You’ve heard people talking about it, from friends to bosses to neighbors, that they’re “eating clean.” What exactly does this mean, though? Is it like a paleo diet, or no meats and dairy? There’s a lot to clean eating, and we’re going to tell you how it’s done.
The phrase “clean eating” may be the newest buzzword in the health world, but the ideas behind this lifestyle go back decades. It’s more than just what to eat and what not to eat. Clean eating, when done properly, becomes a way of life.
In essence, clean eating focuses on a diet that’s made of whole, unprocessed foods that promote health, energy, and wellness. No more tedious counting of calories or forsaking entire food groups.
Based on nutrition science research here are seven principles of clean eating.
Eat Whole Foods
This doesn’t mean eat a whole hot dog or a whole donut. Whole foods are foods minimally processed, fresh, and as close to their natural state as possible. Organic options are best when available.
Processed foods, on the other hand, usually come in a bag, can, or box and have added sugars, sodium, fat, colors, preservatives, and chemicals. You can tell how processed a food is by looking at the ingredient list. If there are words you can’t pronounce, it’s probably not good for you—especially not if you’re going clean.
Refined grains have been processed and stripped of their bran and germ (the nutrient and fiber-rich parts of the grain). White breads, pastas, rice, crackers, and baked goods are made with refined white flour, offer little nutritional value, and temporarily increase your blood sugar.
Clean eating sees the need for unrefined, whole grain carbohydrates as part of a healthy diet. Choose foods made with whole wheat, quinoa, brown rice, or millet.
Be Wary of Additions
Cutting out processed foods should put you in the safe zone when it comes to sodium, sugar, and unhealthy fats. Men should limit their sugar intake to less than nine teaspoons a day and women less than six. Adults should eat less than one teaspoon of salt a day. Unless you’re eating whole foods, you’re likely going over these health recommendations.
Include Carbohydrates, Protein, and Fat
This combination is your secret for lasting energy, appetite control, and cutting calories. Make it your goal to eat a source of protein (meat, poultry, eggs, dairy), carbohydrate (fruits, vegetables, whole grains), and fat (nuts, seeds, healthy oils, fish) at every meal.
A clean-eating plan often suggests eating five to six smaller meals spaced throughout the day as a way to avoid overeating, keep your metabolism humming, and maintain stable blood sugar levels.
Sodas, sweetened teas, juices, alcoholic beverages, and sports drinks are loaded with sugar and extra calories. Part of clean eating is clean drinking. Water should be your go-to drink of choice (avoiding plastic bottles when possible). Unsweetened tea and low-fat milk are other acceptably clean options.
More Fruits and Veggies
High in fiber, rich in vitamins and minerals, and low in calories, fruit and vegetables are an important part of clean eating. You can’t get much healthier than fresh, organic produce. Eat a fruit or vegetables at every meal and snack. Daily recommendations include two and a half to three cups of vegetables and one and a half to two cups of fruit.
Get Regular Exercise
A healthy lifestyle not only includes eating a healthy diet but getting regular physical activity as well. Exercise is needed for strong muscles, bones, lungs, and heart. It burns calories, keeps your metabolism elevated, and prevents disease. Be sure to get some form of physical activity for at least 30 minutes every day.