You may have heard people discussing clean eating, but what exactly does the term mean? Clean eating refers to incorporating more whole, fresh foods into your regular diet, but also includes changing your mindset about how your food choices impact more than your digestive system.
Those embracing clean eating reflect on the health benefits of their food and the energy used in producing it before sitting down for lunch. While the lifestyle does involve limiting your intake of processed foods in favor of farm-fresh meals, it places no strict prohibitions on what you may or may not eat. Rather, proponents of clean eating encourage you to consider the nutritional value of foods as well as the environmental impact of your dining choices.
What Is Clean Eating?
Does a clean-eating diet exist? Yes and no. Technically, all your food choices constitute your diet, whether you chow down on doughnuts and Doritos or nibble on lettuce and carrots.
Clean eating focuses on making healthier food choices overall, not on whether you eliminate certain dishes. While you may lose weight by cleaning up your dining decisions, that’s not the ultimate goal of eating clean. Rather, the goal is loving yourself enough to choose nutrient-rich natural foods that provide your body with the fuel you need to perform at your best.
What Clean Eating Does to Help the Environment
Think about the last time you felt truly famished. Did you spend a lot of time reflecting on the amount of energy needed to produce your favorite snacks and their packaging, or did you simply dig in?
Processed foods require far more energy to produce than apples or soybeans. While growing a field of cabbage or potatoes does use water and energy resources, manufacturers of popular junk foods use far more in fueling their machines for production. Additionally, foods like candy bars and crackers require packaging, which uses even more resources and creates landfill fodder, while bananas can be shipped in their peels.
That bag of potato chips may travel thousands of miles from the manufacturing plant, adding to vehicle emissions during transport. Produce grown locally requires less mileage to deliver from the farm to your table.
Finally, many embracing clean eating reduce their meat consumption. Producing beef and pork uses up feed that otherwise could go to hungry humans. Beef production makes up nearly 70 percent of rainforest deforestation, contributing to climate change.
Getting Started With Clean Eating
So the benefits of eating clean make you want to give it a go? Great! Here’s how to get started.
Begin by examining the unhealthy foods you crave, and replace one processed treat with a healthy, natural snack each week. For example, instead of hitting the drive-thru for fries, slice veggies like carrots and sweet potatoes into thin strips, coat lightly with olive oil and salt, and bake in the oven as a healthy substitute.
If you don’t wish to eliminate meat from your diet entirely, adopt traditions like meatless Mondays to cut back on your consumption. Reduce some of the environmental impact of beef production by opting to buy meats from local organic family farms, slashing transportation costs.
Substitute natural foods for processed ones based upon what your taste buds demand. Replace the 3 p.m. milk chocolate bar with a homemade fruit bar to satisfy your sweet tooth. Slake your need for a salty crunch by trading in the cheese puffs for mixed nuts.
As springtime approaches, local farmers markets make the perfect place for stocking up on organic lettuce for salads and berries to blend into a morning yogurt parfait. Those who occasionally add animal proteins to meals can also find fresh eggs from humanely raised chickens.
Healthy Mind, Healthy Body, Healthy World
Clean eating provides a score of health benefits, from lowering cholesterol levels to shedding unwanted pounds. Choosing foods that tantalize taste buds without relying on added processing limits your exposure to excess salt and sugar and simultaneously slashes environmental damage due to production. By gradually incorporating a clean eating mindset, you’ll improve the way you look and feel while protecting the planet we all share.