Eating a 'clean' healthy diet does not need to be confusing. Follow these 10 simple guidelines to a healthy clean eating lifestyle:
- Eat five to six small meals every two and a half to three hours
- Start your day with a lean protein and complex carbohydrate (veggie)
- Drink two to three liters of water per day
- Avoid alcohol, saturated and trans fats, and over-processed, refined, & enriched foods (common in most breads, crackers, cereals)
- Avoid sugar-filled colas, diet soda, sports & energy drinks, coffees, and juices
- Avoid calorie dense foods with no nutritional value like French fries, chips, and pastries
- Consume healthy fats, essential fatty acids every day (avocado, nuts, olive oil)
- Eat fresh vegetables and fresh fruits
- Cook with fresh herbs and organic seasonings
- Rely on proper portion sizes
Clean eating is a lifestyle
Recently the word 'clean' has received a bit of a negative connotation, but truthfully, it is a fantastic word to describe basic eating principles offering plenty of food choices without deprivation. All it costs you is a regular grocery bill and a little planning time.
First, you need to understand clean eating is not some diet you go on then get off of at some point. The ‘diet’ is a lifestyle choice you maintain everyday whether it is your birthday, a holiday, on a cruise, or any Monday through Friday. Eating 'clean' means a full-time commitment to this as a lifestyle.
Second, this is not a lifestyle of denying yourself or eliminating a food group. There is no starving involved. Rather than going hungry, clean eating is about consuming more yet with care and a little focus. And, it allows you to still have the piece of chocolate cake or cocktail just not every day.
As athletes and fitness competitors, we already eat this way because we know it is the number one most important element of yielding the body and performance we want. Thus, it only makes sense for you to eat clean to see more definition in your body and less fat. By depending on clean eating habits, your body and brain will be healthier and function at its best.
Third, starting a clean eating lifestyle is easy. Anyone can do this. These guidelines are common sense and do not involve turning your life upside down to do. Eating five to six small meals a day can mean an apple with a couple tablespoons of peanut butter is a meal. It means enjoying salmon and broccoli at breakfast or at dinner. Grabbing a handful of mixed nuts in between events counts as a meal.
Common sense of clean eating
This lifestyle also means putting a focus on breakfast rather than dinner. Use your common sense here – do you really want to eat your biggest meal of the day just before bed? Or does it make more sense to eat your biggest meal of the day after your body has been starving for hours and you have the entire day to burn off the calories?
Hello! Breakfast is the most important meal of your day and needs to be your biggest meal. Eat a light dinner when you will be sleeping not long after you consume food. Try to eat your dinner at least two hours before getting horizontal.
By eating more frequently and by combining a lean protein and a complex carbohydrate at each meal, you’ll miss your mid-morning and mid-afternoon drop in energy when your blood sugar levels may be low. No longer will you hit that wall when caffeine or the vending machine fix seems necessary.
The combination of protein and complex carbos maintains energy levels, prolongs digestion, and decreases the release of sugar into the blood stream. This keeps insulin levels steady and slows down the carbohydrate to fat conversion process in the body.
Water is key in 'clean' eating
Water needs to be your main drink of choice. It is the essential nutrient in every bodily and brain function. Alcohol, juices, and colas are all non-essential and hold little nutritive value. If you are not sure if you have consumed enough water, look at your urine. You have consumed enough if it is clear to light yellow. And, the more active you are, the more water you will need.
While soda may be the hardest item to eliminate from your current diet, you will do yourself a big favor by saying ‘goodbye’. Regular soda contains an average of four tablespoons of sugar, a killer to any healthy and clean eating lifestyle. Diet soda contains artificial sugars which are difficult for the body to digest and process. Try alternatives such as Beachbody's Bevvy, sparking water, and non-sweet teas full of herbs and adaptogens.
Final thoughts on clean eating
Not all fat is bad. You just need to know which ones to eat and which ones to avoid. Consume plant based fats including olive, flax, sunflower, and avocado oil. Nuts also provide essential fats good for the brain and body.
Portion control remains a tough issue for most of us. We tend to forget one serving of a lean protein is the size of the palm of our hand. Super-sizing and ‘all you can eat’ inevitably leads to weight gain. Re-learn serving sizes by measuring and weighing foods until you get the hang of it.
And for dessert, enjoy! Truly, if you are going to indulge, go for it. Enjoy the luscious and delicious fairs created to dazzle the tastes buds. You will find, however, after adopting a lifestyle of clean eating, you will not desire these fatting and sugar laden concoctions as much as you once did. Just say'n!