Forget food fads, Jane Pikett serves up a guide to clean eating the healthy way…
Food fads and foibles, depending on how you look at them, are either the products of a self-obsessed, snowflake society or a perfectly reasonable backlash against the ultra-processed pap which has made the UK Europe’s fattest country.
Whichever side of the fence you stand, the term ‘clean eating’ has, deservedly or not, got a bad press in recent years, more associated with faddery and frippery than what it was actually designed to be – a focus on natural, unprocessed food.
But love or loathe the term, you can’t argue with the assertion that highly processed foods aren’t good for you, whereas whole, seasonal and local foods generally are.
So, how best to eat clean – and what does it really mean? Well, first off, if the food you’re about to put in your mouth doesn’t look like its original form, then it isn’t clean.
Take the rise of vegan alternatives in supermarkets. Great – veganism is healthy, right? Well yes, the whole food version of it is; no-one’s going to argue that a surplus of chickpeas did anyone any harm. But check the ingredients and nutritional properties of some processed vegan alternatives such as burgers and pies, and you’ll find that you can’t always take their health-giving properties for granted.
Clean eating focuses on consuming whole foods that are minimally processed and as close to their natural form as possible – so a whole mushroom, lightly grilled and served with wilted spinach is likely to be cleaner than a shop-bought mushroom and spinach sausage.
Additionally, because eating clean means relying less on processed, shop-bought items and preparing more meals at home, it could save you money.
When you strip down all the pseudo psycho babble that its Hollywood exponents put out about it, clean eating’s proponents are just sensible – eat more vegetables, take in less refined sugar and carbs, and concentrate on food that looks like food, rather than the product of a factory production line.
The best diet is recognised as a varied one, generally Mediterranean in style with lots of olive oil, vegetables, and pulses. The more restrictive and the more caveats, the less healthy the diet. And while avocados now outsell oranges in the UK, both in their unprocessed form are good for you. To eat clean, try the following tips…
Cut out added sugar
This is easy – just cut food and drink with added sugar in the ingredients list. Your tastebuds will notice at first, but you will get used to it. Replace your post-lunch Haribo hit with good quality dark chocolate and swap ice cream for Greek or soya yoghurt topped with berries and cinnamon.
Eat local and seasonal
Where you can, make a habit of knowing where your food comes from. Form a relationship with your butcher, fishmonger and greengrocer and eat seasonally.
Drop diet foods
Low-fat dressings, diet drinks and meal replacement bars are often loaded with artificial sweeteners, preservatives and added sugar. A low-fat yogurt, for instance, can contain as much as 6 teaspoons of sugar in a serving. Instead, opt for full-fat yoghurt with no added sugar.
Ditch refined carbs
Filling up on white rice, bread and pasta is the antithesis of clean eating. These refined carbs lack vitamins, minerals, fat, protein and fibre and are associated with an increased risk of obesity and diabetes. Swap refined grains for whole, fibre-rich grains like oats, barley and brown rice. They’re good for you, and more filling.
Eat whole foods
Eat mostly whole foods in their least processed form. So, for breakfast that means porridge topped with berries or banana instead of a bowl of Cheerios.
Fill up on protein
Clean sources of protein like eggs, poultry, fish, tofu, dairy, nuts and beans are filling and good for you. Use them in your meals and replace your usual snack bar with celery sticks and hummus or rice cakes topped with hard-boiled egg or sugar-free organic nut butter and banana.
It can be more expensive, but where you can, try to decrease your intake of contaminants like herbicides and pesticides by going organic.