If you suffer from poor sleep, lack of energy, high cholesterol or high blood pressure, your diet is probably to blame. Eating "clean" is a way give the body what it needs and nothing it doesn't. But what does eating clean really mean? How do you get started?
The Standard American Diet vs. Clean Eating
As a culture, we tend to like food that's fast and easy. We like to eat on the go and often cut corners to accommodate an over-packed schedule. This can lead us to the nearest drive through or to the frozen dinners section of the grocery store. As a result, we're eating more sugar, salt and fat which are not only addicting, but can lead to weight gain, high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease, to name a few.
What makes a diet "clean" is that it revolves around eating whole foods, cutting out anything that comes in a package already assembled. It means doing the extra work to make meals from scratch whenever possible. Buying organic is also a part of eating a clean diet, to avoid ingesting pesticides, herbicides, hormones, steroids or anything artificial or genetically modified.
Eating this way is easier on the digestive system and provides your body with the vitamins, minerals, enzymes, proteins, amino acids and other nutrients it needs to function at its best. Clean eating can help you feel more energized during the day and sleep better at night while providing the immune system with the support it needs to fight off illness.
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Tips for Successful Clean Eating
If you're interested in starting to eat more cleanly, there are some important guidelines to keep in mind. Once you get these down, the choices won't feel like choices anymore -- they'll become something you do naturally. Here's what you need to know:
1. Avoid all processed foods. A great way to start eating cleanly is to remove the temptation by doing a pantry and fridge cleanout. Donate what food you can to avoid wasting it. Then hit the supermarket, health food store or farmers market to fill your house back up with the good stuff. The more options the better.
2. Keep your fruits and veggies fresh whenever possible and the more you stock up on the better. If you need a more shelf-stable option, go the frozen route instead of canned. A great way to make sure you eat them is to prep ahead of time. You're more likely to grab red peppers or celery to dip in hummus if they're already sliced and bagged -- just like potato chips.
3. Choose lean meats, preferably organic and grass fed. Chicken, turkey and sirloin are all good options. Fish is great, too. You should also look for meat products that don't have chemicals like hormones, pesticides or other extras.
4. Go whole with your grains and enjoy quinoa, brown rice, amaranth, bulgur and millet. The goal is to consume more complex carbohydrates, so try these options instead of rice, cous cous or pasta.
5. Skip the saturated fats. Cut out the fried foods and prepare your favorite dishes baked, roasted or steamed.
6. Drink smarter by avoiding soda and bottled juices. You should also limit your alcohol consumption. Water is your best friend. Add herbs and citrus juice to it if you're missing some flavor.
7. Watch the white, refined sugar and artificial sweeteners made of chemicals. Go natural with honey, stevia or agave nectar when you want to add sweetness to a beverage or a recipe. There are more options than ever that won't add extra calories or cause your energy levels to drastically spike and crash.
8. Watch your salt by seasoning your food with herbs. Buy fresh ones whenever possible or grow them yourself. Fresh lemon or lime juice also add a burst of flavor that can take the place of salt.
9. Bake smarter with alternatives to white flour such as almond, coconut or whole wheat flour. Just pay attention to the recommended conversions to make sure the texture of your favorite baked treats is as you remember.
10. Prepare when you can and ask questions when you can't. Prep and pack meals to keep you from getting takeout and ask questions about the ingredients found in the dishes you do order out.
The most important thing to remember about clean eating is that it's not a diet, but a lifestyle change. Indulging every once in a while is expected and welcomed, but the majority of your meals should be whole, unprocessed and free of unhealthy junk that could catch up with you later.
We have a variety of foods at eVitamins to help you live a healthier lifestyle. Check out our selection today and share your favorites with us!