WHAT IS CLEAN EATING?
“Eating Clean” has become somewhat of a catch phrase in the health and fitness community, but there is some confusion over what exactly constitutes a “clean” diet. So what is the definition of clean eating?
Diane Welland, MS, RD writes in “Today’s Dietician,”
So what exactly is clean eating? Like all healthy eating plans, the main principles focus on choosing whole fruits and vegetables in their natural state; lean meat, fish, and poultry; beans and legumes; low-fat dairy products; and whole grains from a variety of food sources. Meals are high in fiber and low in fat, calories, sugar, and sodium. Where the diet differs is in what these foods are and how they are delivered.
Clean eating seeks to avoid all highly processed, refined fare, or foods that have been treated to change their physical, chemical, microbiological, or sensory properties.
As a general rule, clean eaters strive to eliminate all prepared frozen meals, desserts, and side dishes along with convenience, boxed, and canned foods. Off-limit ingredients include highly processed high fructose corn syrup; man-made ingredients such as artificial sweeteners; margarines; trans fats; artificial colors and flavors; unnecessary food additives such as excess salt, sugar, and corn syrup; and chemical preservatives such as butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene (or BHA and BHT, respectively). Of course, there are always exceptions to the rules, as many people who follow this regime opt to include a few low-sodium canned or boxed items such as tomato sauces, chicken or vegetable stock, beans, and salsa, as well as frozen fruits and vegetables without added salt or sugar. But, for the most part, followers get the majority of their food from whole, fresh sources.
Low-fat dairy products are preferred over nonfat dairy products because nonfat products often contain fillers such as starches and sugars and are more processed. Refined white rice, white flour, and white sugar are swapped out for brown rice, whole wheat or other whole grain flour, and honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, or minimally processed dehydrated sugar cane juice.
The clean eating diet does not permit fried foods or foods doused in olive oil, honey, or salt. And since many processed foods are high in fat, sugar, and salt, reducing these foods automatically lowers fat, calories, and sodium. Still, clean eaters should keep track of these nutrients, particularly if weight loss is their goal.
Continue to read the article here for recommendations on exercise amounts and meal divisions.
I think it is important to note that the definition of clean eating is that it is NOT a diet. Really, any serious effort to improve health whether by weight loss, muscle building, body fat reduction, cholesterol lowering, or cardiovascular strengthening, is not a “diet.” It MUST be a lifestyle. Permanent change leads to permanent results. This isn’t to say that you can’t splurge and have a big, fast food meal now and then, but it has to be the exception rather than the rule. To maintain this lifestyle, the best option is to explore new, varied types of clean foods and recipes to find what tastes best and fits into your budget. Update: For those of you looking for a clean eating meal plan, you’re in luck! I created one here for free with links to clean eating recipes.
WHAT CAN I EAT IF I’M EATING CLEAN?
Debbie J, MS, RD of the Official L.A. Fitness Blog has this to say about what to eat if you’re trying to stay clean:
Drink at least 8 glasses of water daily, not counting shakes, smoothies or iced tea. Getting enough calories, without excess, is essential.
You’ll need about 150 grams of Protein from egg whites, milk/whey, poultry breast, beans, pork/beef loin or fish. Compliment these with sweet potato, oats, brown rice, quinoa, and corn on the cob to provide your body with complex carbohydrates to drive workouts.
Include healthy fats in each meal, and for snacks have things such as avocado, nuts, nut butters, seeds, olives or canola oil. You can snack on fruit with cheese, yogurt or nuts between meals. Soybeans or roasted soynuts are great, too. You may incorporate protein bars or shakes with about 20 grams of Protein before/after workout. The remainder of your intake should be unlimited vegetables.
Clean eating is largely a matter of common sense. In the choice between processed/refined or pure/unrefined, a clean eater chooses the latter. Really, the clean eating definition can be said simply, “Make clean, unprocessed choices.”
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF CLEAN EATING?
TonedandFit.net gives a great list of benefits in this article. In sum, clean eating helps you:
- Feel Better
- Maintain a Healthy Weight
- Build a Stronger Immune System
- Have Greater Mental Awareness
- Boost Energy Level
- Sleep Better