What is Clean Eating?

While proofreading my last blog post for “Make it Clean Monday”, my husband-thanks babe! (I was just thanking my husband for proofreading… not you the reader for reading…although I do appreciate you reading this post ::awkward pause::)….Anyways, my husband brought to my attention that not everyone knows what I mean by “clean eating”. This is when I realized I haven’t written yet on what clean eating is-to me. You will find when speaking to those who eat clean, that many people have differing definitions of what this means to them. There are many different levels of, and variations of, clean eating.

So here is what clean eating means to me:

1.No processed sugar

To me clean eating means avoiding any processed sugar. While there is a big difference between white sugar and the less processed rapadura or sucanat, I personally try to avoid it all. I even go so far as avoiding honey and maple syrup in my day to day eating. However, I believe local raw honey and grade B maple syrup are great clean options. I just avoid them for the most part due to how they can spike one’s insulin. I do use Stevia in its liquid and powder form in some baking. I won’t use any of the Truvia or other products made with Stevia which include fillers. I still prefer not to use any sweetener if possible. I often use fruit to sweeten baked goods because that’s as clean as you can get. One would have to be careful of insulin spikes when adding fruits to baked goods (especially fruits like bananas and dates which are higher on the glycemic index).

There are tons of yummy sweet treats you can make without processed sugar like these banana bread chocolate brownies (click here for recipe).


2. Eating whole foods

Eating foods that are real food (or made with real food only) sounds simple enough but in reality most of the food in our supermarket is processed. I make most meals from scratch and use as many fresh foods as possible. Frozen is next best, followed by canned. I have to admit I have yet to kick my canned tomato habit and supposedly that’s one of the worst foods to eat from a can since the acid can draw more BPAs from cans than other canned goods.

3. Eating smaller meals more frequently

While eating clean can consist of eating a few larger meals a day, I prefer to eat more smaller meals throughout the day. This keeps me from feeling deprived since I am never hungry, it boosts my metabolism, and keeps me eating smaller portion sizes rather than gorging on a bag of chips. I usually taper my carbs as the day goes on (depending on the fitness goals I might have at the time). I eat a small meal/snack every 2.5-3 hours.

4. Avoiding processed/white carbs

Eating clean, to me, also involves avoiding white bread and high starch foods like white potatoes and white rice. I also avoid whole wheat for the most part since it makes me feel bloated sometimes. I actually have been cutting out most grains from my diet lately too, although no one would want to get between me and my steel cut oats each morning. For me there is nothing better than some eggs with spinach, peppers, and a side of oats and berries. I prefer it to any other breakfast you could offer me.  We can consume all the carbohydrates we need from nuts, beans, and vegetables even when cutting out grains.

5. Eating plenty of veggies and fruits (emphasis on the veggies)

Many people think healthy eating is about what you shouldn’t eat.  But what you should eat is equally important. I really try to focus on having some sort of vegetable at every meal/snack and a piece of fruit if a veggie isn’t available. Too much fruit can lead to too much sugar, so I try not to go crazy there. I often eat my fruit right before and/or after a workout. The more veggies we eat the better. Also, the more variety we have in the vegetables and fruit we eat the more likely we are going to get the vitamins and antioxidants our body needs/wants.

A great way to up your veggie intake is chop up your favorites and add them to eggs. I love spinach and red peppers. Yum!


6. Supplements

I believe supplements are just that- supplementary to the food we eat. While we should try our best to get all the nutrition and vitamins we need from the food we eat, it’s near impossible to get everything we need.

At the very least I take a multivitamin and I take calcium plus vitamin D and magnesium. I also like taking whole food based vitamins so that they are not synthetic but come from food itself. Here is a link to a couple of vitamins I buy: multivitamin, calcium plus magnesium.

7. Avoiding Dairy

I do like some raw cheddar cheese from time to time or greek yogurt to curb an ice cream craving on occasion. But for the most part I stay away from dairy. And when I do eat it, I prefer organic, or at the very least free from hormones. Other people who eat clean may not feel the need to avoid dairy. I just feel better when I do.

8. Eating as organic as possible

I know it’s expensive to eat organic and sometimes you may wonder if it’s really worth it. I believe it is… especially when it comes to the “dirty dozen” (the 12 fruits/veggies that are most heavily sprayed with pesticides). I would also add corn to this list. Most corn is genetically modified so if I eat it at all I make sure it’s organic. I try to buy 100% grass fed beef when possible (I care more that they are grass fed than just having a simple “organic” label), and I prefer free range organic chicken. I really love the farmers market because I can talk to the farmers and really know where my meat is coming from and how it’s raised. I also buy eggs from a friend at church to make sure my eggs are “farm fresh”. If at all possible I buy eggs that are organic and free-range. It always helps to know who you are buying from (the farmer), but when I don’t have those resources I read the labels. Here is a great little article about what labels mean when buying eggs. The word “natural” is a joke. It literally can mean anything the seller wants it to mean. I have seen candy with the words “naturally fat free” on them. Update: I just came across another great article on one of my favorite blogs (Food Renegade) about why you can’t really trust food labels (including “free range”)

We don’t buy everything organic but we try to stick with organic for meats and produce that are typically heavily sprayed, and also when it’s something we eat a lot of (like eggs). We eat so many eggs that any negative effects from them would add up quickly if we were to buy a lower quality.


9. Avoiding soy

I know that whether or not one should eat soy is an ongoing debate among many. There are lots of vegetarians out there who depend on soy for protein. However, there are many differing studies about the effects that soy can have on the body, such as possible “estrogen mimicking” effects. So, as long as I am premenopausal (and while the verdict is still out on it’s effects) I will steer clear of it just to be safe. And if you are going to eat it, I would at least stick to organic. Soy (like corn) is often genetically modified as well.

Which brings me to…

10. Avoiding GM (Genetically Modified, not General Motors)

I know the debate is ongoing about genetically modified foods as well. Some think it’s perfectly safe. But regardless of what the studies say (which seem to be pointing more and more towards GMOs being unsafe from everything I have read), I just can’t jump on board the “GM is safe” train. I do my best to avoid them.

So there you have it. Those are my eating clean guidelines. Your idea of eating clean may look different than mine and that’s okay. I just wanted to let you know what I mean when I say I’m eating clean.

Oh, and whether you are able to eat like this 100% of the time, 80% of the time, 50% of the time or less, is up to you. I strive to eat this way as much as possible, but occasionally fail. It’s not easy to eat this way in a world full of tempting processed food around every corner. But no matter where you are starting from you can take baby steps towards this way of eating, or just jump in head first. I think it’s about finding the best balance for you,depending on your personal situation (budget, lifestyle, family size etc…)

How often do you eat clean? Or are you just starting to think about it? Do you have a busy lifestyle where you go out to eat a lot? Let me know in the comments below. Look for future posts about how to eat clean while eating out and/or traveling.

7 Responses

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