So now that you know how clean eating came about, it is time to look at what guidelines you will follow on the plan. Remember, your goal can be 100 percent clean eating, but following these simple principles even 80 percent of the time will enable you to reap all the health benefits of the plan. This is a long-term lifestyle choice. Try to be practical and flexible with your food and exercise goals. It gets easier as time passes and you develop new habits.
1- Eat Whole Foods
Whole and fresh foods are at the foundation of the clean eating diet. Eat a variety of delicious fresh foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. “Whole” does not mean an entire orange or head of lettuce; it means unrefined and unprocessed. Processed foods are stripped of valuable nutrients, pumped full of additives, and can contribute to disease and poor health. There are some packaged items that can still be clean foods, but a good basic rule is that if you don’t recognize an ingredient or can’t pronounce it, you probably don’t want to eat it!
2- Eat Five to Six Small Meals a Day
Many people grew up with the notion of three square meals a day with no consideration given to individual body requirements or the ill effects of spiking and plummeting blood sugar. A good, steady influx of nutritious foods can regulate and stabilize blood sugar, creating fewer food cravings for sugar or caffeine and supplying you with energy throughout the day.
3- Eat Every Two to Three Hours and Never Skip a Meal
The principle of eating meals regularly and frequently goes hand in hand with eating smaller, more frequent meals to avoid blood sugar fluctuations. You might think that skipping breakfast or starving yourself through lunch is a good way to lose weight or control your diet. Unfortunately, all you are doing is creating a massive blood-sugar tsunami that will eventually crash, wreaking havoc on your body. Start your day with a wholesome breakfast to kick-start your metabolism, and top up the tank every few hours afterward.
4- Drink at Least Eight Cups of Water a Day
Keeping your body hydrated is a healthy diet staple for most eating plans, and is good common sense. Your body is about two-thirds water and needs water for everything to work correctly and efficiently. Water helps flush toxins from the cells and tissues, helps in the absorption of nutrients, and regulates body temperature. Always have a bottle of water on hand and sip from it throughout your day. If you are thirsty, your body is already dehydrated.
5- Eat Healthy Portion Sizes
In a supersized world it is important to realize that you might be eating more than you need, which can contribute to weight gain and poor health. When you first start eating clean, you may not know what the right portion size is for a chicken breast or bowl of cereal. Weigh and measure your food until you can eyeball it accurately. If you don’t have a scale, most clean eating portions can be measured roughly using your hands. Fruit and vegetable portions should just about fit into your two cupped hands (1½ cups), starchy carbohydrates should fit in one cupped hand (¾ cup), and lean protein portions should be about the size of your palm (6 ounces).
6- Combine Lean Protein and Complex Carbohydrates in Every Meal
Pairing protein and carbohydrates is a cornerstone of the clean eating diet, because this combination of food groups is extremely effective for stabilizing blood sugar. The slow release of sugar into the blood, rather than the quick rush created by carbohydrates or protein alone, can also help burn fat and promote healthy weight loss. So try a couple of apple slices with a small scoop of natural nut butter or wrap a lean piece of chicken in a whole-grain tortilla for lunch, and see how much better you feel.
7- Avoid Refined, Processed Foods
The list of foods to avoid might seem long, but once you start eating clean, those refined and processed foods will no longer be the least bit appealing to you. The list includes candy, white bread, white rice, pizza, cookies, processed cheese, junk food, and even products that are labeled as healthy, such as low-calorie frozen dinners.
8- Eliminate Sugar
You should avoid refined sugar like the plague because that is exactly what this poison can be, deadly. Refined sugar can cause devastating effects such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, depression and fatigue. While your body uses glucose converted from foods as energy for every process in the body, the type of sugar that is found in processed foods is fructose. When you consume fructose the entire burden of processing it falls on your liver, creating waste products and toxins. There is more to purging sugar from your diet than not buying sweet cereals. The best defense to avoid refined sugar is to read food labels carefully, even on clean foods such as Greek yogurt. If you see words ending in “ose” or “sweetener” beware, this is usually sugar in disguise. If you need a little sweetness in your meals, add naturally sweet fruits and vegetables.
9- Include Healthy Fats and Eliminate Unhealthy Fats
Fat has become the enemy in many healthy eating circles, but this should not be the case, because your body needs healthy fats to function. Healthy fats (monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fatty acids) help synthesize hormones, provide fuel for the body, and assist in the absorption of some vitamins. Many clean eating foods contain healthy fat such as avocado, olive oil, and The unhealthy fats (saturated fats and trans fats) contribute to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other health issues.
10- Never Leave Home Without Clean Eating Foods
One of the main reasons people fall off the healthy-eating wagon is they find themselves stranded in a sea of processed products and fast food when they are away from home. When you are hungry and your blood sugar is plummeting, it is hard not to give in to the plethora of unhealthy choices surrounding you. The solution is a cooler bag filled with clean eating meals and snacks that you can tote with you to work or school. This portable clean eating “cornucopia” will also ensure you don’t skip meals. You can even pack all your foods the night before, for convenience.