What is clean eating? Clean eating is a way of eating that focuses on natural, one ingredient foods. The focus with a clean diet is on fruits, vegetables, meats. In other words, the foods that humans have been eating for thousands of years before the industrial revolution made future food processing achievable.
Hello and welcome to Fearlessly Holistic
My name is Irma and I want to share my journey to improved health by eating whole foods, moving my body and eliminating stress as much as possible.
It is my hope to inspire you to make daily changes.
Why? Because eating fresh, seasonal food and getting some sunshine is the best way to increase longevity. But you do not want just a long life.
You want a quality long life.
My blog posts are my opinion and the results of things that I have tried that either worked for me or didn’t. My opinions are for informational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. Medical advice should always be obtained from a qualified medical professional for any health conditions or symptoms associated with them. As well, there may be affiliate links in this post. Read more here.
What Clean Eating Is and Is Not
You may see foods like breads, grains, and legumes listed on websites as “clean” but these foods are far from it.
Government guidelines encourage people to eat upwards of 300 grams of carbohydrates a day. The 300 grams of carbs recommended by food guidelines is equivalent to dumping over 1 cup of sugar directly into your bloodstream, which explains why Type II Diabetes is currently rampant in N. America.
When you see foods that have been “fortified”, this is your clue that these foods are nutritionally inferior.
Real food is naturally fortified and does not need additional nutrients. The classic example would be sugary breakfast cereals fortified with vitamins or foods that go out of their way to promote how healthy they are like crackers made with “heart healthy whole grains”.
This is a marketing tactic to encourage you to just buy it instead of reading the ingredients. Whenever possible, avoid buying these food items.
You can make a superior product at home with far less ingredients, and it will taste better.
The problem with legumes
Legumes are beans that are usually purchased dry and require a few steps to make them into an edible food. They include: kidney, garbanzo/chick pea, black, lentils, white/navy, lima, butter, peanuts, and soy plus many others.
An exception would be green peas or snow peas, which are a purchased fresh or frozen.
Many people have digestive issues with legumes
Myself included…it is kind of a ‘running’ joke (ha!) in my house. This is because legumes require multiple steps to make them digestible, however you may still have issues even after proper preparation. These issues are usually gastrointestinal (bloating, gas, flatulence etc)
Legumes require a first rinsing because they are not washed prior to sale (it can cause them to go moldy). Then they need soaking to hydrate them and make them edible, then cooking for several hours, and then require a second rinsing before eating. Eating beans with the cooking liquid can cause problems as well.
Of course the biggest offender of the legume world is soybeans.
See this article from Paleo Leap. Soybeans are a heavily genetically modified food product that has forced its way into almost every processed food product in some way. Soybeans from north america are sprayed with pesticides and the bean itself has been modified to make it bug resistant and hardy.
Soybean oil is considered an industrial seed oil (like canola, corn, safflower, and cottonseed oils), which uses hydrogenation to extract the oil from the plant.
Read this post from Perfect Keto for all the reasons to avoid this unhealthy product. Hydrogenated oils are trans fats.
Pizza, pasta, bread and fried chicken are not clean foods
This does not mean that you can never eat these foods again. There is a place in everyone’s diet for “fun” food like cake at birthday parties or grabbing pizza to go. Ideally you will only eat these types of foods occasionally, once you regain control of your health.
A clean diet consists of meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds.
You can prepare meals like stir fried broccoli and chicken, omelets, homemade chili or steak and salad. Whole foods are any foods that you can eat fresh picked, fresh caught, or raw if need be.
In essence, it’s going back to how we used to eat before modern food processing became a thing. If you had a farm, you ate the food that you grew. Simple.
The idea behind clean eating is to get back to consuming fresh, mainly unprocessed foods that contain their full nutritional value. As an added bonus they aren’t stuffed full of preservatives, additives and flavor enhancers. The main reason for choosing to stick to a clean diet is to eat healthier.
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How “clean” you make your diet is up to you.
Some proponents of this way of eating insist that you should only consume completely unprocessed foods, like you would find them in nature. This does not mean that you cannot combine the acceptable foods in a variety of ways, like adding fresh berries and nuts to your salads. And of course you can cook your food.
Others are comfortable enjoying things like butter, cheese, cured meats and cultivated vegetables like Sauerkraut (fermented foods are encouraged for good gut health). How far you take it is up to you. Even cleaning up your diet just a little by cutting out fast food burgers and creating freezer meals will help.
Fill up your plate with plenty of raw and/or cooked vegetables.
Find a couple of go-to meals you like and build your weekly meals around those dishes. This explains the popularity of creating meal plans and you can easily find multiple videos on YouTube. Check out low carb or paleo videos to get clean eating ideas for work or school. Check out this video:
Cook enough food for 5 lunches and 5 dinners so that you have no excuse to cheat. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but you will not have to cook later in the week, so you are saving time.
I cook like this for our home and I use lock ‘n lock containers to store the meals in (I like to reheat hot foods in glass containers). You can spend one day prepping and cooking foods and only have to deal with breakfast for the week!
Keep some seeds, nuts, and jerky handy for emergency snacking.
Watch for nuts that are salted with sea salt. Check your jerky for sugars or other hidden items. If you tolerate dairy, get string cheese for your snacks and enjoy along with a small piece of fresh fruit. Nut butters are also acceptable and there are many varieties in regular grocery stores now.
When it comes to drinks, water and herbal teas are your best friend. Black coffee is another good choice. Just be careful about adding sweeteners and creamers.
It may take you a little while to get used to the “real” taste of food after eating foods that are laden with sugar, salt and flavor enhancers. Once your taste buds adjust, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how delicious real food is. And your body will thank you for the change to clean eating as well.
3 Great Reasons To Start Eating Clean
Giving up your favorite junk food isn’t easy. Who doesn’t love pizza, cake and ice cream? Know that these foods can be in your future, if you still want them to be.
Sometimes we all need a little extra motivation to make the switch to eating clean. Here are three good reasons why you should give it a try.
1. You Feel Better And Have More Energy
Clean eating is all about eating real, un-processed foods that are good for you and your body. You’ll start to feel better and have more energy throughout the day and these effects start almost immediately.
You may even find you’re sleeping better and don’t have to rely on those 3 cups of coffee in the morning to get you out the door.
That’s because you’re giving your body the nutrients it needs to run at its best.
You will find that any brain fog you may have had will start to dissipate, especially if you are eating good fats like avocados, avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil, clean mayonnaise (you can make this easily in less than 5 minutes), ghee, or butter (if you are not dairy sensitive).
Fats feed your brain, but you need good fats and not industrial seed oils like canola, soybean, corn oil, cottonseed, or safflower (this includes margarine as well).
As well, if you can buy locally grown, seasonal, and organic (if possible) produce you will notice how much better you feel from getting maximum nutrients out of your fruits and veggies.
I found that I am calmer, I sleep better, and I generally feel better when I eat fresh, local produce. I am fortunate to have stores to shop at that bring in a variety local foods in season. Some stores only bring in whatever they get the best deals on, so it can come from anywhere.
I will not recommend eating foods out of season, like strawberries in January.
These foods are forced to grow, and so are given the maximum number of additives to achieve this. These are called Franken-foods, because they are unnatural.
These foods resemble fresh foods, but a mostly devoid of nutrition. They are also weird, like a ripe red strawberry that is perfectly white and hard inside. Try to avoid buying foods outside of their season.
The only exception to this is if you live near the border of another country. I live near Washington state, and so I will buy carrots and other hardy veggies in the winter if they are close to local.
2. You Look Better
Real food is much better at providing you with the vitamins, minerals and other micro nutrients than anything in pill or cream form can. Don’t be surprised to see thicker, shinier hair and clearer, firmer skin.
Processed food is designed to trigger us into eating more than we should. Add to that the fact that it is not very nutrient dense and it’s no surprise that most people on a “Western Diet” are overweight.
Going back to a more natural way of eating will help you lose those extra pounds which not only makes you look better, you’ll be a lot healthier as well – which is much more important than looking good.
A side benefit to eating clean is that your body will naturally desire that you move more often. Not because you have to, but because you want to. It just happens. Take advantage of this during spring, summer and fall and during winter if you can safely.
3. You’re Setting A Good Example For Your Loved Ones
Eating better and getting healthier doesn’t just impact you. You’ll also be setting an example for those around you.
Talk to your family about getting on board with you to eat cleaner. It is important that you have a support system in place and it will be a challenge for you to prepare clean food for yourself but processed food for your family.
However, if you can start packing clean lunches for your spouse and children, they may not even notice initially. Give you family chicken salad (diced meat, clean mayonnaise, green onion, salt and pepper) in a container with a fork. Add in some fresh fruit and cheese cubes and no one will be hungry when they get home.
Getting Started With Clean Eating
When you first get started eating clean, you have two options. You can go cold turkey and give up all the junk food, sugar, processed food etc. all at once, or you can opt for a more gradual change. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach. Pick the one you think will work best for you and give it a try.
If you can’t throw out all of your processed foods at one time:
You may want to switch to a more gradual approach. Start with using up what you have in your pantry and not replacing it. Your health will not suffer without these foods unless you have severe intolerances to meat, vegetables and fruit – which leaves only high carb foods.
Make sure that your family members are eating enough protein and healthy fats to stay full longer and curb sugar cravings.
Please don’t beat yourself up if you make gradual changes or slip up here and there, particularly in the beginning. The important thing is that you are making gradual changes to benefit your health.
The first thing you have to decide is what exactly clean eating means for you and your family. Some of the basics include no processed food, organic produce, chicken and grass-feed beef whenever possible. Buy the best quality eggs you can. Decide what you want to completely cut from your diet. White flour and sugar are easy. What are you and what aren’t you okay with?
If you can throw out your processed foods:
- You can go through the whole house and toss everything that is no longer on your approved food list. For some of us going cold turkey works best. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself feeling crappy and fighting a headache for a few days. It’s your body adjusting to the cleaner food and detoxing from all the junk you’ve been eating up until this point. Try adding in some sea or pink salt. Your body is used to all the sodium in processed foods, so adding back some healthy salt is perfectly fine (use moderation).
- If throwing away all this food is more than you can bear, consider donating what you can to a food pantry. Or eat what you have but not let any more processed and junk food enter the house. Next, cut out all white flour and sugar. Gradually make more and more changes to your diet until you reach a level of clean eating you’re comfortable with.
Don’t forget about drinks.
When you’re thirsty, stick to water. Sodas and energy drinks are a big no-no and so are soda with artificial sweeteners.
Everything in-between is up to you. Does coffee fit into your clean eating plan? If it does, make sure you give up the sugary creamer and stick to plain, organic coffee. Herbal teas are a great alternative, as is lemon water.
No matter how you get there, you will be amazed at how much better you’ll feel once you switch to eating real food that’s good for your body. Don’t be surprised to find that you have more energy and a mental clarity you didn’t realize you were missing
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I hope that you have enjoyed this primer on switching to clean foods. Eating clean does not have to be hard or challenging. If you have a deep freezer, you can take advantage of meat or frozen veggies when they are on sale. Start paying attention to what your family likes to eat and find healthy ways to serve it.
Successful clean eating depends on planning ahead to be ready for when life throws you a curve ball. Stick to your plan and succeed where others fail!
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Here’s to our health!