We often hear or read the phrase ‘Clean Eating’, but what does this actually mean? Well, to be honest, it means different things to different people and none of them are wrong.
Here I’m going to talk about the fundamentals of clean eating, of which some may be more important to you than others.
EATING WHOLE FOODS
This doesn’t mean eating the whole cauliflower (can you imagine?)! No, it means eating food in their natural unprocessed state, so we’re talking about fruits, veg, eggs, nuts, grains etc, that haven’t been tampered with and combined with processing ingredients like preservatives and sugars, to make them into another product. You can cook them and you can combine them, but your finished product is still wholesome made with nourishing and natural ingredients. Take a smoothie for example. My homemade ones comprise of fruits, veg, almond milk, water nuts and seeds – no unhealthy ingredients at all. Whereas a shop bought one might include added sugars for taste and preservatives to give it a long shelf life.
Some people say, if it comes in a box, jar, tin or packet, then it should be avoided but that’s simply not true. What’s important is that you check the ingredients label to see what is contained. Right now I have packets of quinoa, jars of sauerkraut and tins of coconut milk sitting in my cupboard, and they’re all good wholesome foods. You’re looking to avoid products that have lots of added sugars, additives, colourants and preservatives. There’s a general rule that if you don’t know what the ingredient is and it sounds like a chemical, then it probably is. But use your intuition and Google anything you’re not sure of. There’s more choice available these days so compare brands as they can vary greatly.
Yes, you could make your own of many things and I do for the most part, but as a working parent, I simply don’t have the time to make everything last thing, so there are items like sauerkraut that I prefer to purchase. The jar contains two ingredients – cabbage and salt – the exact two ingredients I would use to make my own!
There’s few things more enjoyable than eating out in a quality restaurant that produces quality meals with quality ingredients. Unfortunately, for many of us, this is not the experience we commonly get. Even if we get a tasty, well prepared meal, it will often be made using poor quality and refined ingredients (white sugar, white flour, white pasta, vegetable oils…). Therefore regular home cooking is a fundamental for most people wishing to eat clean. They can control their ingredients, their portion sizes, and turn those restaurant favourites into healthier versions using wholegrains, no sugar, less salt, healthy oils and so on. But even if you are cooking your meals, how about your snacks? Homemade versions take time and effort but if you want to eat clean, those supermarket multi-packs have to go.
It’s rare these days for people to live entirely off their own land but some people do and this is extremely important to some people for their clean eating regime. I grow a small amount and would love to do more but it does takes time and effort. What’s more not everyone has the room for anything extensive so this aspect of clean eating is simply not viable for many.
Literally washing produce. Particularly if it’s not organic. The number of pesticides and chemicals used today is quite shocking. Let’s be honest, aside from chemicals, we have no idea who has even handled our food before we consume it and I personally don’t like the idea of eating something that has just been sneezed or coughed over!
THE WIDER IMPACT
For some people eating clean also encompasses the environmental impact and the impact on animal welfare. It means sourcing products from ethical sources. It may mean only buying organic to ensure pesticide free, antibiotic free foods and humane animal care. This is something we should all be concerned with but it may be that the other aspects need to fall into place before this becomes a consideration.
BEYOND THE PLATE
We’re now extending out thoughts to cooking practices and food storage with people now becoming aware of the dangers of BPA in plastics and the risks reported with extended use of microwaves. It is considered safer to use glass for storage or BPA free plastic and avoid routine microwave use, which usually happens naturally as you transition away from pre-packaged meals to home cooked.
TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
When you start to take an interest in what you are consuming and how you manage your lifestyle, you become more in tune with your body. Pay attention and you will start to recognise what serves you and what doesn’t, what foods make you bloated, what the underlying cause for those cravings are or what foods make you feel energised. You are your own best doctor if you give yourself the chance to understand yourself at a deeper level.
So these are just a few key aspects of clean eating, but these don’t all happen overnight. It’s a journey. So if you are not yet adopting any of these practices, don’t beat yourself up over it. Start with making one small change and build on it. Perhaps try a homemade version of your frozen chilli-con-carne, or try making your own pasta sauce. Intention and desire is key. When you are ready to make the changes you need to make, new practices and habits will start falling into place. It’s never too late to start and every small step counts.
Have you made a conscious effort to transition to clean eating? Where did you start? Or do you have another definition of clean eating? I’d love to hear from you.