You have probably heard it before when trying to incorporate healthier eating habits into your life….”just eat clean”. What does eating clean even mean? If you put that question into Google, you would get back a million different answers. I wanted to help you out by laying out what eating clean means to me and how it has help me in my health journey the last several years.
Be curious about eating clean
The one thing I think is the most important anytime you are wanting to make improvements in any aspect of your life is to be curious. When you come from a place of curiosity about what is in your food and where it came from, its a much gentler place than one of restriction and rules regarding food. When you are curious, you will want to do a little research and learn more. The more knowledge you have makes changes easier to make and stick to. Also, knowing your “why” when wanting to make changes is key and helps to keep you focused when your new habits start to slide. And they will because this is a marathon, not a sprint.
what does curiosity about clean eating look like?
Coming from a place of curiosity at the grocery store might look like reading a label on a box of cereal and googling what some of those hard-to-pronounce ingredients are. Or at the butcher counter asking where the meat comes from and what the animals were fed. At a restaurant, it might mean that you ask what kind of oil they use for frying their fries or in their vinaigrette dressing. Do they make everything in house or does it come out of packages?
A few questions, paired with a smile and kind demeanor, will get you well on your way to making changes for the better.
Laura’s Clean Eating Basics
1- eat Whole foods closest to the source
This means exactly what it sounds like…..eat foods that are of single origin, closest to how it was grown or raised. Meaning, a cup of broccoli, a chicken breast or handful of nuts is closest to how it came from the ground since it is the single ingredient. Then prepare them using other whole ingredients, like olive oil, garlic, etc. Chicken nuggets are not close to the source since they have been through a multiple processes and have had a paragraph of ingredients added to the chicken.
2- Buy Organic whenever possible
Eating only organic can be really limiting and hard on the wallet. I prefer to follow the EWG’s list of the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen when buying produce. In season produce is much more affordable when organic than buying out of season (i.e. berries in the summer versus winter). When buying meat and eggs, if you can get responsibly raised, grass fed meat from a local farm or your grocery store, that is key. Start with trying 1-2 meals a week with clean meat and organic produce and work up from there. Find your local stores that offer better pricing on organic produce and watch for sales. I shop at Sprouts locally in KC and their organic prices are often the same or a smidge more expensive than conventional.
3- Avoid inflammatory oils
Using highly unstable oils to cook with or to consume can lead to inflammation in the body from a higher level of Omega 6 compared to Omega 3 in our bodies. Omega 3 is the one we want to eat and comes from wild fish, grass fed meat and plants. Inflammatory oils include soy, corn, canola, safflower and sunflower. The oils that are great for our bodies include olive, avocado and coconut, organic when possible! My two favorite functional medicine doctors talk more about these oils here and here. So again, be curious and learn more from people who make healthy living their life’s work.
4- be able to recognize the ingredients in packaged foods
When reading your food labels, can you pronounce and then know what each ingredient is? Pick up any cereal targeted to kids and it’s like reading a list of chemicals. And this goes for items that don’t readily have an ingredient list, like your favorite Starbucks drinks (it’s online). Do a little digging (The Food Babe is a great resource) and you might think twice when reaching for that snack or drink.
5- Cook at home more than you eat out
When you can control what goes in your food, eating “cleaner” is way easier. I do feel you, though, I get to the weekend and am done being the cook and want a break. I have my favorite places to eat in KC. Always know that you can get a meal of protein and veggies at most any restaurant. It just takes a little practice and perseverance to make these changes. This is not an overnight, all-or-nothing mentality. Think how you want to feel in 1 year or 5 years.
6- Eat foods that your body likes
No, that doesn’t mean eating all the burgers and fries you want because you think your body likes them. That’s called a craving. What I mean by this is really paying attention to how you feel after eating different foods. Do you feel sluggish after that burger and fries or suffer upset digestion? How do you feel when you eat a plate of roasted veggies with salmon or chicken? Again, be curious. Then make changes based on your findings. I know that I am allergic to corn so I am obviously going to avoid corn because my body definitely does not like it. I also know that dairy makes me feel bloated and gassy. So I avoid dairy. What do you know your body doesn’t like? Do you continue to eat it?
Clean eating changes take time
These are all tips that I have found to be helpful over the last several years as I have educated myself and had a lot of trial and error. Knowledge is power. The more you know, the more empowered you feel when making new and healthier choices.
So, tell me, what is one change you can make this week? Comment below. And have an amazing day. You deserve it.