When I was beginning my own health journey, I heard the term ‘clean eating’ used here and there, but didn’t fully understand its meaning. I thought it was about only eating certain foods and being extremely restrictive.
So what is clean eating, anyway?
It’s not a diet or restrictive eating plan that deprives you from your favorite foods or takes fun away from amazing food. It’s quite the opposite. Clean eating is a lifestyle. It’s all about nourishing the body with real food.
What I mean by “real” food. The majority of what we consider to be “food” in grocery stores today is actually not food at all, but food-like products (also known as ‘frankenfoods’). Just think about the layout of the grocery store for a minute. The outer edges of the store, the ‘periphery’, typically includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds & legumes, meat, dairy and eggs. The other 90% of the store? Processed, food-like “products” that we’ve accepted as food in our Standard American Diet (appropriately known as the “SAD” diet).
The problem with this?
Our bodies are not designed to consume heavily processed and chemically altered, food-like products we know as ‘food’ and as a result, our health is compromised and we start to experience a range of health problems. The vast majority of these products have seemingly endless ingredient lists that contain synthetic chemicals, preservatives, artificial ingredients, genetically modified organisms, and much more. When we consume these ingredients on a regular basis, they wreak havoc on our health.
Think about everything you have eaten today. What about yesterday? This week. Think about how much of that has been real, whole, healthful foods that provide the body with essential nutrients, and how much has been food-like products that come in a bag or box with countless ingredients that are void of nutrients?
“Every time you eat, you are either feeding disease or fighting it.”
Regardless of whether or not you are currently struggling with a health issue, are inspired to eat healthfully because of a health issue in your family, or are just interested in living healthfully and preventing disease, eating real food is one of the best goals you can make for your long-term health. It has the power to prevent and reverse countless health problems & conditions.
3 simple ways to distinguish real food from fake food:
- Is it an ingredient or does it have an ingredient list? This might sound strange at first, but really, food that nourishes your body by providing it the nutrients it needs to thrive should be an ingredient, not have an ingredient list.
- How long would it take to spoil if you left it out? Processed food-like products can last weeks, months, and even years (yikes!) when left out. Challenge: Test this one out if you are skeptical! It could be also be a fun way to get the kids involved and teach them the difference between real vs. fake food. If it spoils within a day or a few days, you can bet it’s real food.
- Does it come in a bag or box or is it a whole, fresh food? Keep in mind this is a general concept to consider. There are plenty of healthful, nutrient-dense food products out there that are in fact packaged and somewhat processed, but the goal is to increase the amount of real, whole, fresh foods and decrease the processed foods.
Now that you’ve got a better understanding of what “real food” is, here are 3 quick tips for transitioning to real food and less processed products. For a more complete guide, download my FREE ebook here or click the image below.
- When grocery shopping, focus on the periphery of the store. Reducing the amount of products you buy from the middle section (with some exceptions) will help eliminate a lot of the processed foods.
- When purchasing packaged foods, take a look at the ingredient list. You don’t have to read through it entirely, just take a look at it. If the ingredient list is long enough to be a paragraph, opt for something with a shorter ingredient list. Look for items with 5 ingredients or less to avoid products with unnecessary and potentially harmful ingredients.
- Can’t pronounce several of the ingredients? Why would you want to eat them?
Transitioning to clean eating and real food should not be overwhelming or stressful, though it may seem that way at times. Take it one day at a time, one meal at a time.
Ask yourself regularly: how much real food can I nourish my body with today? Because each time you eat, you have an opportunity to nourish your body.
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What are your biggest struggles with incorporating real food into your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Let me know below.
Hannah is the founder of Healthfully Hannah and is a nutrition professional empowering women to live healthfully through science-based, step-by-step guidance. Read Hannah’s health journey that led her to discover the power of Functional Medicine and Nutrition. Get in touch with Hannah right here.
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