Just because you are interested in taking care of yourself, it doesn’t mean you have to become a vegan, flax-wearing, marathon-running monk.
But the people who think most about what they put in their bodies and how they spend their time are more likely to take better care of themselves. As a result, more of us shop for organic produce, practice yoga to stay in shape, and walk during the lunch hour to get our hearts pumping.
If you are in this crowd, you have probably heard of clean eating, too. It’s the practice of consuming food that is as close to harvest as possible, with as little processing as practical.
Clean eaters eat just about everything, but instead of fried chicken, for example, their chicken is roasted, and served with a salad or roasted vegetables. Breakfast features fruit and may include eggs – but no bacon. When you crave sausage, chicken sausage – uncured – will do the job. White sugar and white flour are gone from the menu, replaced by honey or molasses, and unbleached flour.
What you get for the effort
Eating clean is not the same as a paleo diet, which prescribes foods as our ancient ancestors ate. A clean menu can include pasteurized milk, but skips the chocolate-covered doughnut holes.
Clean foods are intended to be nourishing for your body while making it easier for your organs to pull nutrients from what you eat and flush the unneeded excess. Highly processed food – packaged, ready-to-eat meals and anything fried, among others – tends to clog up the body’s mechanics and leave behind unneeded waste. So the cleaner you eat, the healthier you should feel.
A diet of clean foods is not necessarily a weight-loss diet, and you can enjoy snacks and healthy portions. Plenty of books, and articles on the internet, offer recipes for clean meals and weekly or monthly plans. Instead of offering a specific plan here, we suggest some ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner– along with snacks – that appealed to us.
- Yogurt with raw honey and granola
- Veggie scramble (eggs scrambled with vegetables and topped with feta cheese)
- Fruit smoothie
- Chicken and blackberry salad, with cucumber and walnuts
- Salad greens with cucumber, tomato and ½-cup of chickpeas
- Tuna and white bean spinach salad
- Roast chicken with squash
- Baked tomato with herbs and parmesan
- Meatballs with spaghetti squash
Snack (morning, afternoon and after dinner)
- Air-popped popcorn with a quarter-cup of parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of pepper
- Two clementines
- Apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon
As you can see, clean eaters aren’t all about foods like millet and porridge. You don’t have to make it all from scratch. (You can buy granola, for instance.) A healthy diet does include plenty of water during the day (add lemon for zing and as a digestion aide). And as long as you practice moderation, you can splurge during birthdays and holidays without feeling guilty while continuing to indulge your favorites. Although most clean diet plans won’t include a cup of coffee in the morning, a cup or two a day won’t make you unhealthy, especially if you buy organic beans and grind them yourself. (A chocolate-frosted doughnut hole is OK every once in a while, too.)