It’s time to take a good, long look at that food you’re eating. If your diet is filled with food that was processed in a factory or created in a laboratory – packed with artificial colors and preservatives – it’s time to consider a clean diet.
What qualifies as clean eating? It doesn’t refer to the hygiene of the food you buy – although it should. It is making time to know what food your consuming and choosing to eat it in its most natural state. Clean eating is about making choices that promote the best long-term health for your body.
Eating clean might mean tweaking the food you’re already eating or maybe a complete revamp of your diet, but in either case, here are 8 solid rules to making the move to eating clean.
1. IT’S A LIFESTYLE, NOT A DIET
Clean eating is not a weight-loss diet, it’s not a quick fix. Clean eating is a sustainable lifestyle that you choose going forward. And if you want to stick with it, you’re going to have to take the time and learn to cook – if you don’t already know how.
Without cooking your own meals, you’re leaving it up to the world of processed food to feed you. Be in control of the food you eat or you’ll be stuck feeling low in energy and hungry throughout day.
2. 80% LOAD FRESH PRODUCE
The golden rule of eating clean is to to include as much fresh produce in your diet as possible. The goal should be a diet consisting of 80% fresh produce – fruits and vegetables.
Vegetables make your system run better and healthier. They give the necessary vitamins and nutrients to keep you feeling as good and looking good. The soluble fiber in vegetables ensures you extract every last bit of nutrition out of everything you eat.
Get familiar with which foods are in-season (frozen ones otherwise!) to save money and make sure you’re recipes taste great all year-long!
3. NIX THE ADDED SUGARS
Generally speaking, clean eating right isn’t about avoiding any one thing. It’s about choosing simple, unrefined things and sugar is definitely the enemy.
Natural foods simply do not contain added sugar — hence why it’s called added sugar. Fruit is still your friend, but when sweeteners are added during the manufacturing process, it’s time to say no!
For many of us, this might be a tough rule to follow – quite possibly the toughest – but eventually the cravings will subside and when that day arrives your beloved chocolate bar will taste painfully sweet and unsatisfying. If you jump back on that wagon, you’ll your energy level will crash and you’re hunger level will soar.
4. ALWAYS DRINK MORE WATER
Growing up, you were probably ordered to drink 8-10 glasses of water each day. Well, the benefits are real and that order still stands today, especially if you’re exercising. Hydrated muscles grow and perform better, and are better protected against breaking down than muscles that are low on H20.
If you really can’t take in all that water, then at least try to keep to clear liquids. Drinking herbal teas or green tea can help you naturally cleanse and provide a boat load of other benefits. You can also try flavoring water with lemon or cucumber to keep it healthy and you well hydrated all day long.
5. MAKE IT & SIT DOWN
Part of making healthy eating your lifestyle is setting aside the time to do it right. This means taking time to make it yourself and sitting down to enjoy the fabulous meal you just concocted whenever possible.
If you’re living alone, this may sound like a huge pain in the neck, but give it a chance! You just may find that it helps you to actually get excited about what you’re cooking and serving.
Even if you’re not sharing your table with anyone, try to clear out dedicated time in your schedule for eating, particularly breakfast and dinner. These are important rituals that you’ll be doing for the rest of your life, so you might as well enjoy them.
6. BALANCE YOUR DIET
Balance and moderation are at the center of clean eating . Don’t avoid carbs or dietary fats entirely on a clean diet, or you’ll find yourself hating mealtime. Get them in and adjust the portion size to fit your body goals.
Depending on your current diet, your macronutrient ratio could be all over the place. Target complex, unprocessed carbs and unsaturated fats, and you’re on the right track. Your grandmother was right! There’s nothing better than sitting down to a plate with a protein, a vegetable, and a carb source all spread out on a plate.
What it boils down to is being mindful about the food your consuming and what it’s made from. If you don’t know, that’s no good.
7. IF YOU CAN’T PRONOUNCE IT, DON’T EAT IT
Look at the label of a box of cookies or even a bottle of natural juice. You’d need a degree in chemistry to read it, and even then you couldn’t say what those chemicals are doing to your body over a long time.
A good general rule: If you can’t read the name the ingredients in the food you’re about to eat, then you probably shouldn’t be eating it. Many times, these will pass a similar rule of thumb… the fewer ingredients the better.
8. COUNT NUTRIENTS, NOT CALORIES
Lastly, as you jump into clean eating, don’t get too wrapped up in the numbers. It’s easy to measure everything in terms of calories-in, calories-out, but while this method can help get you thin, it’s not enough to make you healthy.
Today, we know that getting the proper nutrients is far more important to an overall health than simply the number of calories you consume.
Count calories will leave you feeling ravenous and guilty for the occasional indulgence. Ensuring you’re getting the nutrients your body needs gives you to more energy and stable blood sugar. The choice should be is easy.