Clean Eating 101 – What you need to know


Once upon a time, people grew their own food with a backyard full of luscious fruits and vegetables. They knew that growing their own food enables them to know what they’re putting in their soil, how they treat their food, and if any chemicals are used. But as time grew and society purportedly progressed, so did our ability to find clean and healthy food in the markets.

So what exactly does clean eating mean? Is it as simple as washing your vegetables and fruit in clean water? Does it mean making sure your food doesn’t fall onto the ground thus making it clean? There seems to be much confusion to the true meaning of it. So simply put – clean food means food that is unprocessed, preservatives-free, and made with as few ingredients as possible. But many foods are processed and can be hard to avoid. The key is to avoid or limit overly processed foods as they are not considered clean due to the tremendous damage they can do to our health. And as always, choose organic whenever possible.

What’s the best way to start eating clean? Here are five easy steps to remember:

1- Buy fresh produce – organic and locally grown when possible. Fresh produce is the number one rule to eating clean and simple.

2- Buy whole grains and lean protein. Whole grains are still intact with all of their nutrients ensuring you’ll get all of the health benefits. Lean protein with little to no fat are not as taxing on your body when digesting and processing through your system.

3- Make meals and snacks from scratch at home. When you start with ingredients that you are in control of, you know what you’re putting in your food.

4- Use as few ingredients as possible. The risk of eating out or buying cooked food in stores is because of all the ingredients in there that companies need for flavor and preserving. When you make your own food, use just the basics – lean protein, vegetables, salt, pepper, light olive oil, etc.

5- Limit sugar or cut it out entirely. While cutting out sugar entirely might be hard to do, try eating more fruits and using fruit-based sweeteners to sweeten your food.

How can you teach children to eat clean? Try these tips:

1- Take your child to the grocery store with you. Let them start by learning about all the fresh produce that are available. If the stores have samples of the produce, encourage your child to try it out if it’s a fruit or vegetable that they typically don’t eat.

2- Depending on the age, have your child help you prepare the meals at home. Teach them and let them help you cut up from the fresh produce you just brought at the store. When children are involved in making meals from scratch, they feel a connection to the food they eat.

3- Serve up fresh fruits and cut them up in cute shapes if necessary. Mix it up once in awhile by including honey (for children over age 2) or plain yogurt for kids to dip their fruit in. Continue with this style of snacking so kids can learn to grab fresh fruits instead of an overly processed sugary snack.

4- Teach your kids to be mindful of what they eat. Don’t be distracted by the TV, tablet, or phone while you’re eating. Being mindful is an ancient practice to be more aware of what you are eating and how food should taste. It also helps with proper digestion of food.

5- Use simple recipes when it comes to teaching kids to eat clean. The less ingredients used, the more their taste buds can distinguish between processed food and food made with less ingredients. This delicious and healthy noodle dish is fun and healthy for both kids and adults:

6- Teach your kids to read labels. If your child likes a certain store bought food, let them read the ingredient label as well as the labels on the packaging. If it’s a snack that isn’t all too healthy, let them see how many unpronounceable words there are in the ingredients list. You’d be surprised at their reactions to all the ingredients that they don’t recognize.

So what happens when you’re eating out and not at home? Short of driving your server and the chefs crazy, here are some tips to make it smoother for everyone:

1- If you can choose the restaurant, then choose one you regularly frequent. This way you already know what’s on the menu and how the restaurant and staff works.

2- If you know the name of the restaurant you’re attending (but you didn’t choose it), look at the menu online so you can get an idea of what’s available.

3- Get to know your server. The servers at restaurants are usually very accommodating. Peruse the menu first and ask the server ahead of time if they allow changes or alterations to the menu items. If they do, then know ahead of time what you’d like to order. If they don’t then just stick with the basics, such as a fresh salad, dressing on the side, and a fruit plate if it’s available. Then if the server brought out your dish accurately, be sure to tip well as they usually have to be specific with the chefs and food preps.

Whether you’re just starting to eat more clean or you’re a seasoned pro, remember to have a plan on how you want to eat clean. Make grocery lists, search online for ideas and tips such as mine, and have self control over what you eat.

Here’s to clean eating! 🙂

*photos courtesy of Martha Stewart Living and Delicious Living magazine.


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