Sharing my tips for clean eating, what it means, and what it’s all about.
Hi friends! Hope you’re having a lovely morning. I’m excited about today’s blog post topic because I have a lot to say. ?
Today we’re talking about “clean eating.”
This phrase has become popular over the past 10 years or so, but there isn’t much consensus nor firm definition about what it actually means. It’s often used as a phrase to refer to a diet that’s based on eating real and minimally-processed foods. It can also mean choosing what’s considered the healthiest option from a variety of options. I’m dedicating this post to talk about what clean eating is really about (and my thoughts on this phrase!). I’m going to answer common questions about clean eating, and share tips on how to start eating clean, if that’s one of your goals.
First order of business:
There are no “dirty” foods.
I’ve used the “clean eating” phrase for years, just because it’s been engrained in me over time. Over the past couple of years, I’ve realized that while this phrase makes sense, I also don’t love it. “Clean eating” is something we hear a LOT in this industry, but it really doesn’t have a specific definition. I also *don’t like* how it can lead to good food vs. bad food labels. There is room for ALL foods in your diet, especially the ones that you love. It’s really about fueling yourself with the choices that give you energy, make you feel amazing, provide the nutrients you need, and also hug your soul.
Please keep in mind that I’m using the phrase clean eating in this post to share some tips on making healthier choices in your routine. I don’t think that any foods are dirty, and if you love something, eat it and enjoy it! (I was eating Taki’s with Liv before writing this post. A lot of processing and science went into Taki’s and I LOVE them.) Make room for the things that you enjoy!
I also write this post with the awareness that I’m extremely fortunate to have access to multiple grocery stores and ability to purchase everything on our list. In some areas of the US, options can be extremely scarce (and amplified with current shortages and supply chain issues). These are just ideas, but please use them as ideas to brainstorm, not as something to make you feel badly. We’re all doing the best we can with what we have, and I’m all about making small tweaks that work for your life.
What is Clean Eating all about?
The definition I’ve used for clean eating is choosing foods that some from the earth or an animal, and were minimally altered by human hands. This could mean eating something like a whole apple, instead of chips that have a tiny amount of apples in the chips. When you make a decision to simplify your eating and increase your nutrient intake, try to choose foods that were minimally processed over highly-processed foods.
But, there’s a caveat here:
There are a lot of healthy foods that are processed!
Think about frozen fruits and vegetables. These were obviously processed (they have to freeze them and put them into the bag), but they were also frozen at peak freshness (= higher nutrients!) and they can also be significantly cheaper than fresh options. Frozen and “processed” options can be budget-friendly and also very convenient for many people. If you have to choose between buying frozen meatballs and not having meatballs because you don’t have time to make your own, buy the frozen or pre-made ones.
When in doubt, just check out the ingredients. When I’m buying groceries to use as staples at home, or when I’m cooking, I opt for simple ingredients that I can pronounce. I also look to eliminate PUFAs, added sugars, and preservatives for everyday staples.
Clean Eating Ingredients
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are some options if you’re trying to brainstorm!
– Seafoods (salmon, sardines, anchovies, oysters, cod, tuna, shrimp)
– Meats (like beef, pork, lamb, elk, bison)
– Tofu and tempeh
– High-protein beans, like mung beans, edamame, chickpeas and lentils
– Brown rice
– White rice
– Starchy veggies, like squashes, sweet potatoes and carrots
– Fruits (berries, apple, tropical fruits, dates)
– Plain Greek yogurt
– Cottage cheese
– Cheese and cheese sticks
– Goat and sheep’s milk cheese and yogurt
– Stone fruit (peaches, plums)
Nuts and seeds
– Pumpkin seeds
– Chia seeds
– Bok choy
– Bell peppers
– Salad greens
Stevia or monk fruit
Nuts and seeds
Almond milk (look out for added gums and preservatives)
Coconut milk yogurt (I like Cocoyo and Culina)
Clean Eating Tips For Beginners
Loading up on fruits and vegetables
This is one of the only things many diets and eating styles have in common: load up on nutrient-dense fruits and veggies. If you have a hard time digesting raw vegetables, don’t be afraid to roast or steam them for easier digestibility.
It’s one of the simplest things we can do to see if we want to use these products as fuel. Sometimes ingredients are hidden in foods – I bought salmon burgers without looking at the ingredients and they were mostly potato starch – and you may be able to easily find an option you like better.
Limit refined carbs
Refined carbs are often stripped of their nutrients and then they’re artificially added back later. Instead of purchasing refined carbs, like breads, muffins, or cookies, try making your own at home with simple ingredients. There are so many awesome recipes online that have great ingredients and taste amazing.
Choosing oils and spreads carefully
I have a whole post here about the best and worst cooking oils. At home, I like to keep it simple with butter, ghee, avocado oil, coconut oil, and olive oil.
Limiting added sugar
While sugar isn’t *bad,* it’s often unnecessarily added to a lot of foods. This can increase your blood sugar and lead to a crash later. Also, multiple hits of high glucose levels can lead to insulin resistance, which is extremely prevalent in our culture right now. I try to be strategic about the sugar in my life – I want it to be intentional and enjoyed, not snuck into a random snack – and minimize added sugars in our foods.
Avoid packaged snacks (sometimes)
Aim for mostly fresh ingredients when possible, but packaged snacks can absolutely help in the convenience factor. Just check out the ingredients!
Opt for water as your primary beverage
Hydration can impact so many processes in our body, including digestion, hormone function, hair, skin, nails, lubricating joints, energy, nutrient absorption, and fitness performance. Aim for at least half your body weight in ounces – likely more if you’re active and/or live in a hot climate.
Plan in advance
Planning to set yourself up for the week makes a huge difference. Plan out your meals, plan out the times you’ll go out to eat (so they’re intentional and not just on the fly) and take some time to prep some staples. I love to prep some veggies and a couple of protein options for the week, since those are the most challenging for me to get in during the week.
If you’re looking for help planning your meals, check out my free Meal Planning Blueprint. I break down my method for weekly meal planning and include some staple recipes!
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So tell me friends: what are some of your favorite daily staples? Tips for friends out there who are trying to make healthier nutrition choices?