How clean is your diet, really? Just because you’re counting calories and macros, it doesn’t mean you’re eating clean. This lifestyle choice is all about keeping food simple. Yet, it’s not as easy as it seems.
Nowadays, store shelves overflow with a variety of so-called healthy foods. Are these claims true or is it just marketing hype? Believe it or not, about 61 percent of the foods we buy are heavily processed. You could be eating junk food without even realizing it.
To make things easier for you, we’ve highlighted some key do’s and don’ts of clean eating:
DO Read Food Labels Thoroughly
Many foods marketed as healthy contain harmful ingredients. For instance, granola bars are often made with processed grains, liquid invert sugar, chocolate syrup, emulsifiers, and canola oil. Even “healthy” water may not be so healthy after all. Vitamin water usually contains fructose and cane sugar, artificial flavors, modified corn starch, phosphoric acid, and other chemicals. Unless you read food labels, you don’t really know what goes onto your plate and into your body.
DO Eat Healthy Snacks
Clean eating doesn’t involve skipping meals or starving yourself. It’s simple…if you’re hungry, eat. Just make sure you choose whole, nutritious foods that support your goals. When hunger strikes, grab a healthy snack such as trail mixes, walnuts, almonds, homemade granola, or peanut butter. This will rev up your metabolism and energy levels. Snacking also keeps your blood sugar stable and prevents insulin spikes.
DO Enjoy a Wide Array of Foods
Most people find clean eating difficult because they limit themselves to a small number of foods. Your plate should be full of color and include all food groups. Choose blue, green, red, purple, orange, and white vegetables as well as brightly colored fruits and grains. Remember that antioxidants give fruits and vegetables their vivid colors. Try new foods to keep your diet varied and prevent nutritional deficiencies.
DON’T Go Overboard
Clean eating isn’t a free pass to oversized portions. If you go overboard, you’ll end up gaining weight. Large meals also put stress on your digestive system, causing bloating, fatigue, and sleepiness. When you’re eating too much, your body works harder to digest and break down food. This can drain your energy and cause digestive issues. Always eat mindfully – eat when you are physically hungry and stop when you feel full, not stuffed.
DON’T Skimp on Fat
Healthy fats are an integral part of clean eating. Whether you want to lose weight, tweak your diet, or stay disease-free, you need fat in your daily menu. This nutrient serves as a source of fuel. It keeps your cholesterol levels low, prevents heart disease, and improves insulin sensitivity. It also suppresses hunger, keeping you full longer. Just make sure you choose good fats, such as those in chia seeds, flax seeds, avocado, and raw nuts.
DON’T Go for “Diet” Foods
Diet foods are not necessarily healthy. They may actually contain more sugar and fats than their conventional versions. For example, “diet” trail mixes are made with hydrogenated palm oil, yogurt-covered raisins, deep-fried banana chips, and high-fructose corn syrup. Store-bought smoothies are loaded with sugar and synthetic flavors. Diet coke raises your insulin levels, leading to diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Most protein bars contain a myriad of ingredients that you can’t even pronounce.
Whole, unprocessed foods are your best bet. They contain no more than one or two ingredients, and fill you up quickly. Clean eating is all about getting back to basics. Your only job is to choose foods as close to their natural state as possible.