I have to confess, I am really into eating healthy and getting ripped but I do hate the term ‘eating clean‘, the phrase has been around for decades but thanks to so many so-called experts the word now has so many meanings, everyone wants a simple how to guide.
There is no universal definition for clean, despite it being used in magazines, blogs, diet plans etc. everywhere, it is hard to know what this definition can mean to some people or how effective it will be toward their goals.
Not every definition of the word clean is useless though, some have real value whilst others will only work for people with certain goals. let’s have a look at some of the most popular advice when it comes to clean eating and what you can or shouldn’t take away from each one:
This advice usually means it came in a packet or bought from the middle aisles of a grocery store but trying to completely eliminate processed foods is not feasible long-term unless you are among the small percentage of people who operates a fully working farm and has all day to tend to the plants.
Many people would only consider real food, but for me anyway this is just a real pain as I don’t always have time to prepare lots of different soups the night before so canned soup is still an option for me even though I like to consider myself to be a fairly clean eater, processed foods do offer some advantages as well such as the safety aspect of all food stuffs and the bioavailability of some nutrients and antioxidants and allows us to quickly and easily whip up some great recipes from the net.
There are plenty of good examples of processed foods out there: hummus, no added sugar tomato sauce, whole-grain cereal and Greek yogurt are just a few of the many thousand out there.
Nutrition is a complex subject and it is a shame that you can’t just boil it down to just eliminating whole categories of foods but doing so is a dis service to your wallet, time and taste buds.
Whole grains are a great source of fiber and contain vitamin B naturally which is added to refined grains. Refined grains lose up to 20 different nutrients only to have many but not all added back after processing. Many gluten-free grains however do not add back these nutrients but are rich in others so certainly will not hurt you.
For years top nutritionists and many people have thought that several small meals each day would help fire up their metabolism and decrease the chances of reaching for the vending machine.
The truth is that there is no difference in the number of calories burned whether you eat a few bigger meals each day or several smaller ones. Research has shown that we need a certain amount of protein with each meal, around 25-30g+ to maximise muscle growth and help with repair. Eating 3-4 meals per day seems to help more with this and makes it easier to incorporate this into your day versus bite size meals several times per day.
So why you ask does this one not get the useless label? Because there is a use for the frequent meal approach, cramming more meals into each day for someone trying to gain weight. You have to do it for the right reasons. Eating five 500-calorie meals rather than three 600-calorie meals means you are getting an extra 1,000 calories as well as more carbs, protein and fats but don’t think it is in the name of metabolism.
Some people like to phrase this one as eating protein and carbs at every meal whilst others will include fat in it as well. Some short-term research conducted tells us that adults should consume between 25-30g of protein with each meal to keep and build muscle tissue, so if building muscle is your goal then by all means prioritize protein. Fat is also a requirement for efficient absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and certain antioxidants.
It is usually a good idea for this reason to have some fat when you are taking a multivitamin, fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D or eating a big, leafy green salad. Certain high-fiber carbs keep the bacteria in our gut, helps prevent constipation and keeps it healthy.
You can include all three of these macronutrients in your meal but is not essential to go off in search of whole grains or olives to complete your meal, even a protein shake is an acceptable meal sometimes. Even things like dressed greens or a piece of fruit, handful of olives or a piece of cheese, this is not a science experiment either.
Some people expand this warning to include fat and salt as well but this is an outdated way of thinking, foods with added sugars are useless for any athlete but an average gym goer is not an athlete. Added sugars make foods taste better as opposed to natural sugars such as those in fruit, added sugars add no nutritional value but plenty of calories.
A recent study from Cornell university found that out of 500 houses in Syracuse, New York, those households that ate cereals were 20 pounds heavier than their neighbors and those who consumed soft drinks were 24-26 pounds heavier, those who had a fruit bowl instead were actually 13 pounds lighter.
Pastry has a time and place though but if you are looking to clean up then the best place to start is at home.
Ask several registered dietitians, personal trainers or health coaches what clean eating is and you will most likely get as many responses as the number of people you have asked. Their core concepts may be the same but you are unlikely to hear anything to do with actual clean eating, food contamination and decreasing risk of food borne pathogens are far more important than people give them credit for.
Eating clean may end up costing you more money and frustration with food preparation and there is no guarantee that you will improve the nutrition content of the food in question, a restrictive approach to eating is unsustainable.
So hopefully this has been a little bit of new information for you when it comes on how to eat clean, added sugar and immense portion sizes are the real enemy here.
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