5 Key Concepts for a Successful Clean Eating Diet
When you’re first starting out on a clean eating diet, it can be a little overwhelming. Lots of rules, lots of food that you can’t eat, lots of questions! Here are the five key concepts of clean eating that will help you to keep yourself on track.
1. It’s not a ‘weight-loss diet’
For clean-eaters, the term ‘clean eating diet’ simply refers to eating a diet of unprocessed food. A clean eating diet is a healthy, long term lifestyle choice, not a calorie restricting, short-term, weight-loss diet. People lose weight on a clean eating diet precisely because they don’t restrict the amount of food that they eat; they fill up on fresh, whole produce, satiating fats, slow-release carbohydrates and good quality protein. Portion control is important, but calorie counting and tiny meals are not.
Related reading: Portion Sizes: Creating a Healthy Plate of Food
2. Meal planning
Yes you’ve heard it all before, but with good reason! It is next to impossible to stick to a clean eating diet without doing some meal planning and food preparation.
An hour of work at the weekend is all it takes to keep you on the right path for the whole week. Without preparation, a stressful day, an unexpected trip away from home or just being hungry could be enough to send you off track and eat something you’ll regret later.
3. Label reading
The only way to truly succeed at a clean eating diet is to know – really know – what you are eating. This means eating lots of unprocessed food (these come without labels!), and eating minimally processed foods, having first checked the labels to make sure you know what’s in them. Ideally, a minimally processed food would contain no more than three ingredients, all of which you could find in your kitchen, garden or farmers market. Hint – if you can’t pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t eat it.
4. Know your definitions
It is important to understand the definitions that are relevant to a clean-eating diet. Processed food, minimally processed food and unprocessed food make up the three categories of food that are available to us. A clean eating diet should contain lots of unprocessed food, some minimally processed food and ideally, no processed food.
Related reading: What is a Clean Eating?
5. Healthy attitude = healthy body
A clean eating diet has one real goal, to improve your health by improving your food. Clean eating has its critics, and these criticisms centre mainly on the association between healthy eating trends and eating disorders. Any unhealthy association with food will lead to your body becoming unhealthy. This includes the excessive restriction of calories, cutting out whole food groups unnecessarily and/or considering any food to be ‘dirty’.
The healthiest attitude to food is to understand that food is not your enemy. The right foods, and included in this definition are full fat dairy and wholegrains, provide your body with all of the nourishment it needs to give you energy and protect you from ill-health. A moderate approach to a clean-eating diet is a healthy approach.
The clean eating diet concept can be overwhelming at first, but after a while you will realise that it’s deceptively simple. Simply eat real food, and you’ll get on just fine.