What is Clean Eating? A Quick Start Guide – everything you need to know to get started on a clean eating journey for optimum health and weight loss!

what is clean eating

Is Clean Eating a Diet?

Short answer – NO, clean eating is not a diet or fad! It’s not about counting calories, obsessing over macros, or consuming nothing but raw veggies and smoothies. Clean eating is a lifestyle that involves awareness and eating a diet consisting mainly of whole, real foods coming from natural sources. It means making sustainable choices by selecting nutrient-dense foods over processed foods.

Why is Clean Eating Important?

When we feed our body well, we also FUEL our body. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. It’s no secret that the standard American diet of fast food, soda, and packaged snacks can contribute to a whole host of auto immune disorders, chronic disease, and inflammation. By making food choices similar to our ancestors, we can experience all kinds of benefits, such as:

Reduced inflammation

Weight Loss

Increased mood and energy levels

Quality sleep

Greater mental clarity

Regulated blood sugar

Lower risk for chronic disease and diabetes

Reading Food Labels

Your greatest weapon when it comes to eating well is awareness. For me, things didn’t click until I began studying nutrition labels. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to look only at the nutritional profile – the ingredient list is where it’s at! Ideally, the list will include no more than five ingredients (just a rule of thumb!) and they will all be recognizable. If it’s unpronounceable, it’s likely some of sort of chemical additive and doesn’t belong in our bodies.

Foods to Avoid

Packaged convenience foods and pre-made meals – this includes snacks (cookies, pretzels, crackers, bars, etc,), most condiments, processed meat products, most breakfast cereals, and anything containing additives, chemicals, and refined sugar or flour as an ingredient

Soda and sweetened beverages

Hydrogenated highly refined vegetable oils – vegetable oil, canola oil, corn oil, margarine and butter substitutes

Anything else with refined sugar, white flour, artificial flavors, additives, emulsifiers, food dyes, and other chemicals as an ingredient

What Should I Eat?

Instead of the processed fare listed above, stick to these main food groups:

Fruits and Veggies – anything goes!

Animal Proteins – chicken, eggs, beef, pork, and fish, preferably from sustainable and organic sources when possible. ButcherBox meats are my favorite!

Healthy Fats – olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, avocadoes, olives, nut butters (without added sugar)

Whole Grains & Legumes – quinoa, rice, farro, oats, beans, lentils, chickpeas

Dairy – grass fed butter, ghee, plain Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, raw cheese (not pre-shredded), milk (full fat), nut milks

Can I still have treats and sweets occasionally?

Sure! It’s important to mention that nothing is ever 100% off limits and it’s just not realistic (or much fun!) to totally deprive ourselves of an occasional indulgence. So feel free to occasionally enjoy your favorite treat and then go right back to your whole food plan. It’s also about knowing your own weaknesses and if this is a slippery slope for you, be sure acknowledge your reasons and make mindful choices.

How to Begin

The most logical first step is to clean out your fridge and pantry of processed food and ingredients. This is certainly a great option, but if you’re not quite ready to go cold turkey, I recommend starting by doing your research (my book is a great reference!), collecting recipes, writing a plan, and making small changes. Try out some new recipes, make some healthy ingredient swaps, up your veggie intake, etc. Or join my Free 21 Day Clean Eating Challenge for more intensive support, including menus, recipes, and motivation!

Be Well,

~Nikki

 

 

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