What is clean eating? How to start eating clean? How to eat healthy? These are questions we’ve probably all asked ourselves at one point or another.
I don’t really love-love that it’s called clean eating, because it sounds a little like there’s dirty eating.
But because I believe in balance and guilt-free eating, always, I don’t want to throw a list of hard and fast rules at you here. Instead, these are 6 simple guidelines for eating a balanced diet to nourish both your body and your soul.
Doing these things makes me feel more energized, happier and give me cleaner skin and fuller hair. I also happen to be at a stable weight for the first time since adolescence, and that means something coming from someone affected by disordered eating.
I cannot guarantee that you will see the same benefits, because no two bodies are alike. But I really suggest to give it a go for at least 8-12 weeks if you feel out of tune with yourself.
What is Clean Eating? Forget about the clean eating fad. Here are tips for eating a balanced diet without losing your mind:
1. cook your own food
You’re busy, I know.
I’m busy too, and trust me, I know exactly what it’s like to cook with multiple tiny kids wheezing around. The struggle is real.
BUT to know exactly what goes into your food it’s always best to cook at home.
I know it’s not always possible and you want to go out and have a nice meal at a restaurant from time to time, too (and that’s TOTALLY OK!).
Because I have come to love food so much, and because I want to celebrate that love in the kitchen, I cook.
Do we eat at McDonalds sometimes? You bet.
The important thing is to not beat yourself up over it.
2. eat a rainbow every day
And by rainbow I do not mean a unicorn milkshake. Sorry, unicorns. 🦄
Fruit and vegetables are part and parcel of a varied diet.
They will give you a boost of vitamins, minerals, fiber and beauty.
Yep, beauty. If your food looks appetizing, you’ll be more excited about eating it – and so will your kids!
If you’re in a place right now where you’re eating nothing but fruit and vegetables, you should skip this step. No, really. When I recovered from disordered eating, I didn’t touch much fruit or veg for months. Now I happily eat them in abundance, but I also eat ice cream without fear. So…
3. buy ingredients that excite you
If you stop buying nothing but highly processed, packaged ingredients, you’ll stop eating them. It’s as simple as that.
Instead, buy ingredients to nourish your body and soul:
Fresh fruit and veggies – anything and everything you like!
Grains like different rices, buckwheat, amaranth, oats, quinoa, millet, spelt, barley and wheat (GASP!). We don’t avoid wheat at all, but we like to eat a variety of grains over the course of a week vs eating mostly wheat. Otherwise it gets pretty boring.
Legumes like kidney beans, black beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas and lentils.
Proteins like chicken, turkey, pork, beef, fish, seafood. Practice moderation and enjoy plenty of vegetarian or plant-based meals instead of loading up on meat and fish three times per day.
Full fat dairy (gasp once more! yes, full fat, because low fat dairy is processed and tastes like muddy water). We prefer sheep’s or goat’s milk products from France (unapologetic food snobbery) and eat it in moderation.
Healthy fats: Unsalted nuts and seeds, such as cashews, almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds or sesame. Extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil. We also use organic grass-fed butter, because I prefer it over any weird margarine.
4. don’t replace your refined food choices, but add variety
Instead of only having refined white sugar, buy pure maple syrup, honey and raw cane sugar. Even naturally sweetened treats are treats
I do always add a little honey or maple syrup to things like yogurt or oatmeal. But I treat wholesome cookies, cakes and other treats like I would any other treat: They’re desserts and even if they’re made from healthy ingredients, they’re not something to eat in abundance every day.
Instead of only having refined white wheat flour, play with whole grain choices, too.
There’s not only whole wheat, but also whole spelt or rye flour.
Sometimes I even mill my own flour from whole grain berries! You need a flour mill for that, I absolutely love my German-Made one!. Whole grain flour you can buy is usually not true whole grain, but separated and then mixed together again. Truly whole grain flour is a hot mess to handle when you first start baking with it, the recipes I post here are made with conventional wholemeal flours.
If you want to see stone-ground flour recipes, shoot me an eMail 🙂
I do, however, bake plenty of cakes with regular flour. I also bake gluten free buckwheat cakes. I make cookies with sugar. I make muffins with honey. It’s all about eating in abundance and doing what makes you feel like a freaking goddess, my dear.
5. read your labels…. or don’t.
Sadly, you HAVE to read labels if you want to know what’s in the food you buy. Unless you shop at an all-organic farmer’s market where you know how everyone produces their food, then you shall be freed from label reading duty, but honestly – if that’s where you shop, consider yourself an exception.
If you’re anything like me, you mostly shop at a large chain grocery store, supplement with something like Whole Foods and do the emergency grocery runs at the closest shop to your home.
At all of these places you have to read the label if you want to know what you’re buying.
Don’t buy into health claims on the packets either. It’s generally best to not trust packaged food that says “light”, “diet” or similar things.
But you do not have HAVE to read labels. Only if you want to know what’s in your food.
Reading labels is not a requirement for survival, and if you cook a lot at home and very occasionally buy something ready-made or processed and you enjoy it and you go back to your balanced habits the following day, why stress yourself?
Not just the body needs feeding to be happy, the soul does, too.
6. hydrate regularly
You know it, you know you have to drink water to stay hydrated.
But it’s SO easy to forget. I know I will never forget to make my morning coffee, ha!
But drinking water all throughout the day? Between work, toddler tantrums, baby cries and a house that always seems to bring itself in disorder, I forget to take care of myself. Sounds familiar?
If you have trouble putting yourself and your health first, think of it this way: Who’s going to keep everything running if YOU don’t keep on running?
Try to stay hydrated throughout the day versus chugging a ton of water right before bed because you have to. I always feel foggy in my head and get snappy when I dehydrate, and drinking too much at bedtime keeps me from having a good nights’ sleep.
P.S: That’s delicious Basil Peach Agua Fresca in the pic!
7. Fuel yourself throughout the day
Do you ever get really ravenous (aka hangry) when you’re in a traffic jam and have to push back a meal? And then do you end up eating way more than you needed to?
And now, honesty time: Does this happen often because you skip meals or snacks because you’re busy? Because you don’t have a plan or schedule? Because… Life is crazy? What matters is that the kids are fed?
No no, my friend. What matters is that you EAT.
Just like with water I try to eat throughout the day vs eating nothing for hours and then ending the day with a gigantic meal. I typically eat three main meals (and no, they’re not small and no, they don’t leave me hungry) and three decent snacks.
If you start experimenting with this, you’ll hopefully notice that you’re actually hungry for your next meal. But it’s a nice and anticipating hunger, not an “I NEED TO EAT ALL THE DORITOREOSALAMICECREAM NOW!!!!” hunger.
As a recovering disordered eater, it is imperial for me to eat regularly. But it’s imported for anyone to keep themselves fuelled.
8. Enjoy yourself
It cannot be a happy and balanced approach to eating if you don’t enjoy your food.
This should really be the number one principle here. If you don’t enjoy what you’re eating, life gets pretty dull and stupid, if we’re being honest.
Embrace your changes. Involve the whole family in your meal prep. Buy a new veggie every time you go grocery shopping.
Whatever it takes, find true happiness in the way you eat!