Clean Eating Basics

Understanding what it means.

Your key to sustaining life long weight loss and never regaining it is ‘clean eating’. It offers plenty of food choices without deprivation and it provides the body you wish without spending a fortune. 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’s 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.

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 mind will be healthier and function at its best.

Third, starting a clean eating lifestyle is easy. Anyone can do this. While it involves throwing out your idea of three basic meals a day, these principles are common sense and don’t involve turning your life upside down to do.

Key Principles:

  • Eat five to six small meals every day
  • Eat every two and a half to three hours
  • Combine a lean protein and complex carbs at every meal
  • Drink two to three liters of water per day
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Avoid saturated and trans fats
  • Avoid all over-processed and refined foods like white flour and sugar
  • Avoid sugar-filled colas, sports drinks, and juices
  • Avoid calorie dense foods that have no nutritional value like french fries, chips, and pastries
  • Consume healthy fats, essential fatty acids every day
  • Eat fresh vegetables
  • Eat fresh fruits
  • Rely on proper portion sizes
  • The Explanation of Clean Eating

Eating clean actually involves consuming smaller meals throughout the day rather than three bigger meals. This means you don’t go hungry throughout the day and your metabolism stays strong. Skipping meals actually signals to your brain to slow down metabolism and hold on to these calories. By skipping meals, in fact, you actually ensure weight grain rather than weight loss.

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.

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 needs to be your main drink of choice. It is the essential nutrient in every bodily function. Alcohol, juices, and colas are all non-essential and hold little nutritive value. If you’re not sure if you’ve had enough water, just look at your urine. You’ve consumed enough if it is clear to light yellow. And, the more active you are, the more water you’ll 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 lifestyle. Diet soda contains artificial sugars which are difficult for the body to digest and process.

Not all fat is bad. You just need to know which ones to eat and which ones to avoid. Only unsaturated fats make the clean eating healthy list. While you don’t want to eat them in excess, you’ll want to consume plant based fats including olive, flax, sunflower, and corn oils.

Portion control remains a tough issue for most of us. We tend to forget that 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, while you are measuring out portions, go ahead and bag some up and put them in a cooler. Take what you need with you during the day. This makes it easier to eat every two and a half to three hours. Pack lean proteins, vegetables, and whole grains. By having them with you, you’ll always be prepared to eat clean and less tempted to hit that vending machine or fast food line.

Eating clean may look a little complicated having to eat more often, but it really just requires some planning and discipline. Once you get used to this lifestyle, you won’t want to go back. Fresh, wholesome, and lean foods yield the body you want and you’ll quickly begin to feel better and stronger. Plus you’ll gain energy and notice a difference in your ability to perform and concentrate.

Kip Rodgers, LPC-S

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