Clean eating: How real is the food you eat?

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clean eating, fruits and vegetables

If  you want to be healthy and strengthen your immune system, it’s important to eat food that is as close to its natural state as possible. This is called “clean eating” and it means avoiding highly processed foods in favor of “real” food. I hate to break it to you, but highly processed foods are often not even real food at all. (I know, GAG, right? It looks like food, smells like food and tastes like food, but…)

Clean eating involving carefully choosing foods you can recognize immediately as REAL. Many people incorporate sustainability and ethical integrity into their definitions of clean eating. Ethical integrity has to do with how food is produced or raised. Sustainability means that the food you are eating comes from a supply chain that has impact on the environment and involves community support.

Clean eating versus unclean eating

You should definitely wash your fresh produce before eating it, but that is not what is meant by “clean eating.” However, adding more fruits and vegetables to your daily diet is a logical first step to take to eat clean.

If  your grocery cart is typically full of boxes with cellophane covers that say “ready to eat” or “tastes like real ‘whatever’ ” you’re not on the right track. For clean eating, you want a lot of fruits and vegetables that you can consume raw.

Organic boosts clean eating practices

If a food is certified organic, you can reasonably expect that there is less risk of pesticide exposure than you might encounter when you eat non-organic produce.

Start with salads and go from there

clean eating, hands holding bowl of salad

We recently did a post all about salads. For clean eating, you’ll want your salad to be fresh and colorful. Make use of berries, nuts, greens and several different vegetables per serving.

You’ll also want to take your dressing choices into account if your goal is to start eating clean. More high quality olive oil and fresh herbs and less Thousand Island and Ranch.

Why processed foods are “unclean”

Those pre-packaged, cellophane-wrapped frozen dinners might have some real food in them. However, once it has been processed, it loses its nutritional value. It has also likely had chemicals, high fructose corn syrup and other icky ingredients to it. This is why processed foods lack so many of the benefits you’ll gain from clean eating.

Get into the habit of reading labels to help you start your clean eating journey. You know what they say: If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, it’s likely not good for you. Some real foods come in packages, though, so you don’t have to discount a particular item based on that fact alone. For instance, you can buy nuts in a package. Reading the label helps you determine if there are preservatives (bad), added sugars (bad) or other unhealthy ingredients.

A word about carbs and grains

homemade loaf of brown bread

Eating clean doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t consume grains or carbs. It’s best to avoid ready-to-eat cereals, white breads and other refined foods, however. If you’re going to eat grains, eat whole grains. If you’re going to eat carbs, steer clear of the highly processed types. Choose healthier options for bread, as well.

Watch what you spread!

cup filled with pats of butter

About 16 years ago, I stopped allowing margarine in my house. This was shortly after I learned that, scientifically speaking, margarine is only a few components shy of becoming plastic! (I know, RIGHT?!?)

Real butter is good for you, especially if you make your own from raw milk. You can also make it from heavy cream. If clean eating is your goal, don’t use products that say “vegetable spread” or “tastes like butter” on their labels.

Eat whole foods and unprocessed foods. A healthy diet and strong immune system are the keys to good health. Transitioning to healthier eating habits can transform your life! Start today, and go clean!

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