Why clean eating is the only diet you need
Clean eating is a phrase that we hear more of nowadays, but what exactly does it involve? It’s essentially the practice of eating minimally processed foods in the form closest to their natural state.
So, for example, eating brown rice in its natural state, rather than white rice which has undergone a process to have its husk, gran and germ removed (which are actually very nutritious parts of the plant!). Clean eating involves consuming meals you have cooked from fresh ingredients and avoiding foods which have been through numerous processes before they reach your plate.
There is a range of food processing levels from minimally processed foods which are frozen or tinned in their natural state, to ultra-processed foods such as crisps or fizzy drinks, which have lots of added ingredients in them such as sugar, fat, salt, colours, preservatives and stabilizers to make them taste better and to extend their shelf life.
Processed foods have become more popular and available in recent decades, mostly due to their convenience and their ability to have a longer shelf life but the evidence is very strong that these foods and the ingredients in them are not good for our health and a diet that is heavily based on processed foods can lead to serious health issues such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
So, how do you embark on a cleaner diet? These are my top five tips to start cleaning up your diet and relying less on processed foods.
1. Increase your fruit and vegetable intake
Fruit, salad and vegetables are about as natural as your food can get. They will lose nutrients from the moment they are picked and stored, so eating them as fresh as you can is the best way to consume them, but even produce which has been stored in your fridge or fruit bowl for a few days will still bring great health benefits.
Try to cover half of your plate in veg or salad at each meal and vary the colours you consume too. Eating a mixture of both raw and cooked veg throughout the day is good and if you do cook your veg then ensure you steam it rather than boil it to retain more nutrients.
2. Cook from scratch
It sounds time-consuming to cook from scratch every day, but if you have a bank of quick and easy recipes then you will get used to cooking from scratch more. Ready-made pasta sauces and curry sauces do speed up dinner, but they’ve been through numerous processes and had various ingredients added to them (like salt and sugar). Cooking a simple pasta sauce using tomatoes, garlic and basil doesn’t take long and it tastes so much better than jarred versions.
The other way to maximise cooking from scratch is to batch cook. A big vegetarian chilli for example can last a few nights if you have it with wholegrain rice one night and a baked potato the next. If you batch cook and freeze portions, then you have another meal ready to hand in the freezer for when you are short on time.
3. Eat wholegrain
In the same way as the rice example above, many foods are stripped back from their natural wholegrain state into overly processed versions, this includes white flour and white pasta. Wholegrain versions will provide more nutrients, keep your blood sugar more stable and keep you full for longer, so try switching to wholemeal bread, pasta, rice and couscous and see if you notice a difference in how you feel.
4. Read labels
When you switch to a cleaner diet your aim is to purchase as few processed items as possible. It can be hard with things like bread and cheese etc but avoiding most packaged items (such as crisps, chocolate bars, sugary drinks etc.), ready meals and ready ingredients such as pre-made sauces is a huge step in the right direction.
If you do need to purchase a processed food then look at its ingredient list and try to avoid purchasing items which use ingredients you wouldn’t add yourself (i.e. colourings, stabilisers etc) – the longer the list of ingredients on a product the more reason to avoid it.
5. Avoid packaged snacks
The choice of packaged snacks you can purchase nowadays is huge and so many of them label themselves as being ‘healthy’, ‘high in protein’, ‘low in sugar’ etc. but as a rule, it's best to avoid any packaged snacks as they are likely to be heavily processed and will contain lots of added ingredients which won’t help your energy levels or your waistline.
Try to stick to snacks like nuts, vegetable sticks with hummus, an apple with some (very natural) peanut butter or some wholemeal toast with butter. These will give you more nutrients and benefit your body more than anything in a packet.
If you feel it's time to clean up your diet, then I can help you. Why not start off by booking in a 30-minute complimentary consultation where we can look at your current diet and some areas where you can easily make changes?