I shared my thoughts on clean eating and how it can become unhealthy about a month ago. I truly appreciated the positive feedback, and felt as though it resonated with many of you. Sticking with the “clean eating” topic, I thought it would be fun to share my own personal “Do’s” and “Don’ts of how to approach clean eating in a healthy way. As I mentioned in my first post, I am not a registered dietitian, nor do I have a medical degree. I am simply basing these how to’s off of my own experiences with the highs and lows of clean eating.
How to Eat Clean: The Do’s and Don’ts of Healthy Clean Eating
Do base the majority of your food choices around whole foods. Focus on making the bulk of your food choices fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats.
Don’t fear processed foods when eaten in moderation. Sure, I’d love to be able to eat whole foods 100% of the time. But that is simply not practical for me, nor is it practical for most people. Plus, I thoroughly enjoy crackers, cereal, chips, and pre-packaged popcorn way too much to give them up!
Don’t follow an all or nothing approach. You do not have to make “perfect” food choices in order to benefit from clean eating.
Don’t feel guilty about eating out more frequently than normal while on vacation or for special occasions. Food is a part of celebrations in our society, and that is something we should embrace and not fear. Of course, this does not mean you have to make unhealthy choices while eating out. Often times I like to go for the monstrously large veggie burger and enjoy a salad on the side if I know I will be eating out a lot within a small time period. Balance, balance, balance! And if you truly want the veggie burger AND the fries, I say go for it! You will soon fall back into the pattern of cooking at home more, and everything will equal out.
Do make choosing water a habit. Does this mean you can never enjoy a Diet Coke, beer, or glass of wine? Of course not! But aim to choose water the majority of the time.
Don’t feel as though you must over-exercise in order to compensate for a “not so clean” day. As I mentioned before, some days will be more “clean” and whole than others. These will balance out, and we should feel comfortable keeping our workout routine consistent from day-to-day.
Do eat cake on your birthday, pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving Day, and cookies on Christmas. Seriously, people. Don’t give up your favorite holiday treats out of fear that they are not “clean” enough. There are 365 days in the year. The holidays are not going to make you or break you.
Don’t label foods as “good” or “bad.” The second you do that, the easier it is to feel guilt-ridden if you eat too many “bad” foods and not enough “good” foods.
Do meal plan and prep food on a free day in order to set yourself up for a healthy week. I also find that incorporating new recipes each week helps to keep healthy eating exciting and enjoyable. I am not one of those people who can eat a salad every day and feel satisfied. Serious props to those who are able to!
Don’t feel guilty if you stray from your meal plan. It is there as a guideline, but does not need to be rigid. If you get invited to go out to dinner with friends on a day you were normally planning to make a healthy, “clean” meal at home, be spontaneous and adjust your plan. Life is really about experiences, not rigidity. Being able to be flexible with our diets is an important quality to have. <– This is something I am really working on!
Do treat yourself to your favorite restaurant meals. A side of french fries or several slices of pizza once every couple of weeks are not going to ruin your healthy lifestyle. In fact, making these food choices now and then are generally a sign of a healthy relationship with food.
Don’t make comparisons when it comes to food. This is, of course, much easier said than done. But listen to your body and eat what you know will make you feel best- both mentally and physically. Eating choices that work for one person may not work for another person. Our diets are not universal.
Do cook healthy meals with family and friends. Not only can this cause healthy habits to rub off on those we care about, but it is proof that healthy eating experiences can be fun and delicious. Remember, it is all about finding balance between the healthy and not-as-healthy social experiences!
Do listen to your body. If your body is craving healthy fats, it probably needs more fats. If your body feels better when you eat meals and several snacks throughout the day, that is probably the eating pattern that your body thrives on. Some people function best on three large meals per day. Others prefer three meals paired with snacks in the morning, afternoon, and/or evening. Just because one person is not a snacker does not mean you shouldn’t be either. Our bodies are pretty smart. We would do ourselves a lot of good if we gave them a bit more credit!
These are just a few of the do’s and don’ts that I have come up with on the topic of clean eating, and I am sure there are many more. While some of these may not be applicable to you, I truly believe that the majority of these can be helpful guidelines for those who are just starting out with, or looking to positively change, their quest for a “clean eating” way of life.
Do you have any personal do’s and don’ts for healthy clean eating?