11 Simple Ways to Start Clean Eating Today
The term "clean eating" has become very popular in the health community.
It's a diet pattern that focuses on fresh, whole foods. This lifestyle can be easy and enjoyable as long as you follow a few general guidelines.
Here are 11 simple tips to start eating clean.
What is Clean Eating?
Clean eating doesn't have anything to do with food being clean or dirty.
It simply involves choosing minimally processed, real foods that provide maximal nutritional benefits.
The idea is to consume foods that are as close to their natural state as possible.
Selecting ethical and sustainable foods is also a part of clean eating.
Clean eating involves choosing foods that are minimally processed, ethically raised and rich in naturally occurring nutrients.
1. Eat More Vegetables and Fruits
Vegetables and fruits are undeniably healthy.
They're loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals and plant compounds that help fight inflammation and protect your cells from damage (1).
Fresh vegetables and fruits are ideal for clean eating, as most can be consumed raw immediately after picking and washing.
Here are some easy ways to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet:
- Make your salads as colorful as possible, including at least three different vegetables in addition to greens.
- Add berries, chopped apples or orange slices to your favorite dishes.
- Wash and chop veggies, toss them with olive oil and herbs and place them in a container in your refrigerator for easy access.
Vegetables and fruits should form the basis of a clean eating lifestyle. These whole foods require little preparation and provide many health benefits.
2. Limit Processed Foods
Processed foods are directly opposed to the clean eating lifestyle, as they've been modified from their natural state.
Most processed items have lost some of their fiber and nutrients but gained sugar, chemicals or other ingredients. What's more, processed foods have been linked to inflammation and an increased risk of heart disease (7).
Even if unhealthy ingredients aren't added to these goods, they still lack many of the benefits provided by whole foods.
Eating clean involves avoiding processed foods as much as possible.
Processed foods conflict with clean eating principles due to their preservatives and lack of nutrients.
3. Read Labels
Although clean eating is based on whole, fresh foods, certain types of packaged foods can be included, such as packaged vegetables, nuts and meat.
For instance, many nuts are roasted in vegetable oil, which can expose them to heat-related damage. It's best to eat raw nuts — or roast them on your own at a low temperature.
Additionally, pre-washed salad mixes can save time but may harbor additives — especially in the salad dressing that's often included.
To maintain a clean eating lifestyle, read labels to ensure that packaged produce, nuts, meats and other foods contain no questionable ingredients.
4. Stop Eating Refined Carbs
Refined carbs are highly processed foods that are easy to overeat yet provide little nutritional value.
In one study in 2,834 people, those who consumed mostly whole grains were less likely to have excess belly fat than those who focused on refined grains (13).
If you eat grains, choose the least processed kinds, such as sprouted grain bread and steel-cut oats. Stay away from ready-to-eat cereals, white bread and other refined carbs.
Refined grains are inflammatory, as they lack fiber and other valuable nutrients. To eat clean, choose minimally processed grains — or avoid them altogether.
5. Avoid Vegetable Oils and Spreads
For starters, they're produced via chemical extraction, making them highly processed.
Some oils also contain high levels of the omega-6 fat linoleic acid. Studies in animals and isolated cells suggest that it increases inflammation, potentially raising your risk of weight gain and heart disease (14, 15, 16).
Although clean eating discourages all vegetable oils and spreads, it's important to eat a moderate amount of healthy fats. These include fatty fish, nuts and avocado. If you can't avoid vegetable oils completely, choose olive oil.
Margarines and some vegetable oils are highly processed and linked to an increased risk of disease. Opt for healthy, minimally processed oils and fats.
6. Steer Clear of Added Sugar in Any Form
It's vital to avoid added sugar if you're trying to eat clean. Yet, added sugar is very common — and even found in foods that don't taste particularly sweet, like sauces and condiments.
Both table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are high in fructose.
Depending on your health, you can occasionally eat small amounts of natural sugar — such as honey or maple syrup — while eating clean.
However, if you have diabetes, metabolic syndrome or similar health issues, it's best to avoid all forms of concentrated sugar — including those from natural sources.
Moreover, even natural sugar sources contribute very little nutritional value.
For truly clean eating, try to consume foods in their natural, unsweetened state. Learn to appreciate the sweetness of fruit and the subtle flavors of nuts and other whole foods.
Sugar is highly processed and linked to several health problems. If you're trying to eat clean, use small amounts of natural sweeteners occasionally or avoid sugar altogether.
7. Limit Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol is made by adding yeast to crushed grains, fruits or vegetables and allowing the mixture to ferment.
However, frequent alcohol consumption has been shown to promote inflammation and may contribute to a number of health problems, such as liver disease, digestive disorders and excess belly fat (28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34).
When following a clean eating lifestyle, minimize or eliminate your alcohol intake.
Although moderate wine intake may help protect heart health, alcohol is linked to an increased risk of several diseases. Alcohol consumption should be restricted when practicing clean eating.
8. Substitute Vegetables in Recipes
You can boost your health by replacing refined grains with veggies in recipes.
For example, cauliflower can be chopped finely to mimic rice, mashed like potatoes or used in pizza crust.
What's more, spaghetti squash is a natural replacement for pasta because it separates into long, thin strands after cooking. Zucchini makes great noodles as well.
When eating clean, replace pasta, rice and other refined grains with vegetables to boost the nutritional value of your meal.
9. Avoid Packaged Snack Foods
You should steer clear of packaged snack foods if you're trying to eat clean.
Crackers, granola bars, muffins and similar snack foods typically contain refined grains, sugar, vegetable oils and other unhealthy ingredients.
These processed foods provide little nutritional value.
To avoid grabbing these items when you get hungry between meals, make sure to have healthy snacks on hand.
Instead of packaged snack foods made from refined grains, choose nutrient-dense whole foods like nuts, fruits and vegetables.
10. Make Water Your Primary Beverage
Water is the healthiest and most natural beverage you can drink.
It harbors no additives, sugars, artificial sweeteners or other questionable ingredients. By definition, it's the cleanest beverage you can drink.
Water can keep you hydrated and may also help you achieve a healthy weight (37).
By contrast, sugar-sweetened beverages have consistently been linked to diabetes, obesity and other diseases. What's more, fruit juice may cause many of the same problems due to its high sugar content (38, 39).
Unsweetened coffee and tea are also good choices and provide several health benefits, but people who are sensitive to caffeine may need to moderate their intake.
Water is incredibly healthy and should be your main beverage when following a clean eating lifestyle.
11. Choose Food From Ethically Raised Animals
In addition to fresh, unprocessed foods, clean eating involves selecting food that comes from ethically raised animals.
Livestock are often raised in crowded, unsanitary factory farms. The animals are typically given antibiotics to prevent infection and injected with hormones like estrogen and testosterone to maximize growth (40).
Moreover, most cattle on industrial farms are fed grains rather than their natural diet of grass. Studies show that grass-fed beef is higher in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats and antioxidants than grain-fed beef (41, 42, 43).
Humanely raised meat is often better for your health and the planet as a whole.
Choosing meat from animals raised humanely on small farms is consistent with clean eating principles.
The Bottom Line
Clean eating emphasizes fresh, nutritious and minimally processed foods.
This way of eating can not only boost your health but also help you appreciate foods' natural flavors.
In addition, it supports sustainable agriculture and environmentally sound food practices.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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By Matthew J. Landry and Heather Eicher-Miller
When university presidents were surveyed in spring of 2020 about what they felt were the most pressing concerns of COVID-19, college students going hungry didn't rank very high.
Why It Matters<p>This is not just a matter of growling stomachs. This is a straight-up education and health issue.</p><p>When students don't really know if they'll be able to get enough to eat, it can lead to a series of problems that make it harder to stay in school. For instance, it can affect <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1359105318783028" target="_blank">academic performance</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-6943-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">sleep quality</a>. It can also lead to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105318783028" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">poor mental and physical health</a> outcomes for college students.</p><p>Food insecurity can also result in disrupted eating patterns if there is <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6627945/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">not enough food or the variety</a> or <a href="https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-019-6943-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">quality of what someone eats</a> is low.</p>
Campus Food Pantries<p>Previous strategies by <a href="https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/696254.pdf" target="_blank">colleges and universities</a> to fight hunger in their student bodies have varied widely. They include campus food pantries, emergency cash assistance and nutrition education through noncredit classes or workshopse.</p><p>These strategies were put to the test during the spring 2020 semester, when nearly <a href="https://hope4college.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Hopecenter_RealCollegeDuringthePandemic.pdf" target="_blank">three in five students</a> said they had trouble meeting their own basic needs during the pandemic.</p><p>College food pantries saw <a href="https://www.utrgv.edu/newsroom/2020/05/01-utrgv-student-food-pantry-seeing-recent-increase-in-demand-during-covid-19.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">big increases</a> in demand. Others said they <a href="https://www.theprospectordaily.com/2020/09/22/uteps-food-pantry-is-running-out-of-food/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">were getting less donated food</a>. This made it even harder to meet the rising food needs of students.</p><p>Campus food pantries largely rely on local or regional food banks, which have been dealing with <a href="https://www.indystar.com/story/news/local/2020/10/04/indiana-food-banks-call-more-food-stamps-meet-publics-need/3523683001/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">greater demand</a> than they are able to meet during the pandemic.</p><p>The many students who are attending college remotely will, of course, have less access to campus resources like food pantries.</p>
Federal Help<p>Other potential ways to get more food are government programs like the <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/recipient/eligibility" target="_blank">Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program</a>, known as SNAP. Yet the majority of able-bodied students are not eligible. Long-standing restrictions, like the <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/students" target="_blank">college SNAP rule</a>, prevent full-time students from receiving these benefits.</p><p>Such regulatory hurdles were created under the assumption that most students can rely on their parents to get enough to eat. However, college students have vastly different levels of financial support. Some students can rely on their parents for everything and others cannot rely on their parents for anything.</p><p>Decreased reliance on parental financial support is <a href="https://ir.library.louisville.edu/jsfa/vol47/iss3/5/" target="_blank">especially common</a> for first-generation students and students of color, who now make up <a href="https://1xfsu31b52d33idlp13twtos-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Race-and-Ethnicity-in-Higher-Education.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">45% of enrolled college students</a>.</p><p>Under normal circumstances, many college students might rely on part-time jobs to pay for their food.</p>
Short-Term Solutions<p>Universities and colleges can make it a priority to ensure students are aware of all available campus resources and services. They can also potentially help students apply for federal assistance benefits.</p><p>Campus food pantries are not a fully effective and efficacious solution for the scale of college food insecurity, but they can be a good interim solution to increase access to food for students.</p><p>Campuses without food pantries can start one, making use of resources the <a href="https://cufba.org/resources/" target="_blank">College and University Food Bank Alliance</a> provides. Schools with food pantries can try to get them to <a href="https://www.swipehunger.org/5campuspantry/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reach more students</a>.</p><p>Universities and colleges can also lean on one another for support. The <a href="http://wp.auburn.edu/endchildhungeral/alabama-campus-coalition-for-basic-needs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Alabama Campus Coalition for Basic Needs</a> is a great example of this. It brings together 10 universities across the state of Alabama collectively working to address student food insecurity.</p>
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