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Let’s Get Healthy 2014: Part 3 – Clean Eating

Let's Get Healthy 2014 Part 3 - Clean EatingBy Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

Losing weight is high on the list of resolutions for getting healthy in the new year.  Some of us resolve to go on an extreme low-calorie diet to jumpstart weight loss.  Then there are short-term detox liquid diets designed to cleanse the body of toxins and help shed a few pounds quickly.  Many of us consume more food than is necessary and we often eat unhealthy foods, both of which burden the liver and the kidneys

Clean eating gives your body a chance to detox naturally and helps you to lose weight in the process. 

The truth is there is no easy way to lose weight.  But there are less painful ways to do it.  A good eating plan provides enough calories and nutrients to sustain you without hunger, while keeping your blood sugar stable and your energy high.  If your goal is to be healthier, it’s best to begin with a nutritious eating plan, as what we eat is a major determinate of our health status.  The goal of clean eating is to enjoy foods in their natural state and, optimally, foods that are produced as close to home as possible.  It’s about making choices for the best possible long-term health. 

Clean eating is not a new concept nor is it a fad diet.  Although we hear a lot about healthy lifestyle choices, clean eating is a lifestyle “approach” to food and its preparation, which leads to an improved lifestyle.  This means eliminating processed foods, refined foods and most importantly added sugars.  Foods in their natural state do not contain chemical additives, artificial colors or flavors, preservatives, excess amounts of sodium or unhealthy fats.  So if your current approach to eating leaves you feeling grumpy, hungry, fatigued, guilty, sickly, or just plain unhappy, consider a new approach – clean eating. 

Benefits of clean eating:

  • Increased energy
  • Weight loss and management
  • Improved mental wellbeing
  • Better overall health
  • A thankful, well-functioning body

An easy approach to clean eating begins with three steps:

  • Avoid processed and refined foods
  • Choose organic and locally produced foods whenever possible
  •  Consume consciously

Once you have made the decision to gravitate towards cleaner eating, how do you really go about it?

  • Begin with fresh produce and lots of it.  Fresh vegetables straight from nature and not altered in any way.  This doesn’t mean you can’t eat frozen produce but you should shy away from any products with added sauces or sweeteners. When looking at frozen produce, look for brands that contain vegetables, period!  If there are more ingredients, put it back and keep looking.
  • You really do have to eliminate processed, refined and fast foods.  This may not happen overnight, but you need to work towards the ultimate goal of purging them from your diet. 
  • Read all nutrition and ingredient labels of products before you buy.  Case in point – a box of melba toast.  The nutrition label on one popular brand stated that a serving contained 0 grams of sugar.  However, on the ingredient label sugar, dextrose and molasses were listed. 
  • Beware of high fructose corn syrup!  HFCS is everywhere our food supply.  However, many companies are aware that consumers want to avoid this artificial, unhealthy ingredient and are producing cereals, condiments, peanut butter, ice cream and other foods without this added sweetener.  
  • Look for foods with 5 ingredients or less.  When you see a long list of ingredients, it generally means the food has been altered and contains added preservatives, chemicals, sweeteners and sodium.  Another rule of thumb, if you can’t pronounce any of the ingredients, it’s best not to eat it. 
  • Clean food is simple food.  Wild caught fish, organic meats and protein, complex carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables.  High calorie, high fat, sugar laden chemically mastered foods abound in the supermarket.  Give up anything that is not “real food.” 
  • Buy locally produced and seasonal food whenever possible.  Generally, the farther food has to travel, the less nutrients it contains.  Conscious eating means supporting local producers, buying eggs and chicken from free-range hens, meat from grass fed animals and organics when available and your budget allows. 

Many of us will not be able to make all of these changes overnight.  But, if you really take a look at the foods you will be giving up, you will see that the clean eating approach provides your body with the nutrients it needs to function at its best and eliminates the addictive junk foods that don’t serve your health.  The clean eating approach supports weight loss without dieting, naturally detoxes your body, and reduces your chances of chronic illness.  The fact that you will feel more energized, more mentally acute, and you will look radiantly healthy may just be enough to encourage you to make and sustain these positive dietary changes. 

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