We hear a lot of discussion today about clean eating, real food, whole foods, and gluten free eating. What does it all mean? For those who want to try to get healthier and eat healthier foods, all of these terms can be confusing and overwhelming. This week, I’d like to talk a little about clean eating. In following weeks, I’ll cover some of these other topics, so be sure to come back and watch for the articles. And if you have a health-related or food-related topic that you’d like to see covered, be sure to leave a comment letting us know!
So what is clean eating? Why is clean eating important? Should you consider it for your family?
First of all, clean eating isn’t a diet. Most people think of a diet as a time of eating fewer calories in order to lose weight. While clean eating can definitely help you lose weight, it’s not a diet in the sense that you eat fewer calories for the purpose of losing weight. (It very well may help you lose weight , though, especially if you often eat “empty” calories like the ones found in many packaged and junk foods.) Clean eating is a way of eating. It’s a choice to eat healthy, less-processed, whole foods. It’s a lifestyle, not a temporary diet.
Why is clean eating important? The answer to that might be different for different families. I personally know several families who began eating clean in order to lose weight or overcome health problems. Some of these people have lost weight, lowered cholesterol, and gained energy. In some of these families, the children’s behavior has improved drastically!
So often we go to the doctor for high blood pressure, lack of energy, skin problems, brain fog, hyper-activity in our children, oppositional behavior in our children, and other similar concerns. The doctors prescribe medicine but never suggest that improving our diets might be effective. I’m thankful for doctors and what they can do for us, but more and more I’m seeing that changing our diets can be just as effective (or in some cases more effective).
But taking a pill is so much easier than watching what we eat, isn’t it? I know! I used to be the person who would rather take a pill and keep eating whatever I wanted to eat. Now, though, I’ve definitely become a believer in clean eating because I’ve seen first-hand what it can do!
A few of the basic principles of clean eating (sometimes called eating real food) are these:
Say yes to:
- Eating whole/natural unprocessed foods (including foods such as nuts, fruits, dried fruits, and seeds. These foods often have only one ingredient on the label (such as raw almonds) or may not have a label at all (such as fresh fruits and vegetables).
- Cooking from scratch when possible.
- Using natural sweeteners (like raw honey or real maple syrup).
- Eating/drinking unrefined dairy products such as whole milk, yogurt, cheese, and eggs.
- Eating 100% whole grains (unrefined). Even those who are gluten free can eat whole grains–they just need to be sure they don’t contain gluten.
- Eating meat that is pastured and humanely raised.
Say no to:
- Refined flours, refined sugars, and artificial sweeteners—even those that are often considered to be healthy. This includes white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, and even organic sugar.
- Deep fried foods.
- Highly processed foods—even those that are often considered to be healthy such as those labeled low-carb and low-fat. This also includes foods like organic cookies and crackers and other junk foods.
- Packaged foods with a long list of ingredients.
These are some of the basic principles of clean eating. In plain and simple language, clean eating mainly means eating foods that are as close to nature as possible.
It may seem impossible to make the change from the Standard American Diet (SAD) to clean eating, but it really can be done! And it truly can make huge changes in the way you feel, how much energy you have, and how your children behave. In fact, I know quite a few families who have made the change (including my family), and they have seen benefits in all of the areas I mentioned.
I have to note that my family is also gluten free, and we’ve seen great benefits from that as well. The clean eating/real food way of eating is not necessarily gluten free, but you may find that eating gluten free is helpful too. I’ve found that gluten free eating is especially beneficial for those with inflammation issues (such as arthritis) and for many children, teens, and even adults who have issues such as anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, and sensory processing disorders.
One more important point:
It is almost impossible to stick with any new way of eating if you don’t have a meal plan! BEFORE you get started on your clean eating adventure, you need to plan at least a few days’ worth of meals–a week is even better. If you get hungry and have no idea what you’re going to eat, you’re far more likely to grab junk food or sweets that are easily available. But if you take a little time to decide what you will eat for a few days and make sure you have everything you need on hand, you’ll be far more likely to succeed! Isn’t it worth a few minutes of planning and a trip to the grocery store to feel (and look!) better and be healthier?
Need some help getting started?
Here are some cookbooks and clean eating guidebooks to help you get started on your clean eating journey! I have not read or used all of these, but I tried to find those that have high ratings. Although you can definitely get started just using the guidelines above, some people (like me!) prefer to have a book or cookbook to go by. But the main thing to keep in mind–whether you choose to go it alone, with a support group, or with or without a cookbook is that you can do whatever you decide is important! If you really want to do this, to eat healthier and feel better, you can do it!
In the mean time, I’d love to hear from you! Have you tried clean eating? Why or why not? Do you have questions about clean eating, eating gluten free, or other diet and lifestyle topics you’d like to see more about? Please leave a comment and let us know!