Over the years, I have tried different diets and eating lifestyles. However, so far, clean eating has been the most beneficial lifestyle. I was a vegetarian for two years after graduating college, which may have seemed healthy. But, when I was a vegetarian, I was still eating some processed and refined foods minus meat and fish.
Eventually, it was difficult to resists my mother’s delicious baked chicken and my great aunt’s famous steak and gravy dish. I slowly stopped eating vegetarian. Next, I strived for a diet strictly consisting of chicken, fish, minimal carbs and vegetables. This diet came to an end when I learned I was allergic to chicken. (Yes, you heard it correctly, I am allergic to chicken. I even have the allergy test results to prove it! Let the jokes begin).
TRAVELING & EATING
When I started traveling more overseas, I realized one of the best ways to connect with a culture is through food. During my travels, I stopped putting restrictions on what I ate. I started to feel as if I was missing out on cultural experiences and exchanges. Imagine explaining to a doting Sicilian mother that due to my random eating habits that I cannot eat her homemade meatballs wrapped in lemon tree leaves (especially when I really wanted to). It was a special meal my friend’s family would cook for me whenever I came to visit them. Needless to say, my diet restrictions started to change the more I traveled.
I also made several observations during my trips. First, I noticed how some countries I visited served meats that often tasted better then what we were eating in the states. Also, the quality of the produce was fresher than what I was use to eating in the states. Then, I noticed that in places like Italy and France, people ate less processed foods compared to America. The French and Italians often bought their produce fresh from their local farmer’s markets a the day they were cooking a meal.
When I returned to the U.S. I wanted to know why in some places in the world it seemed like people were eating foods similar to Americans, yet the food was not having a more detrimental effect on their bodies. Even though I made these observations during my travels, I still did not understand how to fully translate all these practices into my daily life. It was through my yoga teacher training and work with my acupuncturist that I learned about clean eating and how to develop a sustainable, healthy eating lifestyle.
WHAT IS CLEAN EATING?
1.) Clean eating is a sustainable and a very attainable lifestyle. Clean eating focuses on eating whole foods from the Earth. Whole foods are foods which are consumed in a natural state. Clean food requires minimal to no processing and refinement. The way my acupuncturist explained it was “…if it [the food] did not come from the earth, then it is probably processed or refined…Or better yet, if food comes in a package, box or a can and has a panel listing chemicals and foreign ingredients, then it is has most likely been processed.”
2.) Clean eating also involves eating food that do not add chemicals, preservatives, sugars, sodium; nor trans-, mono- or saturated fats. Processed foods have been linked to cancer, allergies, and also contribute to disease, internal issues, such as indigestion, acid reflux as well as other conditions.
3.) Clean eating involves buying organic and local whole foods and vegetables, particularly from local farmer’s markets or co-ops. Buying produce which has had little to no chemicals treatments helps conserve the nutrients in food.
4.) Clean eating involves preparing food in a way that will retain nutrients, such as baking, sauteing and steaming and avoiding frying or microwaving foods.
5.) Clean eating is not a vegetarian diet. A person can still be a clean eater and a meat eater. The two can co-exist, which is another reason I like this lifestyle. I would not consider myself a “big meat eater”. I am not one of those people who need a piece of meat on my plate to consider it a “real meal.” I can easily go weeks or months without eating meat. But, when I do want a piece of meat, I opt to make clean eating choices.
6.) Clean eating involves choosing meats and dairy where the animals live in a free range farm. A free range farm allows animals to roam about the land. When animals spend most of their time in a feedlot waiting for slaughter, it can lead to inhumane treatments of the animals, an increased risk of disease and illnesses that are ultimately passed on to the consumer.
Also, when choosing to eat clean meat, choose meat where the animals were “grass fed”. When an animal has been “grass fed” it has been fed grass or the mother’s milk opposed to the animals being injected with antibiotics and other hormones as part of their feed. For instance, animals raised in a feedlot are often given many antibiotics to ward off diseases, which weakens the effects of antibiotics on humans. It is important to choose meats that are free range and grass fed because the animals’ experiences and conditions DO impact our health.
7.) Grass fed meat is better for our health and weight because it tends to be leaner with less bad fat. Grass fed meat provides more good fats like Omega 3s. It also has more antioxidants and vitamin nutrients.
8.) Clean eating requires some planning, preparation and a willingness to develop new habits, beliefs and choices around food and wellness. Presently, the way our society is constructed, it is easier to eat unhealthy. There are fast food restaurants everywhere, our hectic schedules discourages us from spending time preparing food at home, some communities do not have grocery stores close to their home or grocery stores with fresh produce. Clean eating does require more meal planning and some time management in the kitchen, however, it is all a practice and the practice is worth it.
9.) Clean eating also involves what we choose to drink. Water is essential to a clean eating lifestyle. Most people who practice clean eating avoid drinks with added sugars and preservatives, like sugary pop/soda and juice drinks.
A SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLE
One of the best things I like about clean eating is that the lifestyle is sustainable once I got the hang of it. I could still eat some of my favorite dishes and foods, while clean eating. I may just need to tweak a few ingredients or methods in the way I prepared food. But, the best part of clean eating is that a person is not restricted to eating one food group, nor are they limited in what they eat. The fresher the food the better.
When I practice clean eating, I lose inches in my waist. I lose and keep off weight. My skin glows and my hair grows faster. I have more energy and I sleep more peacefully. I notice that my thoughts are more positive and my mind is sharper. I am less anxious. I also find my body starts to naturally crave organic whole foods.
When I am NOT eating clean, I notice my weight fluctuates. Usually, I gain 10-15 pounds and it is harder to lose weight. I notice my skin is more sensitive and I experience occasional breakouts. Also, I am more anxious before I fall to sleep. I experience indigestion and I feel lethargic and dull after eating meals, due to the additives, preservatives and chemicals that are in non-organic, processed and refined foods.
I also noticed that my relationship with food is better. When I have to prepare my foods from scratch and not rely on quick fix meals, then I find ways to be more creative in the kitchen. These days with the internet it is easy to find clean eating recipes. When I was not eating clean, I would buy food in cans, boxes or bags. I was not reading the ingredients panels nor questioning the effects of the chemicals on my body. It was a much more positive experience buying food directly from the farmers in my area, listening to them talk about the latest crops and the health benefits of what I was eating.
Even though it can sometimes be more of a hassle to cook food from scratch, it was worth it for me, especially when I would notice how good my body felt. The convenience of fast food and processed food was no longer worth it if I did not feel well after consuming it. I realized that my health is worth the extra time, energy and money. Clean eating is a sustainable lifestyle. It is an ongoing practice that takes time to develop. Every person is different and what a person’s body needs during any given time can vary. All I know is that right now it is working for me.
Do you think clean eating is for you? Do you notice a difference in your body or attitude when you eat clean vs. processed foods.
For tips on clean eating, recipes and updates, sign up for my newsletter and connect with me on social media.