You may have heard of the term “eating clean.” A lot of people advise those who are looking to lose weight to eat clean as a way of cutting down on unnecessary calories. However, clean eating is not a guaranteed weight loss strategy since there are many “clean” foods that are highly calorie dense and the guide to losing weight is consuming fewer calories than you expend. However, mindful clean eating could nevertheless provide a wide range of health benefits—highlighted below are some tips for incorporating clean eating into your lifestyle.
Modern Diets Don’t Work for the Human Body
For most of human history, humans have lived in difficult environments where they had to hunt or forage for food. Even with the rise of agriculture, there were seasons where food was plentiful and seasons where food was more limited. Because of this, humans have a strong, innate desire for fatty foods, sweet foods, and calorie dense foods. This is because your body essentially wants you to overeat when an abundance of food is available.1
Many nutrients are fat soluble. The body stores these nutrients in fat, in addition to storing fat so that when you are theoretically faced with a time where there is not enough food, you still have stores to keep you going. When individuals are deprived of calories, they burn fat for energy and can still keep up a high level of activity in order to find the next meal.
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This system worked when humans had to work hard in order to get food. Now, individuals have essentially unlimited access to shelf-stable, easy to prepare foods on demand. This means that it’s very easy to overeat. Indeed, many snacks are engineered to the “hyperpalatable.” The companies that make those foods want you to crave them and overeat them.
Humans don’t technically need snack foods. Constant snacking is a relatively new invention. Moving away from a desire to snack is one of the easiest things you can do to improve your health, save money, and waste less time eating. Weight loss, for some, can be a pleasant side-effect. To embrace clean eating, it’s important to rethink your relationship with food:
- Eat only at designated meal times
- Eat mostly plants
- Don’t eat too much
Your personal ethics will determine whether you eat meat and fish or not. Some people try to simplify their diets by cutting out meat and/or fish, and in some cases dairy. Some people are happy to eat those foods. Eating whole grains is OK because grains are a good source of fiber.2 Fruit and vegetables should dominate most meals, however.3
This is a simple, affordable approach to eating. If you buy most of your food from the edges of the supermarket, you will spend far less than you normally would. Replace chocolate bars with bananas and you will cut your “snack bill” to 25% of what it used to be.
You can buy fresh produce quite for a low price, and make lots of filling meals out of these products. Pre-prepared and packaged foods can be expensive, so you can save a lot of money by buying the ingredients to make simple meals rather than ready-made pre-packaged meals. It doesn’t take long to prepare simple but filling meals this way either.
Buy Less, Enjoy More
Minimalism is focused on the idea of buying less and being less wasteful. When you combine minimalism with clean eating you buy less food and make sure that the food you buy is higher quality. If you have cravings between meals because you’re bored rather than hungry, try chewing gum or using essential oils that curb appetite like peppermint.
You Can Still Treat Yourself
Eating clean is a long-term endeavor. This means that it’s possible to eat clean and still treat yourself from time to time. The important thing for your ongoing health is not what you do for one meal or whether you have a snack when someone brings in some fine artisanal pastries as a leaving gift, it’s what you do for every meal.
Let’s face it. Sheet cakes and pre-packaged biscuits are not really all that tasty, so why spend money on something that is inevitably going to disappoint when you can buy something tastier to have as a truly special treat from time to time? Skip the “treats” that don’t actually delight you, but don’t be afraid to have the ones you truly enjoy occasionally.
Your Tastes Can Evolve
As your diet changes, your gut flora will change too. If you eat a lot of plants, this will nourish the “healthy” gut microbes, and the ones that thrive on sugar will die off, so you will start to crave and actually prefer plants a lot of the time.4
The hard part of transitioning to a clean diet is the first couple of weeks where you do feel a little deprived. Once you mentally accept that your diet is not restrictive and that you can have the foods you enjoy, you will find it easier to stick with it in the long term.
It can be hard to dive straight into clean eating, so it’s best to start with one habit at a time. Try busting your soda habit by drinking more water. Change your coffee with cream and shots of syrup to an Americano. Swap chocolate for bananas. Eat whole grain bread instead of white bread or eat more vegetables with your meals so you aren’t tempted to snack during the day.
When you make one change at a time and stick with it until it becomes second nature, you will find that those changes mount up and you have a healthy diet that gives you more energy. It’s easier than you think to achieve, and you’ll be amazed at how much healthier you feel—and how much less you spend on food each day too.
This is your chance to build a healthier life and beat those corporations that would love you to depend on junk food, soda, sugary treats, and takeout. Better yet, this is your chance to improve your own health and wellness and live a happier, healthier life.
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