Get your 2015 diet on the right track by getting rid of the junk. This clean eating guide will help you to get started to feeling happier and healthier.
Cleaning up your diet has never been more popular. Whether it’s in the gym, at the grocery store, or dining out, “eating clean” is the talk of personal trainers, nutritionists, friends, and family.
But what does all of this chatter really mean??
For most people, eating clean isn’t a diet you follow for a few weeks to drop a few kilos. It’s a lifestyle- one that involves choosing foods that are minimally processed and containing little or no artificial sweeteners, food colouring , or other additives.
Think grass fed beef burgers, not Big Macs or corn on the cob, not cornflakes. It’s how your great grand parents may have eaten in the days before fast or genetically modified food.
The numerous benefits of cleaning up your eating acts range from increased energy to shinier hair. Some women claim that long standing skin issues suddenly clear up and they sleep better, get sick less often and feel more productive. And of course there’s the fat loss that comes from sweeping empty calories out of your diet. Research has also shown that this eating style can help with improving blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
It isn’t hard to eat clean- in fact, with so many people embracing this nutrition philosophy, there are more options than ever to put your diet on the right track.
Get started by following these 6 simple rules…
6 Easy Clean Eating Rules
1 . Forage more
Forget the old three square meals and mindless snacking- start eating five or six healthy, well planned meals each day. This keeps your metabolism consistently fuelled throughout the day by preventing your blood sugar from dropping and avoiding the 3pm energy lag, which is when you are most likely to turn to caffeine or sugary snacks for an energy boost.
With a clean eating diet, each meal or snack should contain a balance of quality protein, complex carbs and healthy fat to keep you satisfied.
2. Drink up
Plan to drink a minimum of 2 litres or 8 large glasses of water each day. Water is essential to helping your system functioning at its best, from glowing skin to healthy digestion. Think of it this way…you can survive for weeks without food but only a few days without water.
To help you get in all this fluid, make sure keep a water bottle at your desk, on your kitchen counter or in your car. Also try giving it a little flavour by adding some fresh lemon or cucumber slices, this can make the habit of drinking more water even easier.
3. Plan for success
It’s easy to talk about eating clean with a full fridge, but if you’re away from home and starving, there’s nothing simpler than hitting a fast food joint or grabbing something at the convenience store.
Plan out what you are going to eat at every meal and prep your food ahead of time. Pick a day of the week when you have time to prepare most, if not all of your meals for the upcoming week. Cook your proteins, steam your vegetables, make a large salad (without dressing) etc.
Each night pack your meals for the next day. If you work or spend time outside the home or away from a fridge, stow your food in an insulated bag with an ice pack so you can eat healthy at any time.
4. Read your labels
Most clean foods are in their natural state with few or no additives. When at the store, make a habit of reading ingredient labels.
Beware of diet bombs like high fructose corn syrup which can show up in unexpected places like crackers, cereals and yoghurts.
Also on the no-go list: artificial sweeteners, colours, dyes and other additives. If you can’t pronounce it, there’s a good chance it’s something you should avoid.
Most clean eating advocates insist on buying primarily organic, though understandably this is not always in everyone’s budget, but where possible reach for organic versions of fruits and vegetables like apples, berries, capsicums, spinach and tomatoes, which otherwise typically have the highest levels of pesticides. Free range chicken, eggs and organic milk are also worth the extra cash as they don’t contain added hormones or antibiotics.
5. Don’t be a dining downer
Just because you have decided to make a change in your eating habits doesn’t mean your friends and family will follow suit. So don’t turn into that person who makes everybody else feel bad when you’re going out to eat.
Almost every restaurant will have healthy options and if not ask for some simple changes to keep you on track.
Choose salads topped with grilled chicken or lean protein, ask for dressings or sauces on the side or choose a lean protein, grilled with steamed vegetables and a complex carbohydrate like sweet potato, brown rice or quinoa.
6. Remember it’s ok to go off your plan on occasion
One of the benefits of eating clean on a regular basis is being able to indulge in a food or meal that’s not so “clean” every once in a while. If the vast majority of your diet adheres to the rules above, give yourself permission to have your favourite cheat meal without guilt. Chances are that you will feel satisfied, but ready to return to your clean eating regime.
5 Food Traps
They may sound perfect for your eating plan, but these healthy sounding options are really junk food in disguise.
1. Premade smoothies
Some of the smoothies that you will find in the refrigerated aisle or at fast food restaurants may say that they are “all natural” and contain real fruit but they are often loaded with extra sugar (sometimes with more than 100 grams!). To avoid this trap make your own smoothie with fresh fruit, natural yoghurt or with your favourite protein powder and ice.
Take a look at my previous smoothie blog for some great recipe ideas!
2. Energy or breakfast bars
They seem like a healthy way to start your day but bars are often created with processed ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin (a filler), sugar and more.
If you are turning to bars for breakfast due to lack of time, try setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier to give your self enough time to consume a healthy, nutrient rich start to the day. Your energy levels will thank you later in the day!
3. Sports drinks
Packed with sugar, artificial colours, dyes and other additives, these so called performance drinks may be marketed to power through your workouts but can ultimately hamper your results.
Instead add BCAA (branched chain amino acid) powder to water, it will aid recovery after training and curb hunger in between meals.
4. Flavoured yoghurt
Often laden with sugar and processed ingredients, it’s not quite the health food fare it seems to be.
Choose plain, natural, greek or goats yoghurt and add your own fresh fruit to sweeten it while providing added nutrients.
5. Diet soft drinks or other sugar free beverages
Yes they are zero calories but the artificial ingredients can compromise your diet efforts by damaging your metabolism and actually leading you to overeat. Swap the sugary drinks for plain water with slices of lemon or cucumber. Green Tea X50 is also a great, natural, sweet, healthy alternative to diet drinks.