Clean eating. I know that you have seen it if you are one of my followers, and I am sure that you hear it a lot when you are following other health and fitness people on social networks or when you are reading articles online!
But what is it?
I don't think that there is a clear cut, solid definition In my opinion, clean eating is pretty relative, and I feel as though you should be able to make your own definition. In the simplest, most generic definition, I would say that clean eating means that your majority of your food intake is natural, non-processed foods. aka: "real food."
But what kinds of foods does that break down into it?
The generic breakdown of what foods are "clean" is to say that clean eating is eating a variety of natural fruits, veggies, proteins, complex carbs, and healthy fats, while limiting your intake of processed foods.
[I will create a grocery list/clean foods list in an entry as well]
But really, it all depends on what kind of eating lifestyle you have. Some people are paleo, some are vegetarian, some are vegan, some don't eat gluten etc. Each of these lifestyles does promote eating food from the earth and nature, but in their own ways. Then, within your type of lifestyle eating, it depends on what YOU consider to be clean. Anything processed is usually not considered clean, but you will find that many people eat it anyway, for example: quest bars, almond milk, Greek yogurt, veggie/almond cheese, etc! This is where it comes to your own kinds of judgement calls and the way you WANT to eat/live the lifestyle.
Just because you are eating clean does not mean that you have to have the same boring meals over and over again. Or that you have to have the same handful of food options every day. When I am choosing what I will eat, the majority of my foods are non-processed, whole foods: chicken, turkey, tilapia, eggs, sweet potatoes, oats, raw nuts, fresh fruits and veggies, etc. But there are occasions, usually on a daily basis, when I will eat processed things, and I like it that way. Now, I am not saying that I am eating oreos and ice cream sandwiches and doritos and fruit snacks. I, personally, just look at what processed things are made of, how natural they are, and what nutritional value they have. I try to maintain a good balance of proteins, complex carbs, and healthy fats, so when I do eat processed things, I am always looking at the nutrition label for this information, as well as the ingredients list. If I know the ingredients and they are not some crazy names, then I usually think that the product is fine! I have seen things that say something like "If there is an ingredient that a child cannot pronounce easily, then stay away from it." This is a rule that I do generally stick with... if there is some crazy sounding ingredients, then it is most likely a crap ingredient! BUT, on occasion (rarely) I will have a product like this (specifically oreos are my weakness), just not a ton of it! Another thing that I have seen in multiple places says something along the lines of "If you look at an ingredients list and there are more than a handful of ingredients then stay away from it." Now in my opinion, this is great and all, for those who want to stick to an extra clean, more strict, and extra super healthy lifestyle. But, I am going to go ahead and say that if you are trying to lose some fat or are like me, maintaining, and just living an everyday healthy lifestyle, without worrying about being as healthy as it is possible or having any hardcore "cutting" needs, then under two handfuls of all natural and organic ingredients is fine. As long as you can pronounce them and, I reiterate, they are all natural and organic, then I say go for it. These might not be the BEST options of foods when you are eating clean, but they are generally healthier than other options and won't leave you feeling like you are being deprived if you want those types of things. For example: snackanimal animal crackers rather than the popular processed brands! Below are a few of the brands that I swear by! :)
I am sure that a lot of people would argue with this and think that this is not healthy, and to each their own. I am just saying that in my personal opinion, I will eat things like this on occasion, and I don't see a problem with it! And usually, when I get them, I will only get them from places like Sprouts or Trader Joes or Whole Foods (farmers market style stores), that generally have a more narrow selection or more natural/less processed items. It takes some learning, but you have to be careful and really pay attention to the ingredients and such... a lot of big-name companies label things as all-natural, when they are still a load of crap. This is why I throw in looking for all natural AND organic and why I say to go to more natural/healthy grocery stores if you want processed treats; you will be more likely to pick a better option that way. Just make sure that you are not depending on these types of foods. Although healthier than the alternatives, they are still processed, and having natural, whole foods is still a better choice for the majority of your intake!
But how often do you eat clean? What is right or wrong?
The surprising news, to some, is that there is no right or wrong. Not in my opinion. When it comes to being healthy, you have to find what will work best for you. Eating clean can be anything from a 100% all day, every day clean diet to an 80/20 daily ratio of clean foods to treats to eating 100% clean during the week and allowing for a treat meal on the weekend, etc. If you want to be as healthy as possible then by all means, eat 100% clean all the time. Some people live this way, and I think that it is great! If you want to be healthy, but don't want to eat 100% clean, then don't feel like you have to! I will never tell someone that they have to eat 100% clean every day of their lives in order to reach their goals: I don't! You may need to change your habits depending on your goals, but you should always feel as though you are in control of your life, your decisions, and your intake. When you start to feel like you can't control yourself and food is taking over, then you need to reassess your approach. You can be as strict or as lenient as you wish. Finding your own balance is key: that is all up to you and what you find works best for your schedule, lifestyle and goals.
In my world, I am constantly changing my terms of clean eating. In my every day habits, I am much more laid-back in my clean eating approach. Like I said before, the majority of my food intake in clean, whole, natural foods, but I will also eat some processed things. I love my egg whites and ezekiel, my chicken and sweet potatoes, and my turkey chili, and so it is easy for me to stick to primarily eating clean, whole, natural foods. But on occasion, I just want to spice it up a little bit and I let myself do that! For example, I will have flavored nuts or nut butters, flax chips, no sugar added or organic chocolates, organic cereals/granolas, olive oil popcorn, etc. Things that are more processed, but not necessarily nutritional crap or completely horrible for you, and that still taste deeeeeeeelish: my daily healthy treats. I don't eat a lot of them daily, maybe one serving of one of these things a day, just a little to satisfy my desires! When I am prepping for an event, however, it is a totally different world, and I am much more strict than when I am just living my normal! I cut out a lot of the processed goodies and stick to something more like 90-95 clean/5-10 indulgence and get more strict as I get closer to an event date.
SO do I eat 100% clean, 100% of the time? absolutely not. But do I consider myself to be a clean-eater? absolutely! :)
Can I eat out while I am eating clean?
Absolutely, 100%! And let me say that when you have balance in your life, you can do ANYTHING while eating clean. Some people think there are so many dos and don'ts when it comes to eating clean, but you can do whatever you want to fit your lifestyle! Of course, I will NEVER promote eating fast food, you can't really expect to eat ice cream every day and see the results that you want, and if you're looking to go into the competition/fitness modeling world, then prepping would require being more strict, but what I mean to say is that in your everyday life you should never feel like you have to stay away from things forever or feel as though you cannot do things. It is all about moderation in that sense. You can still indulge occasionally and lose fat. Use things like eating out or special occasions as your treat days; keep it clean and work hard around your treats, but enjoy them when you have them!
I will be sure to make a post on eating out tips as well, but for a short little summary, you can definitely eat out and eat clean as long as you know how to order. You don't have to get a salad when you are eating out in order to be healthy. You can look for things like chicken, lean steaks, bison meat, seafood: mahi, tuna, salmon, tilapia, shrimp etc. When you're ordering, just keep your focus on how it is cooked and if it if grilled, you will usually have a good option! Substitute your fries for some steamed veggies (unless you are treating yourself) and you're set! ;)
Now, you may be finishing off reading this post and thinking, okay, so then what the hell is clean eating!? haha. I wish I could give you a cut and dry answer to make it easy on everyone, but the truth of the matter is that, in my opinion, clean eating is what YOU make of it based on your goals! And really, I think it is better that way! You can choose how strict to be, how much to indulge, etc... find what works best for YOU!!
Dream Big. Make It Happen. No Excuses.