Clean Eating: The Basics

Since my big declaration on Thursday included a guideline that I would eat two clean meals per day / 5 times per week, I thought it would be good to write about clean eating.  When I started researching the various opinions about clean eating for this post, I was surprised to see there are so many different opinions on the subject.  How can so many people differ on a topic that seems so simple?

What I actually found is the experts differ on strategy, but not on these basic principles:

  • Say no to:
    • Refined sugar
    • Added Sodium
    • Processed foods
  • Say yes to:
    • Lean Protein
    • Complex carbohydrates, like brown rice, oatmeal, whole-grain pasta
    • Fresh fruits and veggies
    • Healthy Fats
  • Don’t go more than 4-5 hours without eating (some say 3 hours, some say 4-5 hours but none of them believe it is healthy to go beyond that)
  • Stay within your daily nutrition quota for fat, fiber, carbs, sugar, sodium and protein (thank you, Mayo Clinic!)
  • The benefits of clean eating are: more stable blood sugar (say good-bye to the afternoon crash!), healthier skin and teeth, increased energy, and healthy weight (with controlled portions, of course)

The most popular clean eating strategy seems to be The Eat-Clean Diet by Tosca Reno.   The principles of this diet are:

  • Eat 5-6 small meals per day
  • Eat breakfast every day
  • Lean protein plus complex carbohydrate at every meal
  • Eat enough healthy fats
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Carry a cooler packed with clean eats
  • Depend on fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for complex carbohydrates
  • Stick to proper portion sizes

Most of these rules are basic for anyone trying to lose weight or be healthy (especially water and breakfast!), but it is still overwhelming to start a lifestyle change with a set of rules.  The thought of carrying a cooler with me everywhere I went was a deal breaker for me when I bought this book last year (however, the book does have a lot of good information and meal recommendations).

The good news is what I mentioned earlier in my post is really what clean eating is about – focusing on unprocessed foods and getting your daily nutritional needs taken care of.  There are no strict guidelines on how often you have to eat or pairing certain foods together.   I am a person of moderation, which is why I try to eat most meals clean but not all of them.  Sometimes I will get into a pinch and need something quick or my travel schedule will restrict my options (or sometimes I just want a bagel or something nice and sugary).

When I first started learning about clean eating, it sounded like chicken and vegetables every night.  Thanks to the two cookbooks from Clean Eating magazine, that is not the case for me!  (no, they aren’t paying me to say that – I just love the cookbooks THAT much!).  The Gracious Pantry also has a very good menu plan.  If you check it out, you will see there are actually a lot of great foods you can eat!

Why am I relying on Weight Watchers to shed those last 15 pounds if clean eating is so wonderful?  Portion control is what I struggle with the most.  WW forces me to measure my portions.  If I simply relied on eating unprocessed foods, I would be polishing off a bunch of homemade tortilla chips with a bowl of guacamole every night.

Well, enough heavy topics for the weekend!  Have a great Saturday! I am headed to the Juvenile Diabetes walk at the Mall of America this morning.

What is your experience or opinion of clean eating?  Do you have any exciting plans for the weekend?

(disclaimer: I am not a doctor or nutritionist.  This post represents my interpretation of the information I’ve gathered.  You should consult with a doctor if you have health concerns).

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3 responses to “Clean Eating: The Basics

  1. I love clean eating!! I started when I started the LiveFit program by Jamie Eason. She is a great resource for information, guidelines, and recipes. I love food and love that I get to eat so much, haha. I have also felt a noticeable difference when I fuel my body with whole foods reather than processed ones. Yay! I think you will love it 🙂

  2. Sharon Kinard

    I am a clean eater most of the time, and being on weight watchers does stress fresh foods along with portion control. It becomes easier as time goes by, since you realize that monitoring your food intake is simple when you stick to mostly fresh foods. Another little tidbit to think about is that 1 lb equals approximately 3500 calories. Its something else that I keep in the back of my mind when choosing to have snacks or alcoholic beverages. It can add up fast over the period of one week!

  3. Pingback: What the heck does Yeast-Free Mean? | fitscally responsible

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