There’s been a lot of talk about ‘clean eating’ or ‘eating clean’—and hopefully this movement is here to stay.Talk about ‘clean’ foods began to crop up in the mid-1990’s; this was right when people began to question their food products, ingredients and sources, and health foods stores started popping up and gaining more customers. Now the term has become more commonplace—and rightfully so. While there aren’t hard and fast rules to follow, per se, there are some definite guidelines to know.
Can’t Read it, Don’t Eat it
Flip over your box of cereal or premade dessert and try to read the ingredient list—if it’s filled with crazy 12-letter words that you can’t even imagine how to pronounce, don’t buy it. You should be able to read and recognize the ingredient list on your foods. This makes it simple for you to make a choice—and don’t worry, it’s not as limiting as you may think. Clean eating doesn’t mean you have to cut out some of your favorite snacks or treats, just look for it in a different form. Opt for an ice cream made with real, whole ingredients or a pick a box of crackers made from organic brown rice.
Choose the Whole Food
More often than not, choose foods in their most natural state. This should be the vast majority of your diet. It’s OK to treat yourself once in a while, but most of the foods you eat shouldn’t come from a box (even if you can read the ingredients)—unless that box lists one ingredient and one ingredient only (like brown rice or quinoa). Grab an apple instead of applesauce, eat bran instead of a bran muffin, nibble on some snap peas instead of the dehydrated, salty kind.
Whenever you can, you should always choose organic foods. Sometimes this can be hard depending on cost and access, but try to follow the “Clean 15, Dirty Dozen” rule. Produce with a rind, tough skin or a barrier of some sort, like onions, avocados, corn, pineapple, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and grapefruit can be bought conventionally; just be sure to wash them thoroughly with 1 part vinegar and 3 parts water. Soft-skinned fruits and vegetables like berries, apples, celery, peppers, potatoes and lettuces should always be purchased organic.
Many people who eat clean break up their meals into small portions, enjoyed over the course of the day. Choose a smaller breakfast like a hard-boiled egg, then snack on some almonds a couple hours later, munch on a salad for lunch, have a grapefruit mid-afternoon and enjoy a portion-controlled dinner focused on protein and vegetables.
As much as you can, create meals and snacks yourself. Make trail mix by mixing different nuts and some dried fruits (even better: dry the fruit yourself!), mix up your own salad dressing (this one is super important, many dressings are chemical nightmares) or make your own chicken “nuggets” with slices of chicken breast, almond meal and coconut oil. The internet is a vast treasure-trove of awesome recipes filled with whole foods.
Support the Right Sources
Clean eating also has an ethical twist to it. Supporting companies and farmers who work hard to produce pesticide-free foods and products can have a sort of ripple effect, positively influencing the planet and our food supply. It also means buying meats that have been treated humanely and supporting companies that don’t overfish or disrupt ecosystems. There’s also an emphasis on decreasing your carbon footprint; for example, choose local whenever possible.
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