Instead the "dirtiness" of foods pertains to the things you can't see. For example, there's a reason why junk food is called junk food. It might look tasty, but the unrecognizable contents can be regarded as toxic for your body. The same can be said about processed food. When these foods are consumed, they promote the exact opposite of health, and can result in weight gain and potential illness.
What are Clean Foods?
Clean foods are foods that act as fuel for the body. They aren't processed and contain only recognizable ingredients that come from natural sources. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein and dairy that are free from hormones and antibiotics is a good place to start. With clean eating, it's important to pay attention to the source of the food. Try to purchase organic foods that haven't been treated with chemicals and pesticides. Opt for meat and dairy suppliers that raise their animals on a healthy diet, possibly grass-fed and pasture-raised.
Can Meat and Dairy Really Be a Part of Clean Eating?
This subject is still a gray area. Some clean-eating nutritionists prefer to avoid animal products completely, because saturated fat has been known to cause heart problems. But meat and dairy still remain a high source of protein and other nutrients. If you're committed to eating clean for the rest of your diet, the effects of saturated fat may be mitigated.
How to Start Eating Clean
A good place to start is by avoiding packaged food. Instead, shop for real, whole foods at the supermarket or even a local farmer's market, if you can. If you must buy packaged food, then read the ingredients label first. Does the product contain added sugar or is it high in sodium? Also look for preservatives, fillers and colorants that might have been used. A helpful rule of thumb is that if the label has more than five ingredients, or if any ingredients are hard to pronounce, its best left alone.
For example, even yogurt can fall under the dirty category, simply because of added sweeteners and preservatives. But this doesn't mean you can't eat yogurt anymore! Now it's a matter of buying unsweetened yogurt and adding your choice of real fruit. Many of the foods you used to eat that were pre-packaged or processed can often be made at home using clean ingredients. You just have to get creative!
If you're committed to eating clean, you'll find you'll be cooking your own meals more often, eating less sugar and possibly having a higher grocery bill. These may seem like inconveniences, but the trade-off of more energy, weight loss and a healthier future are a clear indicator of the increase in your quality of life.