I want to talk about ‘Clean Eating’ as I feel it is a phrase that is used and often misunderstood. This probably comes from the body-building world where clean eating started, and has since become a common phrase to use amongst serious dieters - people that restrict themselves from certain healthy foods - fruit for instance.
I don’t actually use the phrase clean eating for the very reason that it is so misunderstood. I prefer to use ‘Mindful’ or ‘Conscious’ eating - basically healthy eating.
So what is clean eating through my eyes? Rather than revolving around the idea of ingesting more or less of specific things (for instance, fewer calories or more protein), the idea is more about being mindful of the food's pathway between where it has come from and what you eat. Clean eating is about eating whole foods, or "real" foods — those that are un-or minimally processed, refined, and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible. Take Greek yoghurt for instance - it's actually gone through a form of processing but that doesn’t mean it's off your food list. However, modern food production has become so sophisticated that simply eating whole foods can be a challenge.
We do know that largely plant-based diets are healthy, and diets heavy on fruits and vegetables can curb or prevent certain life-threatening conditions and diseases, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Plus, there's research linking diets high in fruits and veggies to healthy weight management and glowing skin and hair.
As long as what is on your plate is largely from its natural state and not processed then you're ok, you are in a way eating clean.
Processed foods are:-
💙 Additions of any kind — everything from salt, sugar, and fat to aid flavour - to preservatives that keep food from spoiling too quickly, to the vitamins enriching everything from beverages to breakfast cereal.
💙 Changing the form of the natural food — for instance, removing the bran and germ from whole grains to create refined bread, mayonnaise and sauces, or all those supposedly heathy cereal bars - items of food that basically you think should be fresh but can stay in your cupboard for months.
💙 Foods with components manufactured in a lab so the ingredient list has stuff you can't recognise or pronounce - that's a pretty solid indication that it's not natural.
As I mentioned earlier, not all processed foods can be discounted in your ‘clean eating’. The processing is not always bad, often removing toxins or bacteria, or allowing for us to eat certain types of foods in the off-season due to freezing or canning.
Processing can also include altering the consistency or taste of food to make it more appealing. Take smoothies for instance, I usually make my own so I know exactly what is in them but often the health smoothies you buy from health shops still have an element of processing. Or the packet of oats that you microwave to make porridge again has an element of processing; or yoghurt as mentioned, but that doesn't make them on the same level as a hot dog or a diet coke or a doughnut.
I'll give you another example - the majority of ready cooked chicken that we all buy is processed so it lasts longer, and often has sugar added to it as well, so aim to buy chicken that is not cooked and make your own seasoning. Don’t get me wrong, in times when I am rushing I often pick up ready made chicken but as I said, that is mindful eating, I am choosing the ready made chicken over something ultra processed.
So in summary aim to eat foods that are not ultra processed and are as much in their natural state as possible, and be mindful of the labelling.
For help with food lists, meal plan ideas and recipes check out MyFoodZone.