Ever wondered what “clean eating” really means? You’ve probably heard this a lot these days, and there are many different ideas about what clean eating means. But the truth is, there isn’t a clear definition.
For some people eating clean means cutting out gluten, grains, soy, dairy, or other specific foods that make them feel bad. For others it means buying grass-fed meats, choosing organic produce, buying snack foods with real food ingredients, buying foods with as few ingredients as possible, or preparing more meals at home.
When we talk about clean eating, we believe that real, whole foods that are as close to their natural form as possible (unprocessed, unrefined) are what we should be eating. That means lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, lean protein, and healthy fats. When eating on-the-go, it’s not always easy to eat clean, so chose snacks with real ingredients and as little processing and as few ingredients as possible. Clean eating isn’t a diet, but instead a way of living -- a healthy way of shopping, eating, and meal planning.
Here are five tips to help you begin your journey to healthier, or “clean eating”. And like any other changes, start small and build up to including more of the tips at your own pace:
1. Eat real food
Choose foods that are as close to their natural state as possible, like fruits, vegetables, lean protein, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats that are freshly made and have little or no preservatives or artificial ingredients added to them.
2. Limit highly processed foods
This includes most fast foods, fried foods, and foods and sauces that can sit on a shelf for a long time. It also includes refined foods that are made from white flour and are usually high in sodium or sugar, like bread, pasta, packaged rice, canned soups, chips, crackers, pastries, cookies, and other baked goods. Some foods do require a small amount of processing to get them safely to your grocery store. Be sure to include these foods in your daily choices, especially during the winter. For example, frozen fruits and vegetables are great to have available, even when they’re not in season. Strawberries, blackberries and blueberries are full of nutrition and great to eat year-round, but not easy to find fresh in the wintertime. An added benefit of frozen fruits and vegetables is that the flash-freezing process, locks in the vitamins and minerals so they’re still available when you eat them weeks or months later. Even some frozen meals can be clean and healthy if the ingredient list is mostly whole food ingredients and the sodium isn’t too high.
And you don't have to put clean eating on hold when you're on the go. After all, our lives are busy, so we need options we can eat on-the-run. Look for snacks that have real food ingredients and no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Here are a few of our favorites:
3. Drink plenty of water
Our bodies are made up of about 60% water that needs replacing daily. Being well-hydrated helps the body digest and absorb food better. Water also helps keep skin looking healthy and muscles energized when exercising. Be sure to choose water that is free of sugar, artificial sweeteners and additives. Here are a few tips to help you drink more water:
- Add sliced cucumber, orange, lemon, or lime to your water bottle to infuse flavor naturally.
- Drink water with each meal and snack.
- Keep a water bottle at your desk, in your car, and in your backpack or purse.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables with high water content. As much as 20% of our fluid intake comes from food. Examples: watermelon, strawberries, peaches, oranges, cucumbers, zucchini, celery, tomatoes, and bell peppers.
4. Get the right balance of carbs, protein, and fat
Aim to include carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fat in every meal. These are known as macronutrients. Eating them together will help you stay full longer and help you get the nutrition you need each day. Examples of foods to include:
- Carbohydrates: fruits and vegetables
- Lean protein: chicken, turkey, eggs, fish, seafood, lean pork and lean beef
- Healthy fats: nuts, seeds, nut butters, avocado, olives, olive oil, avocado oil, sesame oil and walnut oil
Try these meals to get all 3 macronutrients:
- Breakfast: Vegetable Frittata with a side of fruit salad
- Lunch: Chicken-Cauliflower Rice Bowl topped with chopped almonds
- Dinner: Al Pastor with Peach Salsa and a tossed green salad
5. Enjoy delicious food
Clean eating should taste delicious, satisfying, and help you feel healthy and energetic. The truth is, when meals and snacks don’t taste good, we stop eating them and go back to old eating habits. But when food and snacks are delicious, we’re motivated to keep those small, healthy changes going for the long-term. Try one of these delicious Caveman Foods snacks next time you’re eating clean on-the-go!