Eating Clean And The Focus On “Real Foods” In Your Daily Diet
The term “clean eating” can mean different things to different people. Perhaps the most widely accepted interpretation would be that it means focusing on including “real” foods in the diet. By “real” we think of foods that have undergone little processing, ideally containing no artificial ingredients such as additives, flavorings and preservatives. We are drawn to foods that are recognizable – preferably as close to their natural state as possible, or minimally cooked. We are more likely to consider a fresh, organic salad as “clean” than a powdered soup or dessert, because we understand what the ingredients are if they look familiar.
This can lead to mentally labeling grains, refined sugars, alcohol, ice cream, candy, pastries, hamburgers, pizza and other food options as “dirty” or “bad”. However, even people with the highest standards for their diets will sometimes cheat a little and sneak in a slice of pie. It’s a lot easier to stick to a clean, healthy diet if you keep good ingredients readily available in the places where you are most likely to need them, like the home kitchen or the lunchroom fridge at work. It’s easy to throw together an organic green salad or a brown rice bowl with plenty of vegetables and grilled fish if you have the ingredients readily available.
Clean eating looks like the best approach for optimal nutrition and sustenance but we have to consider the big picture when it comes to dietary planning. By excluding certain foods from our diets, we can develop nutrient deficiencies and, as our bodies need a wide range of trace minerals vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, we would be short-changing ourselves to have too many limitations. Staying within a strict diet can also put a dent in your social life. If you are afraid of offending a dinner host by picking warily at a delicious meal he has lovingly prepared, you might eventually stop going out altogether. The same goes for eating in restaurants and enjoying parties.
If we restrict our dietary intake like this, the unexpected result can be that we miss out on the full spectrum of nutrients that our bodies need to thrive on. Unable to fight cravings for less noble foods, we can binge on them in retaliation for depriving ourselves. Shame and guilt soon follow because we feel we have failed to stick to the plan and eat only the cleanest, “best” foods, as we strive to maintain the unreasonable standards we have set for ourselves. The emotional impact of this is potentially devastating as we can develop cycles of cheating and bingeing that are hard to control and can even become full-blown eating disorders requiring professional intervention.
A clean eating regimen may show initial fat loss when low-calorie foods replace high-calorie options. If you are focusing on balancing calories to lose weight, you’d need to use up more calories than you take in, thus leading to a false sense of security.
The principle of flexible dieting is to keep track of the carbohydrates, proteins and fats in your daily diet. This shifts the focus from the exact foods you eat and places it on meeting your daily nutrition goals. About 80% of your calories should come from proteins and 20% from other foods, which typically have lower nutritional profiles than proteins. So if you decide to have a little bit of the food that you really love and sometimes crave, you can go ahead and enjoy it here and there without the shame or guilt that can come with “cheating”. If you already have it budgeted into your diet, you can’t really accuse yourself of straying too far from your goal, can you? Flexible dieting doesn’t ask you to label or categorize foods as “clean” or “dirty”. This way, you are more likely to be adventurous and incorporate a wider variety of foods. This more satisfying approach, when done correctly, can help you feel less deprived and you might experience fewer cravings, as the nutritional profile of your diet will encompass a wider range of nutrients.
Preparing meals becomes a more engaging process as you widen your range of foods, and as you begin to include more ingredients, your recipes become a lot more interesting. Additionally, eating out in restaurants becomes much less intimidating and a lot more enjoyable! With moderation, this approach can work very well. As an example, you might enjoy a large organic salad including simple proteins and have a slice of pizza on the side. Your pizza would then be a smaller portion, rather than dominating the meal. You’d still get to enjoy the food you really desire most but include more healthy options too.
Clean eating can change physical composition.
Once we’ve experienced clean eating, it’s hard to ever go back to an unhealthy diet of processed foods. If we allow ourselves to be guided by a combination of what we know about better nutrients and also indulge in enjoyment of the more “fun” foods, we can achieve a moderate, well-rounded diet. An active person will need to ingest more fuel than someone with an inactive lifestyle. When we get really specific and track the proteins and other components that make up the calories we eat, we can target fat loss and muscle gain. So our bodies can actually change composition rather than just lose weight itself. Muscle weighs more than fat and it helps to be aware of our fat-to muscle ratio. Tracking protein intake for optimum health is greatly superior to just counting calories. It’s the quality and composition of the calories themselves that have the most importance.