You hear it anytime you open a health magazine or stumble upon Instagram wellness stories. Clean eating became a popular way of saying I am on a diet. However, in my opinion, that`s where we have gone wrong. Diet and eating "clean" don`t have much in common. In fact, they are two very different approaches to our health. Because “clean eating” is associated with dieting, I personally would like to try and stay away from labeling food as “clean or dirty”, “good or bad”. I would recommend we think of food as nourishing and wholesome.
Diet equals restrictions, counting calories, feeling deprived, and sticking to numbers, no matter the origin of the food. It is a short term process in which we often look forward to an end. That presents an entirely new issue. Once you attempt to change your way of eating you should plan on sticking with it for life. It should never be a quick fix. Anything related to your health that will ultimately make it better requires longterm care.
Wholesome eating, on the other hand, is a lifestyle approach. Its goal is to teach us to look at food differently, understand how it affects our overall well being and teaches us about the consuming food without any modifications.
In the most direct context, wholesome eating is consuming food the way nature created it. Or as close to that as possible. Many people procrastinate jumping on the wholesome eating wagon because it requires change, and change is hard. With this post, I want to help you approach nourishing foods slowly and gradually. Nothing that delivers good results will work overnight so you need to arm yourself with patience, time and resources.
1. Eat food closest to its original form.
This is easy when you just think about it, however, it can be challenging when you are not prepared. Processed and packaged foods are convenient which means you can grab a quick meal within minutes and feel full. But what happens after that? You will be hungry within 1-2 hours and reach for a snack (which will most likely be a simple carb or fat-based) that will spike your blood sugar through the roof leaving you running for coffee or sugar within minutes. This is a big problem and I need to take a few minutes to explain it! Your blood sugar is important! Blood sugar spikes are caused when a simple sugar (glucose) builds up in your bloodstream. Most of the food you eat is broken down into glucose. Your body needs glucose because it is the primary fuel that makes your muscles, organs, and brain work properly. But glucose can’t be used as fuel until it enters your cells. Insulin, a hormone produced by your pancreas, unlocks cells so that glucose can enter them. Without insulin, the glucose keeps floating around in your bloodstream with nowhere to go, becoming increasingly more concentrated over time. When glucose builds up in your bloodstream, your blood glucose (blood sugar) levels rise. Long term, this causes damage to organs, nerves, and blood vessels.
Whole foods don`t spike your blood sugar as much because these foods are rich in fiber. So, fiber is your golden ticket to longevity.
It is a form of carbohydrate, but get this - it cannot be digested. Which means it doesn`t give us calories! It still does give us sugars and starches from the food that contains them. Vegetables, fruits and complex carbs (think whole grains and sprouted grains) are loaded with fiber. And this is why they keep us full longer. Now, back to being prepared which is what I mentioned in the first sentence.
2. Eating real food requires planning.
This means that you will sit down every weekend and plan what are you going to eat over the next few days. Make your grocery list and visit your local supermarket or farmers market, which is even better. Buy only ingredients you are planning to cook and dedicate a few hours to prep and store food for the new week. This way you will save time and money.
3. Get label savvy.
Many of us first look at the nutritional value when purchasing packaged foods. I am not saying that macronutrients (proteins, carbs, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) are not important but it matters a lot from where they come. This is why the ingredient list is equally and sometimes even more important. While your goal will be to eat as close to nature as possible, you will continue consuming some of the packaged foods. That`s just the reality we live in and there is nothing wrong with that as long as you remember a few important tips when shopping.
Nourishing foods contain short ingredient lists. Usually no more than 3-5 ingredients.
Any product with a long ingredient list is factory produced and has lost its original form. Try to avoid products with too many ingredients and ingredients that you cannot pronounce. Also, if you notice that sugar or any sugar replacements are within the first five ingredients, put the product back on the shelf and look for something better. The first five ingredients listed are most present in the food that you are buying. Last but not least, know the enemies. Avoid preservatives, colour additives and toxic binders, stabilizers, emulsifiers, and fat replacers.
3. Avoid processed and refined foods such as white flour, sugar, bread, and pasta.
Plain and simple, if it`s white and packaged - get rid of it. Unless it`s cauliflower. :) Seriously, these foods are enemies and don`t deserve a place in your kitchen. Replace them with whole or/and sprouted grains.
4. Practice mindful eating.
One of the best ways we can get our mind and body to communicate what we need for nutrition is to eat slowly. The body requires about 20 minutes to send a signal that it has received nourishment, which is why we often unconsciously overeat. When we slow down, we give our bodies a chance to catch up to our brain and hear the signals to eat the right amount. This means sitting at the table without any distractions or at least consciously chewing our food at least 20 times. Putting a fork down after every bite is a great way to slow down a mealtime. This may sound odd to some of you but connecting with our food brings more gratitude and understanding why we eat the food that`s in front of us and how did it get there. Think about where it come from, who harvested the ingredients, who cooked that food and how is that food, on a nutrient and cell level, benefiting our bodies.
I hope this gives you a reasonable jumpstart to clean eating and motivates you to discover what is truly best for your body.