Wellness Wednesday: What is Clean Eating and How Does It Affect Your Health and Lifestyle?

Clean eating is a diet in which you only consume natural, whole foods.

Many foods, such as complex carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins are the staples of a clean diet.

It further requires you to veer away from such foods as bad fats (hydrogenated, trans-fat), man-made sugar, preservatives, white bread and any other excess ingredients that are unnecessary. To put it plain and simple, if it was made by man then it is no good.

I understand altering a diet like this makes for a difficult lifestyle change, especially for those of us who consistently eat processed foods. The fact of the matter is, after your body adjusts to clean eating, not only do you feel better, but your body will also stop craving fatty, processed junk fairly quickly and your system will be free of all the excess, unnecessary additives that are packed into those foods.

When on any diet, practicing the following clean eating tips will help you develop more healthy habits over time.

Cook healthy meals: Instead of opting for the fast food baggy, a piece of leftover birthday cake or that microwavable meal, plan ahead and make something both delicious and healthy. There are several great cookbooks available chocked full of recipes you can make ahead of time, freeze and reheat later in the week when you’re in a pinch. One of my personal favorites is Don’t Panic Dinner’s in the Freezer. Cooking is also about experimenting, so feel free to swap out some unhealthy ingredients for healthier ones. For example, use sliced eggplant or zucchini in lasagna instead of bleached noodles.

Drink plenty of water: Drinking eight glasses of water a day has enormous health benefits, as listed in our previous post, “Wellness Wednesday: Start Getting Healthy by Drinking Water.”

Eat five to six smaller meals a day: The reason five to six smaller meals are better for you than three larger meals is that eating every two hours in smaller portions helps prevent overeating. Eating more frequently not only lowers bad cholesterol, but also your risk of cardiovascular disease. It also boosts your metabolism, which in turn burns more calories. Also, eating five or six smaller meals helps control your blood sugar levels which keeps your energy level rockin’ throughout the day. And last, but certainly not least, it helps you to build more muscle, which burns fat, because your muscles are getting a constant stream of amino acids and nutrients when you combine these eating habits with regular exercise.

Eliminate or limit alcoholic beverages: Alcohol, being a diuretic, leads to water loss and dehydration. When you’re dehydrated, your body burns 2% fewer calories in a day, making it more difficult to lose excess weight. Also, alcohol causes your body to lose important minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc, which are all vital to chemical reactions, fluid balance and muscle contraction and relaxation. Alcohol has no nutritional value and contains approximately 7 calories per gram. Those are empty calories, ladies! And as if all those reasons to avoid alcohol aren’t bad enough, it lowers your inhibitions, causing you to eat foods you would normally avoid. Who hasn’t craved greasy food after a night of cocktails?

Eliminate refined sugar: Refined sugar raises your blood’s insulin levels, which in turn depresses your immune system, causing your body’s ability to ward off diseases to weaken. Raised insulin levels cause you to gain weight because insulin promotes fat storage. Refined sugar contains no nutrients and requires your body to use previously stored vitamins and minerals to metabolize it. When you deplete the body’s stored minerals and vitamins, it then metabolizes cholesterol and fatty acids. This contributes to higher blood serum triglycerides, cholesterol and obesity, because there is higher fatty acid storage around the organs.

Make healthy choices when dining out: When out with your friends or family, take a moment to look the menu over. Many restaurants have delicious and healthy options, so you can occasionally eat out without blowing your diet.

Never skip Breakfast: Skipping breakfast in order to lose weight isn’t helpful at all. In fact, it leads to weight gain. Skipping breakfast is strongly linked to obesity. By the time you do get around to eating, you’re super hungry and are more likely to eat more than usual, or snack on higher calorie foods. This leads to excess calories and  rapid weight gain.

Pack healthy meals: When on the go, pack a healthy meal (or meals) the night before to prevent the temptation of grabbing a quick, unhealthy snack on your way out the door.

Clean eating is not only great for your health, but also a fabulous lifestyle change. Your body will thank you for it!

~Amy~

Photo: flickr.com/photos/muammer/2409582661/ & flickr.com/photos/mdebono/5727267519 & flickr.com/photos/uwehermann/132244825

Disclaimer: Jessi and Amy are not medical professionals or trained dietitians. This is not meant to be medical advice. We’re ordinary women who are working on our health and sharing our observations and opinions. It’s important that you speak to your doctor before beginning any new diet or exercise regimen. We are simply sharing our journey and are not liable for decisions you make regarding your diet and exercise routine.
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