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Clean Eating Diet 101

If you’re trying to eat healthier or lose some weight, you’ve probably heard about dozens of different complicated diets by now. However, “clean eating” has become more popular in recent years, and it’s a lot easier to follow. So, what does it mean to eat clean? Let’s find out.

Unhealthy eating habits can have many negative effects on your health, from obesity to diabetes and heart disease. But breaking these habits can be difficult, and many people find that choosing the right foods can be a complicated task.

Clean eating is the practice of avoiding processed foods and refined ingredients. Instead, those who practice clean eating try to choose whole foods, natural ingredients, and healthy meals.

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Different people follow different clean eating methods. Some choose to avoid any food that has been treated with antibiotics or pesticides, while others try to stick to natural ingredients.

Eating clean sounds simple, but how do you actually do it? In order to eat clean, it’s important to understand why processed foods can be harmful and which ingredients are best.

Foods that have undergone processing or packaging processes can contain artificial additives that make them less healthy, such as added salt and sugar, refined carbohydrates, and other unhealthy ingredients. 

Many foods also lose healthy nutrients and compounds, such as vitamins and dietary fiber, when they’re processed and refined. This results in foods that contain more calories but fewer nutrients than their natural counterparts.

Common sources of processed foods include:

  • Processed meats, such as sausages or cold cuts
  • Baked goods
  • Sugary desserts
  • Fried foods
  • Highly processed cheese or dairy products
  • Canned food
  • Microwave or frozen meals
  • Refined cereals, bread, or pasta
  • Sodas or sugary drinks
  • Sauces or spreads
  • Zero-calorie foods or drinks

Restaurant meals are often full of sodium, sugar, refined carbohydrates, trans fats, and artificial additives. Additionally, it can be difficult — if not impossible — to assess the quality of the ingredients used in restaurant food. Most restaurant food tends to be high in calories but low in nutrients, which can have a negative effect on your weight and health. Not to mention, eating out often can be very expensive!

Restaurant meals are often full of sodium, sugar, refined carbohydrates, trans fats, and artificial additives.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy eating out every now and then. But if you’re trying to eat clean, this habit should be an occasional treat rather than a frequent occurrence.

Eating more whole foods is one of the main goals of clean eating. This means trying to choose foods that are closer to their natural form rather than processed, packaged, or frozen.

Consider slowly transitioning to whole foods meal by meal. Healthy and delicious whole foods include:

  • Whole grain bread, pasta, or cereals
  • Raw nuts and seeds
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Lean, fresh protein sources
  • Beans and legumes
  • Fresh herbs
  • Tofu

If you have a hectic daily schedule, it can be difficult to stick to a healthy eating plan. As a result, you may end up choosing unhealthy but practical meals — such as fast food — more often.

If you have a hectic daily schedule, it can be difficult to stick to a healthy eating plan.

You can prepare large batches of food each week or smaller portions a few times per week. You can prepare practically everything you eat during the day in advance, from main meals to snacks. Having healthy meals ready to go can help you save time and money while allowing you to achieve your clean eating goals.

Protein is necessary for your body to build muscle and repair itself. Here’s what you can eat to naturally consume more protein:

  • Lean poultry
  • Low-mercury fish
  • Natural yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Nuts and beans

Avoid sources of protein such as cold cuts, bacon, highly processed cheese, processed meats, and red meat.

Experts recommend that we eat five portions of vegetables and fruits each day, preferably fresh. This may sound like a lot of fruit and vegetables, but you can easily tweak your meals and snacks to contain these portions.

For example, consider chopping some berries or a banana into your breakfast oatmeal, or adding some lettuce and tomato to your whole-grain sandwiches. You can also make a quick side salad to accompany your lunch or dinner. Additionally, try nibbling on fruit or vegetables between meals for a quick, easy, and healthy snack.

Experts recommend that we eat five portions of vegetables and fruits each day, preferably fresh.

However, fruit juices or smoothies may not be the ideal way to consume these foods. Juices and smoothies tend to contain added sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. Even unsweetened juices and smoothies have a high sugar content.

Proper hydration is necessary to maintain your health, help you lose weight, avoid fluid retention, and increase your energy.

Make sure you drink six to eight glasses of water throughout the day, and limit your caffeine and fruit juice intake. Avoid sodas or other artificial drinks — even no-calorie alternatives, which still contain many artificial additives.

Proper hydration is necessary to maintain your health, help you lose weight, avoid fluid retention, and increase your energy.

You should also limit your alcohol consumption, since alcoholic beverages contain empty calories and can lead to dehydration and other health problems.

Following a clean eating diet can help you choose healthier food alternatives that can help you lose weight and feel better. You can combine clean eating with other healthy habits, such as mindful eating, to develop healthier eating patterns.

However, it’s important to avoid excessive calorie restriction or harsh dietary restraints, unless otherwise recommended by a doctor. Remember that even if you have a processed or calorie-dense meal or snack every now and then, you can go back to your healthier habits afterwards.

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/eight-tips-for-healthy-eating/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/harvard-researchers-launch-healthy-eating-plate

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-eating-plate/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/clean-eating/faq-20336262

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6164197/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3471136/

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/

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