*Please remember that I am definitely not an expert. On anything. (see my disclaimer page) This is merely clean eating as I see it and what I do. You can take the suggestions or not, totally up to you!*
What’s Your Point???
To break it down simply, clean eating, in MY opinion, consists basically of the following…eat whole, unprocessed foods as often as possible and steer clear of ingredients you can’t pronounce!
-no soda or other sugary drinks
-no fast food
-”white” flours or other simple carbs (including potatoes)
-no added sugars
-no artificial sugars
-no processed food
-veggies, and lots of ‘em
-lean protein (think turkey, chicken, fish, lean cuts of beef, eggs, etc.)
-whole grains (rice, quinoa, wheat berries etc.)
In a nutshell, you want to try and eat as natural as possible. Try and keep your foods in the state they are grown, raised, etc. This ensures that you are retaining the nutritional value of the foods and fueling your body with clean, healthful sources.
What can I have?
Purchase fresh (local) veggies whenever possible. I know the term “organic” is often questioned (that’s a whole other post) but I buy organic when I can, especially with veggies, fruits and meats. When unable to purchase fresh produce, frozen is your next best bet, and then canned. Try to look for low sodium or “no salt added” varieties. You can healthily cook veggies a ton of ways, actually any way except frying! Steaming, blanching and stir-fry are great and really retain a ton of nutrients and color! Don’t feel like cooking?? Great! I’m not going to spout a laundry list of reasons why raw is great for you since I’m trying to make this post logical and un-scientific-y but if your body can tolerate raw vegetables, I say go for it!! Just wash them thoroughly and go nuts! p.s. Most veggies are considered zero calorie foods, meaning your body actually burns more calories eating, digesting and eliminating them than the vegetables contain in the first place, so they really are the perfect food!
Again, when possible, I look for meats labeled organic, free-range, or steroid, hormone and antibiotic-free. Yes, it will cost you more, but that is your choice. You want just the meat, not a ton of additives and chemicals along with it! The best way to cook your meat would be to grill it. Grilling allows the fats to drip off, however, most methods are fine, except for frying! Choose meats as lean as possible and trim the fat from them prior to cooking. Stick more with the chicken and turkey as red meats and pork tend to be higher in fats. The usual recommendation is red meat only about twice a week.
Other great sources of lean protein are fish, shrimp (yum), and let’s not forget about plant based proteins for my vegetarian and vegan friends! Protein powders aren’t usually considered “clean” due to the filler and added sweeteners, BUT there are a few clean versions on the market so just look around and see what’s out there. I’ve been experimenting with different clean powders but haven’t really found one that I love yet!
Last but not least…EGGS!!! I eat tons tons of eggs. Mostly whites. You can also buy pasteurized egg whites in a carton. They are pasteurized so safe to eat raw!
“Clean eating” is such a relative term. What I consider acceptable in my eat clean lifestyle, another may not and vice versa. I have a few things that are considered “unclean” that I continue to consume in my diet (although I’m trying to phase them out). Fruits in their natural form are considered clean. Many clean eaters eat them in abundance. I, personally, do not. I eat them pre and/or post workout. Although the sugar they contain is completely natural, I just try and limit my sugar throughout the day. Be sure to avoid canned fruit that is packed in syrup or frozen fruits that have sugars added.
The big issue with dairy products, in my opinion are yogurts and cow’s milk. While both contain many essential nutrients, both are also high in sugar. Especially yogurts. They get such a good rep as a “health” food, but that’s not necessarily the case. Many single serving yogurts contain 20+ grams of sugar! That would be almost my entire allocation of sugar for the whole day! When choosing yogurt, pay close attention to the sugar content. Many items marketed as low fat often have higher sugar. I opt for nonfat cottage cheese and nonfat plain Greek yogurt. I’d prefer to get my healthy fats from other sources so that’s why I choose nonfat dairy. Milk!?!? I find this to be very controversial. My advice on cow’s milk would be to do your research and form your own opinions Many claim that the hormone’s given to cow’s to increase milk production are harmful to humans, yet I’ve also read many articles refuting that. And the same goes for the arguments regarding antibiotics and also whole vs. skim. I personally no longer drink cow’s milk or use it when cooking. The reason’s I’ve cut it out is mostly because of the higher sugar content. I was a HUGE milk drinker my entire life so that’s not to say that I won’t have a half a cup here or there, but I no longer drink it consistently. My children still drink milk and I’m fine with that. My husband and I drink unsweetened almond milk. We use a ton of it. He is lactose intolerant so he’s been thrilled since i got him hooked! We use the vanilla flavored for most things but also the plain for some cooking as well. Lots of good nutrients and more calcium than cow’s milk.
Carbs are easy! Stick with complex carbs and whole grains like sweet potatoes, beans, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, sprouted grain bread, etc. (I usually eat gluten free bread now). White flour is not considered clean but there are a TON of alternatives: oat, coconut, almond, etc. And of course veggies and fruits also contain clean carbs!
Ahhh, the dreaded fats! Not all fats are created equal. Remember, saturated fats and trans fats are BAD because they contribute to high cholesterol and heart disease but polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are good for you and can actually do the opposite! Think french fries vs. avocado. So cut the bad fats out and bring the good ones in…..in moderation of course. I’m not advising you to go eat 10 avocados a day!
Last but definitely not least…one of the biggest trouble spots…condiments! Neither table sugar nor artificial sweeteners are considered clean. (I have been meaning to do a post on this topic but never got around to it so I will try and do that in the near future) so that, right off the bat, rules out the majority of condiments. If you’re going to eat clean, product labels will become your bff’s, and take my word for it, you will be shocked by how many things contain sugar…and a lot of it! Oils and vinegar are permitted, usually organic or low-sugar ketchup is okay. Most brown or spicy mustards are okay (watch the honey mustard varieties). Hot sauces are usually okay. I usually avoid the salad dressing aisle all together! Just use your judgement and read your labels!!
Most sugar substitutes are nothing more than chemicals and are terrible for your body. The most widely accepted “clean” sweetener is stevia, which is naturally occurring and is made from the stevia plant, the most popular brand name being Truvia. There are some other forms that are considered clean by some people as well, but this is the most common. Try and find a brand that is pure stevia since some brands still have added chemicals. Still, too much of anything can be bad, so try and use it in moderation!
I hope this helped some of you that wanted to get started with eating clean but didn’t know where to begin. I want to stress again that like most things there are varying degrees of clean eating. I consider myself to be pretty strict most of the time. I know some clean eaters that use splenda, eat normal wheat bread and drink diet soda! That’s completely fine and I’m not bashing anyone! I’m not perfect and I definitely don’t eat perfectly either. You can decide how strict you want to be. I think clean eating is a relative term. There are a few basic principles yet the rest is up to the “eater” and what they’re comfortable with, I suppose. So, please remember, these are just my opinions! I urge you to do your own research…knowledge is power!
I hope this gave you a good starting point without being too confusing…please please leave any questions or comments down below and I will help the best that I can…if there is questions you dont’ want to add in the comments section, you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I’ll be back with a Part 2 sometime next week (hopefully) and I’ll talk more about what I buy at the store each week, more details on how to get started with changing your habits, costs, etc.
If there is anything specific you want me to touch on in the next post, just let me know!!