Clean Eating 101

Ready to get fit and healthy?? If your looking to drop a few pounds, shed some significant weight, or just get healthy you're probably looking for a place to start. If you're anything like me you scoured the web in search of weight loss and diet tips, but ended up more confused. I mean with all the information and options what is the best method for you? 

Lets face it there are programs/diets/products out there that make some pretty SERIOUS claims, but do they actually WORK??? Unfortunately I tried many of those things, looking for the quick fix only to find disappointment. PUT the pills back, drop the FAD diet, and STOP starving yourself... I have the ONE solution guaranteed to work for you!

CLEAN Eating

Food is the GOLDEN ticket to getting that fit healthy body you have always wanted. If you eat garbage, your body will show it. If you want to get serious about dropping a few pounds and shedding some unwanted body fat, pay attention to how much you eat, what you eat and when you eat it. Obviously exercise is important, but nutrition holds the key to your success. Ever heard the saying “abs are made in the kitchen”? Well it’s true! Results are 80% nutrition 20% fitness. You can bust your BUTT with Shaun T or “Bring it” with Tony Horton 7 days a week, but if you stop off at your local drive-through afterwards, you’re just not going to see the results! It’s a pretty common mindset… “I worked out… now I can eat whatever I want!” Unless you want to undo all of your hard work, this isn’t the case!

Changing your diet is one of the BIGGEST challenges. A majority of people are used to eating highly processed foods on a regular basis and breaking away from that can be hard as hell. The good news is, it isn't impossible and once you create the habit, it becomes a part of your life. This guide is going to help you get STARTED!

The craziest thing about clean eating is the simplicity. It's basically eating REAL food, you know... that stuff our ancestors ate before the grocery shelves filled with processed, man made, food like products.!! Eating clean means you are eating whole, natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates. It also means staying away from the junk that typically makes up the Standard American Diet (S.A.D) These types of food include man-made sugar, bad fats (hydrogenated, trans-fat), preservatives, white bread, and any other ingredients that are unnecessary. An easy way to remember if a food is clean is: "if man made it, don't eat it."

A person that eats clean generally does the following:

  • Eliminates refined sugar
  • Cooks healthy meals
  • Packs healthy meals
  • Makes healthy choices when dining out
  • Drinks a lot of water
  • Eats 5-6 small meals per day
  • Eliminates alcoholic beverages (or significantly limits it)
  • Always eats breakfast within an hour of waking

So what can you eat? Check out the general guideline below for what a typical "clean diet" consists of:

LOTS of VEGGIES: Purchase fresh (local) veggies whenever possible. When unable to purchase fresh produce, frozen is your next best bet, and then canned. Try to look for low sodium or “no salt added” varieties. You can healthily cook veggies a ton of ways, actually any way except frying! Steaming, blanching and stir-fry are great and really retain a ton of nutrients and color! OR just eat them raw! Most veggies are considered zero calorie foods, meaning your body actually burns more calories eating, digesting and eliminating them than the vegetables contain in the first place, so they really are the perfect food!

Fruit DAILY: Purchase fresh (local) fruits whenever possible. When unable to purchase fresh, frozen is your next best bet (and at times a cheaper alternative depending on the season). Fruits in their natural form are considered clean. Many clean eaters eat them in abundance. I, personally, do not. Although the sugar they contain is completely natural you can still have too much of it. I try to limit my fruit consumption to the morning/noon it gives your body a chance to burn it off before bedtime! Be sure to avoid canned fruit that is packed in syrup or frozen fruits that have sugars added.

LOTS of LEAN protein: When possible, look for meats labeled organic, free-range, or steroid, hormone and antibiotic-free. You want just the meat, not a ton of additives and chemicals along with it! The best way to cook your meat would be to grill it. Grilling allows the fats to drip off, however, most methods are fine, except for frying! Choose meats as lean as possible and trim the fat from them prior to cooking. Stick more with the chicken and turkey as red meats and pork tend to be higher in fats. The usual recommendation is red meat only about twice a week. Other great sources of lean protein are fish, shrimp (yum), and let’s not forget about plant based proteins for my vegetarian and vegan friends! Protein powders aren’t usually considered “clean” due to the filler and added sweeteners, BUT there are a few clean versions on the market so just look around and see what’s out there. Last but not least…EGGS!!! I eat tons of eggs. Mostly whites.

WHOLE GRAINS: Carbs are easy! Stick with complex carbs and whole grains like sweet potatoes, beans, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, sprouted grain bread, etc. White flour is not considered clean but there are a TON of alternatives: oat, coconut, almond, etc. And of course veggies and fruits also contain clean carbs!

LIMITED Dairy: The big issue with dairy products, in my opinion are yogurts and milk. While both contain many essential nutrients, both are also high in sugar, especially yogurts. They get such a good rep as a “health” food, but that’s not necessarily the case. Many single serving yogurts contain 20+ grams of sugar! When choosing yogurt, pay close attention to the sugar content. Many items marketed as low fat often have higher sugar. I opt for nonfat cottage cheese and nonfat plain Greek yogurt. My advice on cow’s milk would be to do your research and form your own opinions. Many claim that the hormone’s given to cow’s to increase milk production are harmful to humans, yet I’ve also read many articles refuting that. And the same goes for the arguments regarding antibiotics and also whole vs. skim. I tend to stick with unsweetened almond milk. Lots of good nutrients and more calcium than cow’s milk.

HEALTHY Fats: Not all fats are created equal. Remember, saturated fats and trans fats are BAD because they contribute to high cholesterol and heart disease but polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are good for you and can actually do the opposite! Think french fries vs. avocado. So cut the bad fats out and bring the good ones in… moderation of course. I’m not advising you to go eat 10 avocados a day or even have cheese daily!!! It’s all about moderation!

NO Artificial sweeteners, OR refined Sugar: Most sugar substitutes are nothing more than chemicals and are terrible for your body. The most widely accepted “clean” sweetener is stevia, which is naturally occurring and is made from the stevia plant, the most popular brand name being Truvia. There are some other forms that are considered clean by some people as well, but this is the most common. Try and find a brand that is pure stevia since some brands still have added chemicals. Still, too much of anything can be bad, so try and use it in moderation!

CONDIMENTS: Neither table sugar nor artificial sweeteners are considered clean. So that, right off the bat, rules out the majority of condiments. If you’re going to eat clean, product labels will become your bff’s, and take my word for it, you will be shocked by how many things contain sugar…and a lot of it! Oils and vinegar are permitted, usually organic or low-sugar ketchup is okay. Most brown or spicy mustards are okay (watch the honey mustard varieties). Hot sauces are usually okay. I usually avoid the salad dressing aisle all together but your best bet is usually a light vinaigrette! Just use your judgment and read your labels!!

HOW to get started: 
Difficulty Level: Challenging (but worth it!)
  • PLAN TO Eat 5-6 small meals a day: breakfast, lunch, dinner and 2-3 snacks. Try to eat every few hours to curb hunger and promote a higher metabolism, but keep your eye on portion sizes. (THERE WILL be a prepping/planning & grocery list post(s) coming soon so check back for the link!)
  • Choose whole grains and complex carbohydrates to give you more energy and keep you feeling fuller longer. Remember that whole wheat is not necessarily whole grain. Look for breads, rice and pasta that are not just brown, but also made with 100% whole grains. One serving is about the size of your closed fist.
  • Leave calorie-filled, non-nutritional "junk food" at the grocery store. If you buy fresh foods, you will eat fresh foods.
  • Eat LOTS of Veggies! Try to add one serving, about a handful, at each per meal. Fruits also make great snacks because they are full of natural sugar and can help fight those afternoon sugar cravings.
  • Eat lean meats, chicken and fish whenever possible, staying away from processed and fatty meats. This will give you much needed protein with little fat. One serving is about the size of you palm.
  • Read labels. Look at calorie counts but also look at nutritional value and ingredients. Try to avoid foods with white flour, sugar and sugar substitutes, saturated fats and trans-fats. If there is a long list of ingredients and you can’t read all of them, put it down and walk over to the produce aisle.
  • Take small bags of unsalted almonds, cashews and walnuts with you to work so you don't get tempted by vending machines and breakroom junk food.
  • DRINK lots of water! As a general rule you should be consuming half your body weight in ounces of water, possibly more depending on your workout intensity and climate.
  • Give yourself a "cheat day" but remember not to go overboard. Allow yourself a meal out with friends or a special food, but try not to undo all your hard work from the rest of the week. Enjoy being healthy!

Difficult yes, but ALSO well worth the effort!


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