Beyond Calories: Eating Clean
Ah, calories. Those little units of measurement that can drive us crazy. Eat too many and you can gain weight. Eat too few and you’ll wreck you’ll metabolism, feel tired, sluggish and crabby in no time. If counting calories has your mind spinning and feels like way too much work, relax. There are other ways to make sure you keep the lean frame you desire.
Counting calories is a great way to get a handle on just how much you are eating every day. When you initially undertake a weight loss plan, this is important information to help you cut areas of food intake that are empty calories. Once you get closer to your weight loss goal, however, it gets harder and harder to cut additional calories from your diet without feeling deprived and irritable. This is where eating ‘clean’ comes into play.
There has been a lot of buzz lately about eating clean. But what exactly does that mean and why is this something you should strive for?
Eating ‘clean’ refers to getting rid of the foods in your diet that are empty calories and not providing you with needed nutrients. Clean foods replace junk foods and make the calories you consume fuel your body. Generally, clean foods are those that are non-processed, contain no sugar or artificial ingredients and represent the most natural form of a food (example: an apple vs. an apple
Why eat clean? If you count calories and read labels, you will soon realize that junk foods and processed foods are usually high in sugar, fat and sodium (the bad stuff) and typically low in protein and fiber (the good stuff). So, by consuming those foods, you are adding to your daily calorie intake without adding to your daily nutrient requirements. Why is this bad? Because your body will still be hungry and need those nutrients to fuel itself and feel satisfied. This will result in you to needing more food, thus more calories. If you choose foods with high nutrient profiles that provide the essential building blocks that your body needs every day, you will typically feel full from meal to meal. Eating a clean diet will usually keep you at a healthy weight, as these are foods that your body was made to eat, without needing to count every calorie consumed.
The essential points to eating clean:
Eat whole foods. These are foods that haven’t been tampered with from their original state. These are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seed and free-range meats.
Avoid processed foods. These are foods that require packaging and a label. Foods with a label mean that they have been made in a factory and have more than one ingredient. Be highly selective with food that has a label. Be sure you can recognize and pronounce the ingredients that are in the product. If not, it is a good sign that it is an artificial ingredient and not something you should want to eat.
Eliminate refined sugars. Refined sugar offers no health benefits and provides nothing but additional empty calories. This includes all artificial sweeteners as well including high fructose corn syrup.
Avoid refined grains. This includes white flour and white rice, which are processed and no longer contain the beneficial fiber that whole grains and brown rice contain. The fiber is more filling, so eating the whole version of the grain will help you feel fuller and eat less.
There are definitely foods that are ‘cleaner’ than others. This goes back to the good, better, best line of thinking.