Clean Eating Explained

Hello Fit Fam!

As I explained in my last post, clean eating is simply what works for me. I am not a nutritionist. I am not a dietitian. It is all trial and error. In the next few articles I will be explaining different approaches to nutrition for you to decide what works for you. Today I’m going to discuss clean eating:

  1. What is clean eating?
  2. Guidelines
  3. Why this is my approach to nutrition

1. What is clean eating?

You may find yourself asking what does clean eating exactly mean? Well if you take a look at the contents of your refrigerator and the ingredients within those products you may find yourself tongue tied trying to pronounce half the words on the label. The fact is that most of our food products we are consuming on a daily basis have been processed in a factory, created in a laboratory and are littered with artificial colours, flavours and preservatives.

Clean eating is about understanding what you are eating, where it came from and how it was made. It’s about making educated decisions about what you are fueling your body with and how it will affect you in the future. I have done enough research to understand the effects these toxic ingredients have on your health. I will include a list of documentaries at the end of this article that explain in great detail how these chemical ingredients have been linked to a number of diseases particularity heart disease and cancer. Seattle Organic Restaurants put out a great list of the top toxic ingredients to avoid and in which foods you can find them.

To me clean eating means avoiding any artificial additives, preservatives, colours and flavours, and buying organic whenever feasible. I also no longer eat meat (due to a long night of Googling about the treatment of animals and the long term effects of eating meat), and am slowly trying to transition to veganism. To me this just works. I have done a lot of research and have made these lifestyle changes based on what feels most ethical to me.

2. Guidelines

When I was first researching clean eating I can across a fantastic article by (one of my favourite webpages you may see me refer to it often), called The 10 Rules of Clean Eating: Live By Them And Live Long and Lean. This article quickly became the basis of all my meal plans. The following guidelines are summarized from the above article, so I highly suggest that if you are interested in learning more about clean eating you read the full article as well as others has published on the topic.

  1. Approach Your Meals As A Lifestyle: Clean eating should not be considered a diet! It is a whole lifestyle change. The whole point of eating clean is to start enjoying REAL food.
  2. Load Up On Fresh Produce: Clean eating fits easily into a number of other nutritional approaches (carb-cutting, carb-cycling, paleo, warrior, intermittent fasting, vegetarianism and veganism ect.). The one golden rule should be to eat as much fresh produce as possible!
  3. Shop The Perimeter of The Grocery Store: I couldn’t believe how true this was when venturing to the grocery store after reading this article. The outskirts of the grocery store have all your essentials; fresh vegetables, meat, whole grain baked goods, and the nuts and dried fruit in the bulk bins. This is where most of your shopping should take place! There are some essentials you will need to grab from the inner isles, but when you do make sure you check all the ingredients. A good example is Cinnamon. I went to go pick up Cinnamon from the grocery store and noticed one of the ingredients was cottonseed. Cottonseed is one of the most genetically modified crops (next to corn) and is often added to seasonings and spices as ”filler”. But we’ll get more into ingredients later.
  4. Eliminate Added Sugars: “Foods in their most natural state do not contain added sugar –that’s why it’s called added sugar”. Read the package. If one of the ingredients is sugar you shouldn’t eat it. The sugar they’re referring to is the manufactured white sugar that has been so processed that it does not resemble the sugar cane plant it originated from. Choose natural sugars like agave syrup or stevia.
  5. Drink more water: Although we all know we should drink 8-10 glasses of water every day, not all of us do! Water, as well as herbal teas help you naturally cleanse your body from toxins.
  6. Balance Your Diet: “Two of the central ideas behind clean eating are balance and moderation.” Just because you’re supposed to eat as much produce as possible does not mean you should steer clear of carbs or dietary fats.The general rule you should focus on is loving complex, unprocessed carbs and unsaturated fats. Eat them in moderation according to your nutrient and body goals.
  7. Use Smart Flour Substitutes: Avoid using white flour at all costs! I did not understand the havoc it wreaked on your body until I read the Global Healing Center’s article called “White Flour: How Healthy Is It For You?” The answer is not healthy at all. In order to make white flour they’ve had to strip the wheat of everything that is good for you, bleach it to make the colour more appealing which makes the gluten levels higher, and then infuse it with synthetic B vitamins to make it seem “nutritional”. If that doesn’t sound bad already, those synthetic B vitamins are toxic to the human body. You literally are eating poison! Instead use almond, coconut, spelt, kamut, or whole wheat flour just to name a few.
  8. Do Not Eat Foods With Ingredients You Can’t Pronounce: “Once you’ve been eating clean for a little while, you’ll inevitably begin to see the food industry as the giant machine that it is. It’s so much bigger than you, and it has its hands in so many different pockets, that it’s impossible for it to have your best interests at heart. Need evidence? Look at the label of a box of cookies, a children’s lunch pack, or even a bottle of “natural” juice. You’d need a chemistry degree to read it, and even then, you couldn’t say what those substances are doing to you in the long run.” Could not have said it any better! I won’t buy anything unless I am sure that all the ingredients are clean. If you can’t say it, you probably shouldn’t eat it.
  9. Focus On Nutrients, Not Just Calories: This was a particularly hard concept for me to grasp. I used to be a religious calorie and carb counter making sure I accounted for everything including my supplements (Yes there are calories in supplements!). It took a while to get used to but you need to realize that your body is going to react completely different to wholesome natural foods than over processed calorie free crap (excuse my language but that’s just what it is!) All calories are not created equal. One of my favourite examples is Walden Farms calorie, fat, carb, gluten, and sugar free products. Lets take a look at the calorie free chocolate syrup. You are eating artificial colours (Caramel Colour), sucralose (Splenda), and sodium benzonate (To preserve “Freshness”). What you are eating did not come from a farm, it came from a lab!

3. Why this is my approach to nutrition

I adopted this approach to nutrition after doing a lot of research. And by a lot of research I mean A LOT! One weekend I had a huge art assignment due (I am in Fine Art at the University of Waterloo), and I locked myself in my room for three days straight watching every documentary on nutrition, food, farming, and animal cruelty I could find. A few I would highly recommend watching would be:

Food Matters

Food Inc. 

Sweet Misery: A Poisoned World

Hungry for Change 

I was outraged. I felt as if I had not only been brutally abusing my body, but also abusing hundreds of poor innocent animals for over 20 years. That Monday I decided I wanted to become a Whole Foods Plant Based Vegan, and although I wanted it to happen at that moment I knew it would be a long process. After consulting my doctor I decided to take it in stages. About 9 months ago I gave up all preservatives and artificial ingredients. I also gave up added sugar and refined flour. About 5 months ago I was finally able to give up meat. And as of October 1st I plan on becoming Vegan. It has been challenging at times but now I feel as if it is just a lifestyle choice. As I said in my first post, nutrition is like a belief system, there is no right or wrong answer, it’s all about what helps you become a better person. Right now I am in the best shape I have ever been, I love myself more than ever before, and have been able to push myself harder and harder everyday.  It took some trial and error but I’ve found what works for me.

I hope this article has helped you in some way with your own health and fitness journey. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to email me: I’d be more than happy to discuss any comments or questions, (or even corrections, cause god knows I’m not perfect) you have.

In my next article I’ll be talking about another popular approach to nutrition called If It Fits Your Macros or IIFYM.

Stay tuned and stay hungry.