What IS Clean Eating and How Do I Do It?


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Clean eating is about so much more than picking an apple over a cupcake…find out below…

Whether it’s how to eat clean, giving you the best fat loss hacks, or simply helping you become the fittest and healthiest you’ve ever been, we’ve got you covered when you join us at Share It Fitness.  Start enjoying all the perks and  LIKE US on Facebook, to stay up to date on everything we offer.

Here’s a buzzword you definitely haven’t heard before; CLEAN EATING.

….Right….

The phrase “clean eating” is  being used just about everywhere these days.  From personal trainers, to Crossfit addicts, to registered dietitians, the mantra continues to repeat itself in various forms, but the underlying message is the same – EAT CLEAN!  Sounds good, but is anyone wondering what clean eating really is? Or perhaps more importantly, how do I eat clean?

Have you read The Share It Fitness Official Nutritional Guidebook?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.  Stick around and I’ll show you exactly what clean eating is, give you my personal opinion on the matter (which I know you’re all dying to read), and explain ways to easily clean up your diet.

What Clean Eating Isn’t

First off, let me tell you what clean eating isn’t.  It’s not a diet or eating plan with rigid rules.  It’s not something that requires counting, subtracting, or calculations of any kind.  Take a sigh of relief because eating cleanly stands in stark contrast to things like the Paleo Diet, the Atkins Diet, etc.

Secondly, there is no set definition for clean eating.  Naturally, this paves the way for a variety of different interpretations of what clean eating is… which invariably leads to contradictions, confusion, and a general sense of frustration. Let me say this; stop over thinking things.  As you’re about to find out, clean eating is all about simplicity.  The concept of eating clean isn’t supposed to stress you out, cause panic attacks, or make you think too hard.  It’s a very easy lifestyle to adopt, so hang in there, and I’m going to break things down as simply and easily as possible.

What Clean Eating Is

Now that we’ve got what clean eating isn’t out of the way, let’s talk about what it actually is.  Clean eating is about eating foods in their most natural state.  This means avoiding processed foods, foods with loads of preservatives, foods with lots of added sugar, and foods with high levels of bad fats (some saturated fats/all trans fats).  Alternatively, you want to avoid foods that have been stripped of their nutritional value and/or have been injected with a heaping dose of six-syllable chemicals.

As I mentioned earlier, clean eating isn’t an exact term with standard guidelines to follow.  My definition of clean eating is just that – my interpretation.  These are some of the basic guidelines that I associate with clean eating.

  • Unrefined, whole-grains.
  • A diet with an abundance of fresh, local, organic fruits and vegetables.
  • Free-range and grass-fed meats and dairy.
  • More vegetable-centered meals than meat-centered each week.
  • Plenty of water or other no-calorie drinks (NOT diet soda)
  • Making healthy cooking choices, such as baking, steaming, and light sauteing whenever possible.
  • Consume healthy fats from natural sources such as nuts, avocados, organic coconut oil, etc.

The overwhelming point I want to drive home to you is this; choose foods closest to their natural state.  It’s great if you’re eating broccoli, but if it’s covered in cheese, butter, breadcrumbs, casserole style, then baked for 45 minutes, it’s losing a ton of its nutritional value.  A better option would be to lightly steam your broccoli, toss with a little olive oil, lemon juice, and fresh Parmesan.  Learning to cook (and eat) cleanly is all about learning to simplify things and not overdoing it with your meal prep.  When you keep things simple, meals normally turn out to be more healthy.

We’re interested to know….

 


 

Potential Pitfalls of Clean Eating

Like many health and fitness topics, clean eating does have its share of critics.  I think it’s important to address their issues because it only serves to benefit YOU, the clean eater, as you embark upon this journey towards good health.  The overwhelming criticism I come across is the effects of clean eating on one’s mindset.  Many critics claim the idea of banishing all things processed/unnatural can have a negative affect on an individual.  There are thoughts that eating disorders and inappropriate feelings towards food can be developed if an individual becomes obsessive with ONLY eating cleanly.

A clean diet is important, but so is having a well-designed exercise component.  If you’re interested in a completely customized fitness program, complete with a different video workout to follow along with each day, you’ve GOT to check out FitPlan!  With a 2 week FREE trial, and the option to cancel anytime, what do you have to lose?

To an extent, I agree.  If you’re dreading going out to dinner because you know there’s nothing on the menu that qualifies as “clean”, you might have a problem.  If you refuse to have a bite of cake at your grandma’s birthday party because of all the sugar and refined flour, you might have a problem.  If you start analyzing the ingredients in the biscuits you give your dog to make sure they’re “clean”, you might have a problem.

Simply put – stop over analyzing things.  Progress is made and goals are reached through consistency, NOT perfection.  Be consistent MOST of the time, and the good health and fit body you’re seeking will become yours.

The 80/20 Approach

The 80/20 approach is something I like to use with both exercise and diet.  It’s a simple concept really – be consistent with your exercise and/or diet at least 80% of the time.  If you’re living a perfectly healthy life four days out of five, your less than perfect tendencies will not come back to bite you in the ass.

As it relates to clean eating, simply make the right choices 80% of the time.  If you’re going out to dinner and you have a bowl of pasta instead of the grilled fish, don’t obsess over it.  You’re still maintaining your 80% standard of clean eating.  And what’s more, that ONE bowl of pasta doesn’t even negate the rest of that day’s good efforts.  One bowl of pasta a week and you’re looking at something like 95/5…….stop sweating it, you’re only going to stress yourself out.

Related: Is STRESS making you fat?

The bottom line is, you’re going to make plenty of progress, have great successes, and improve your overall health as long as you stay consistent and make the right choices more often than not.  When you strive for perfection you’re only setting yourself up for failure, disappointment, and bad feelings.  Chill out and remind yourself it’s about consistency, not perfection.

How Can I Eat Clean?

Okay, so we’ve gotten through the basics, now lets tackle the practicality of everything; how you can start eating clean TODAY.

First off, I know a lot of you are concerned about the costs associated with terms like organic, free-range, grass-fed, etc.  Well, I’m here to say that for MOST of you, you can easily buy organic, free-range, and grass-fed produce and meats for LESS than what you currently spend on the regular, chemical-filled stuff.

You’ve absolutely got to check out this article on how to buy organic produce for LESS from a CSA.  The information in this article will become invaluable to you on your journey towards good health.

Secondly, make sure you’re actively reading nutrition and ingredient labels.  If something has tons of ingredients you can’t pronounce, put it down.  If it’s incredibly high in sugar, put it down.  This doesn’t mean go for low-fat/sugar-free stuff either.  Those products have usually been manipulated to an extent that makes them just as bad for you, albeit in a different way.

Make the bulk of your grocery purchases fresh and natural foods.  Fresh produce, whole grains (quinoa for example), and organic/wild-caught meats/fish should be your go to choices.  Personally, I’ve shied away from having meat at every meal, which has made eating cleanly so much easier.  As it stands now, I aim to go “meatless” at least 4 days a week.  I buy organic tofu, tempeh, and other soy-based sources to make sure I’m getting adequate protein.  This decision is a personal one, but it’s turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  I no longer feel like a slave to meat; something that must be consumed to constitute a “full” meal.

Thirdly, I’d recommend you understand the importance of preparing your foods in a healthy way.  For example, when you cook vegetables you break down their nutritional value (for the most part – tomatoes actually become more nutritious when they’re cooked).  Boiling asparagus til they’re approaching the structural integrity of spaghetti means you’ve just sapped them of nearly all of their nutritional value.  Lightly steam, bake, or saute your foods.  You’ll cut down on excess oil and save on the nutritional content if you don’t cook foods to death.

Health Benefits of Clean Eating

Above all else, the reason people get into clean eating is because they want to improve their health.  By avoiding chemicals, preservatives, and refined sugars, you’re cutting down on the likelihood of developing serious health conditions, like cancer.

If you’re fighting a weight loss battle, improving your diet could be just the thing you need to get those pounds dropping again.  If you’re used to a diet full of preservatives and added chemicals, suddenly pulling them from your daily intake may help get your body back to normal.  It’s amazing how slight differences in the physiology of our body can affect our ability to lose weight, get fit, etc.  Get your body back to its normal state by eating normal foods…plain and simple.

Other associated health benefits include:

  • Immune boost
  • Energy boost
  • Improved cholesterol levels
  • Blood sugar balance
  • Better sleep and mood
  • General increase in health

The decision to start eating cleanly is a personal one, and I’m not going to tell you what to do.  Simply, I’m letting you know what clean eating has done for me, what I think it can do for you, and why I think it can do it.  Do your research, check out some other opinions on the subject, become informed, THEN make a decision about how you’d like to change (or not change) your diet and lifestyle.

Any questions?  Have you checked out the OFFICIAL SHARE IT FITNESS NUTRITIONAL GUIDEBOOK?  Either way — Don’t hold back – feel free to leave a comment/question below!

 

Like This Article?  Want us to do all the thinking and create a personalized workout plan for you that can be done from home OR the gym?

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Matt

Co-Founder at Share It Fitness
Matt has been involved in the fitness industry for over 10 years and has worked with, and helped countless individuals improve their lives. After college, Matt started his fitness career working in the trenches as a personal trainer for a big corporate gym. It was here he saw how impersonal Big Fitness really was. Clients weren't people, they were just sales waiting to be made. After branching out and starting his own personal training business in San Diego, Matt soon developed the idea of Share It Fitness and started our (now highly successful) blog. A fitness junkie himself, Matt knows the importance of incorporating exercise into your life. When he isn't working at Share It Fitness, you can find Matt running, biking, taking yoga, or pumping iron around San Diego.
  • Cheryl

    Does clean eating exclude bread and wheat?

    • http://www.shareitfitness.com/ Matt @ Share It Fitness

      Hi Cheryl! Thanks for your comment.

      Clean eating CAN include bread, provided the bread is whole grain, sprouted wheat, etc. Clean eating means avoiding refined flour, i.e. white flour. Just be sure to read your nutrition/ingredient labels and make sure any bread you’re buying lists WHOLE wheat flour in the ingredient list.

      That said, I think limiting the amount of bread products we consume is beneficial. There are so many other better foods to get our carbohydrate needs from. Quinoa, for example, will provide you a supply of complex carbohydrates, along with a healthy dose of protein.

      But bottom line, don’t feel like you can’t eat bread, you certainly can – just make sure it’s whole wheat.

      Any other questions, please feel free to leave another comment. Thanks for checking us out and hope to continue seeing you around here!

      Matt

  • Kendra McNulty

    Hi Matt! I just wanted to say Thank YOU for this amazing site. The 80/20 balance is something I teach my clients and follow myself, so to have your voice back me up is “golden”! Share It Fitness has been a perfect addition to help my clients out with challenging and fun workouts, along with education on just about anything that has to do with wanting to stay fit. You are so appreciated and hope that your week is a great one.

    • http://www.shareitfitness.com/ Matt @ Share It Fitness

      Thanks Kendra – getting comments like yours are really what make doing this so rewarding.

      We’re always looking to partner with great trainers, for a variety of projects, so if you happen to be in the San Diego area, give us a shout so I can explain in greater detail.

      Hope your week is off to a killer start, and if there’s ever anything you’d like to see make it on the blog, definitely let us know!

      Matt

      • Kendra McNulty

        I would LOVE to find out more about any up coming projects! Let me know if in the next few weeks would work. keneticfitness@gmail.com
        Kendra

  • http://healthblurbs.blogspot.com Rachel, Healthy Chicks

    Great article, Matt! This is exactly my food philosophy, and you couldn’t have said it better :)

    • http://www.shareitfitness.com/ Matt @ Share It Fitness

      Thanks Rachel!

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  • Girl Love Dog

    Cool! I follow Tosca Reno’s Eat-Clean Diet series, she’s the guru of all things Eating Clean.

  • Sissy Jo

    I want to eat clean but am not sure where to start considering I have 2 small children. I want them to learn the importance of healthy living/eating but don’t know how to start with it all. Any ideas?

    • http://www.shareitfitness.com/ Matt @ Share It Fitness

      Thanks for the comment – Eating clean with kids should really be no different than without. It’s all about buying quality foods and bypassing the junk at the store.

      They’ll learn the importance of healthy eating/living by following your lead. If you take some of the advice in this article, you’ll be able to change your own diet/lifestyle and set a good example for them in the process.

      Matt

      • Sissy Jo

        Thank you for replying- I am excited to start a new healthy way of life. They go with me on walks and now they will also eat as healthy as possible without going too overboard. It may sound silly but just hearing you say to just do as I would for myself is invaluable. Have a great weekend!

        • http://www.shareitfitness.com/ Matt @ Share It Fitness

          No problem – sometimes a little reinforcement of what we already know is all it takes. If you’re so inclined, you should try out some of our OnDemand video workouts as well. They can easily be done at home AND your kids could even join in with you.

          If you ever need any other advice and/or help, please reach back out!

          Matt

          • Sissy Jo

            I will definitely have to check that out! Thank you again.

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  • Venessa

    I’m a mother of four, my youngest just celebrated her 2nd b-day, and I’m about 45lbs over weight, all fat. I see people like Chady Dunmore and I want to be like her when I grow up. However, I really don’t know where to start. I have a house full of men, so they always want meat with their meals. My little one always wants mac n cheese, chicken nuggets, or fries. Plus, eating healthy tends to be more expensive then not, and living on active duty military pay does not leave us with much more to work with. I work full time plus I’m a full time student, so I’m sure the stress levels don’t help with my weight loss goals. I guess what I’m asking is, where would you recommend I start? Thanks

    • http://www.shareitfitness.com/ Matt @ Share It Fitness

      Sounds like you’ve got a lot of on your plate (no pun intended) but rest easy knowing that you CAN change things.

      First off, getting your diet in order is the most important thing. Eating healthy really isn’t more expensive than eating processed foods, when you really look at it. Most vegetables, rice, tofu, fruits, etc. are not expensive. Check around the blog for healthy recipes and you’ll hopefully get some ideas of meals you can do on the cheap.

      The second part to all of this is your exercise program. You absolutely need to get started on one before the weight creeps any higher. A lot of people have been having pretty awesome success using our FitPlan. It’s great for a busy mom with no much time on her hands. Do yourself a favor and take a look, I think it could really help you out by getting that fat to come off.

      http://blog.shareitfitness.com/2013/fitness-plan-invites/ (watch the video for an idea what I’m talking about)

      If you’ve got any other questions, please let me know..I’m happy to help.

      Matt

      • Venessa

        Thank you, this has been very helpful so far, I will definitely try it out. Plus watching the video made me a little home sick, I’ve been overseas for several years, so having that beautiful SD scenery is a plus!

        • http://www.shareitfitness.com/ Matt @ Share It Fitness

          I think you’ll definitely enjoy these videos…Most are filmed in and around San Diego..so you get a nice little view along with a killer workout!

          Thank you for your service, happy we can be of service to YOU!

          Matt

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  • Free2bMommy

    Just found your blog and the 80/20 has helped me incredibly with my clean eating efforts. I have 3 kids and a husband and realized last year how much crap and garbage we were actually eating. Sadly most foods aimed at kids are the worst offenders! It is still a challenge getting my kids on board, but they are open to the change, as long as every once in a while, they get their 20% too :)

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  • Courtney

    I too would love to shed some pounds. I’m a mother of 3, a wife, full time teacher and grad student. After my 3rd baby, I was diagnosed with high Blood pressure. I really want to reverse this because I wan to enjoy my family and be alive, healthy and well. I want to do this the healthy way… I get all emotional just thinking about it.. please help me!

    • http://www.shareitfitness.com/ Matt @ Share It Fitness

      Hey Courtney –

      Sounds like you’ve got a pretty busy schedule – you’re going to need something that conforms to your schedule/lifestyle…otherwise you’re just going to get burnt out and never get anywhere.

      I’d recommend a 4-5 day a week uptempo plyometric/body weight focused program that is best suited for the at-home exerciser.

      Combine that with some of the tips you’ve probably picked up in this clean eating article and you should be well on your way to a happy and healthy body.

      If you want help with that fitness program, let me know and we’ll get you started.

      Matt

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  • http://www.shareitfitness.com Matt

    It depends on how you look at it. Very strict “clean eaters” take nothing processed to mean…nothing processed. In my opinion, this is wayy too strict of an interpretation of clean eating.

    I think breads and wheat product are fine, in moderation. Also make sure your bread products are whole grain, sprouted wheat bread, etc.

    Any other questions, let me know. Thanks for checking us out.

    Matt