With so many contradicting definitions on the internet, what does clean eating really mean?
What exactly does it mean to eat clean?!
First, I'll tell you what it's not:
Clean eating is not about restricting yourself to meet unrealistic societal standards and does not reflect on your value as a human.
This is not a diet and is not about simply dropping pounds on the scale.
It's also not about severely restricting fat to drop excess bodyweight like you might see some people doing for bodybuilding competitions.
It's not about punishing your body. You can't heal a body you hate.
Clean eating is about learning what's in our food, how it impacts our individual bodies, and adjusting our diets to foster better health.
Sometimes a big part of that is avoiding harmful additives.
Unfortunately, our food is filled with artificial colors, fake flavors, fillers, preservatives, and other additives that can lead to negative health outcomes.
Many harmful food additives are endocrine disruptors meaning they interfere with our hormones. Our hormones control almost everything that happens in our body from sleep regulation to fertility and hunger cycles.
Clearly, disrupting our hormones can cause widespread health issues.
Clean eating is about nourishing your body by eating real foods that better match our biological needs.
Clean eating is about learning to listen to your body and loving it enough to discover which foods nourish your individual biological needs to help you flourish!
This is an individual journey for everyone because we are all biologically diverse and therefore have different needs.
For example, I cannot eat gluten, carry the celiac disease gene, get congested if I have too much dairy, and don't do well with lots of grains, but that might not be the case for you!
Part of the clean eating journey is figuring that out.
However, there are key tenets that everyone should follow in clean eating
- Avoid packaged and processed foods (think pre-made, boxed, and canned foods)
- Avoid added sugars, focusing on removing the most processed sugars first (i.e. maple syrup and honey are better than corn or brown-rice syrup)
- Avoid sugar substitutes like xylitol or aspartame
- Avoid artificial colors and flavors
- Avoid inflammatory oils like canola, vegetable, grapeseed, corn, and other vegetable and seed oils
- Avoid thickeners, foaming agents, emulsifiers, and other additives. (think long chemical names and gums)
- Avoid food heated in plastic containers or BPA/BPS-lined containers
- Avoid pesticides by sourcing organic food as much as possible or leveraging the dirty dozen list for produce with less pesticide contamination
- Seek out high-quality animal proteins where the animals are fed their natural diets and have room to grow naturally. (For beef that's grass-fed and pastured.. for chickens that are getting to eat bugs and pastured)
I say to avoid and seek out because it would be very difficult to do all of these things perfectly all the time.
That's just not the world we live in.
However, as we start to see where these harmful ingredients hide and find healthier options, we can start to make changes.
There's a lot to learn about clean eating, and I'd be happy to work with you on individual solutions that best fit your needs in a personalized coaching program.
But here are some ideas to get you started.
- Perhaps this month you'll try to sweeten your coffee with real milk or cream and a dash of maple syrup instead of a processed and flavored 'creamer' product.
- Maybe, your goal for this month is to cut out artificial colors and ditch those sprinkles and sugary pink and blue cereals.
You don't have to do all of these at once or any of them perfectly, just start being aware of these items and start to cut them out where you can when you can.
Clean Eating is about eating foods that fuel and nourish our bodies.
Everything we eat either fosters disease or health.
Clean eating is about fostering health and preventing disease with each meal.
Or at least most meals! Because… balance 🙂
We're all human after all and no one's perfect.
Want to learn more? Try these articles
1) Eating more vegetables to nourish our bodies and foster health
2) How to read nutrition labels and why food quality matters
3) Comfort food clean-up! Transforming your favorite foods into something a little cleaner