Nowadays, with endless information and countless opinions, the concept of clean eating and trying to live healthily can be a little confusing.
Almost every month I read about a new “superfood” (or “super diet”!). I’m all for listening to advice or the experience of trying out new things, but personally when it comes to “diet”, I’m a big believer in living a healthy lifestyle which is based on a good balance of healthy eating and exercise. For me clean eating means embracing foods like fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains and healthy proteins. Of course, as someone with a sugar intolerance like me, this is easier than for most. I stay away from sweets entirely and try to limit myself to lower fructose foods or I add those tasty but less tolerable foods in a limited quantity to my meals.
What I think is important for individuals exploring new options, is to go ahead and try them out, listen and trust your body and then figure out what’s right for you. We are all different and what works for one person may not for another. Live your truth.
What I principally live by is choosing a variety of the best and healthiest options from each of the food groups. The more colorful and varied, the better! Even if you try eating “cleaner” once or twice a week, it can have tremendous effects. Yes, we call all get distracted with the kids, eating out, social events (and wine!) or company around.
Here are my top six clean eating principles:
1Minimize or eliminate processed foods from your diet. These are foods that come in boxes, bags, cans or packages with long list of ingredients (such as sugar, salt, flavor enhancers, colorings, fillers, preservatives and a list of things we can’t pronounce or don’t recognise). Foods that have more than five items on their ingredients list are likely not “clean.” Instead choose unprocessed, single-ingredient foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. If you can’t, then try choosing products that are made organically.
2Watch out for saturated or trans fats, excess salt and refined sugar. This principle is easier to follow that you may think. Once you minimize or eliminate processed foods from your diet, this becomes easy. Whole foods are naturally low in fat, sugar, and salt. All you have to do is be aware of how your meals are prepared and avoid too much use of sugar, salt, fat and condiments.
3Eat balanced meals that include protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates. Meals should include protein along with carbohydrates and fats. Protein is primarily important for tissue growth and repair and it also helps keep you feeling full and satisfied longer, which is especially beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight.
A few examples of complete proteins that contain all 9 essential amino acids are:
- Hemp and chia seeds
As for fats — the good kind — not only do they help add flavor to food, but your body needs a certain amount of dietary fat in order to stay healthy. It provides your body with immediate energy and is essential for the delivery and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Good fats include things like vegetable based oils, nuts, seeds (including hemp, ground chia and flax seeds), coconut flesh, coconut oil/butter, tahini, avocado, nut milk, flax oil.
Eat the right type of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are classified in many different ways — no wonder it can be confusing (!):
- Healthy vs. Unhealthy
- Good vs. Bad
- Slow vs. Fast
- Complex vs. Simple
Consider this. If you are eating whole, natural, unprocessed carbohydrates, you can consider them good. Everything else you can consider less than ideal.
Eating the slow-burning complex carbohydrates help keep you feeling full and feeling good. They provide a steady supply of energy and cause a less dramatic increase in blood glucose levels. And since the foods in which complex carbs are found are mainly vegetables, whole grains and legumes, they also provide the body with beneficial nutrients.
4Eat several small meals throughout the day. Whether you eat six mini meals or three meals and one (or two) healthy snacks each day, eating every few hours will help keep you from getting that famished feeling which could lead to binging or overeating. It also ensures that your blood sugar levels stay steady so that your energy doesn’t crash midway throughout the day.
5Stop drinking your calories. Instead drink plenty of water. At least 8 glasses a day. choose water over high calorie, high sugar drinks (soda, juices, alcoholic beverages, and speciality coffee drinks; e.g. caramel macchiato and the likes). These are low in nutrients and can easily add an extra 500 meaningless calories to your daily diet without ever fully satisfying your appetite.
Drinking water is essential to our digestion system and body functioning properly. If you need a break from plain water, drink sparkling water, or spike your water with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice (or try fruit infused water!) or give fresh ginger or mint tea or any other unsweetened herbal tea a try.In summer, just serve it chilled.
And because we all like to splurge here and there, go ahead and treat yourself from time to time. A good way to beat some of those extra empty calories is to get a good workout in on those days.
7Exercise daily. For me, exercise is absolutely critical to happiness. Some days exercise just means riding my bike to and from work, but mostly I try get out running twice a week as well as do a couple pilates or yoga classes. I love to spend time exercising outdoors and feel so fortunate that I can commute to work on my bike. Albeit a short commute (3,5km). Something not all that common in Canada where most everyone is sitting in their car, stuck in traffic. Not only does exercise help make you feel better and give you more energy, but it really clears your mind and helps reduce stress. Not to mention, it helps give you the freedom to enjoy the foods you want without worrying so much about calorie content!
Simple mathematics: if you eat more calories than you burn, and you gain weight and if you eat less calories than you burn, you lose weight.
Work with your own body and find your own balance. Strive to eat more whole foods and if there are certain foods that don’t agree with you, don’t eat them.
Have any clean eating tips of your own? Share below!