What is the best diet? The healthiest, life promoting diet? This is a question I have pondered many times. There is a vast amount of contradictory information, and a large variety of people reporting positive results from this contradictory information! Who has got it right? The raw foodies? Vegans? The paleo diet? It can all get very confusing and overwhelming. So then I thought, rather than looking at all the differences these lifestyles have, would it not make more sense to ask what they all have in common?
They all advocate refraining from processed/junk foods from the diet. In essence eating clean.
So what is eating clean?
Before we start, eating clean is not making sure you throw your chocolate bar wrapper in the bin after eating it! Although, if you don’t, you should really be doing this! In a nutshell, clean eating is eliminating processed food and replacing it with REAL food, which is fresh and wholesome, and choosing to eat it in its most natural state, and avoiding “foods”, if you can call them that, that were invented in a lab somewhere – cereals, crisps, sweets, packaged dinners, chicken nuggets and fizzy drinks to name but a few. Such “foods” are high in calories but low in nutrition.
You want to be nourished and not just fed.
You want to be nourished and not just fed.
Whichever diet you follow, the key is to be eating quality - meaning the ‘best’ organic, cleanest, freshest, produce you can source. If you eat meat you will want to be eating meat from humanely raised, grass fed animals that you can source from local farms, and not factory farmed animals that have been pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. Try to choose the best quality you can in every situation, now this might depend on where you live and what your budget is, so do the best you can.
You know the famous saying ‘you are what you eat’ so if you’re always eating fast, easy cheap processed food…well I’ll say no more.
TOP TIPS TO CLEAN UP YOUR ACT:
#1 Eat foods without labels -Try to eat food that is straight from nature- fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, meats and healthy fats etc. In short, if it was grown on a plant, eat it; made in a plant, throw it away! Supermarkets are great for household items but not for food shopping. If you can, try and source a local market, if not, a good tip is to shop on the perimeters of the store, because chances are this is where the fresh grocery section, meat and seafood departments are, and avoid the middle section, as this is where the all the junk and processed food will be.
#2 Decode food labels-In an ideal world we would all grow our own food or have easy access to nutritious unaltered food, but alas we do not live in a perfect world, and sometimes we will eat food that comes in a box or a tin. We need to learn how to make smarter choices by reading labels on products, the aim here is stay away from anything that humans (companies) have altered in any way.
So here are some tips in what to look for in a good packaged food product, because to me it’s so important to know what we are putting in our bodies.
The most important part of any food label is the ingredients list. Ingredients must be listed in weight order, so the most prevalent ingredient will always be listed first. Try to look for products with the smallest amount of ingredients. Oatmeal, for example, should only ever have one ingredient: wholegrain oats! A good way to look at it is, if you couldn't buy any of the things on the ingredients as an ingredient in its own right then its properly not a clean / real food.
Imagine this- asking the lady at the supermarket; “excuse me, in which aisle can I find the sulphur dioxide?” I rest my case.
Food is an ingredient!
meat: Ingredient = meat.
apples: ingredient = apples
As an example, have a look at the pictures of these three jars of pasta/bolognese sauces which I found in my local supermarket
Number 1 has a lot of artificial ingredients, colours and preservatives added to it, a lot of which I don’t recognise, so this would make me question it.
Number 2 would definitely be a better option as I recognise all the ingredients on the list, the only thing I would question is the added sugar, I'm guessing it’s the nasty, processed, white refined sugar.
Number three would be my pick of them all, as again, I recognise all the ingredients and it lists them as certified organic, which makes me feel I am choosing a more quality product. However, even the best one lists sunflower oil in its ingredients; this is something I generally try to avoid, read this to learn further about why you should never eat vegetable oils.
So really the best thing to do would be to make your own pasta sauce from scratch using fresh produce. This is all I could find in my local supermarket, so I hope this drives home the point that you should always try to do your best in any given situation. If you do need to eat packaged food, there are differences in the quality of packaged food available, so always read the ingredients list to make sure you are making the best choices from what is available.Read here for a list of the top ten ingredients to avoid in packaged food.
Be wary of products that have “fat free” on them because it usually means that it’s been replaced by something else that isn't clean. I read somewhere online that whenever you see the words “fat free” or “low fat” think chemical shit storm! Remember (good) fat is your friend and you want to be getting good quality, healthy fats in your diet.
Quick example for you. I found this yogurt in the chilled section of my local supermarket.
It has fat free on the label but when you turn it over and take a look at the ingredients list, you can see some of that chemical shit storm, ahem ahem. I wont talk about all of the questionable ingredients in this yogurt here, but the one that stood out like a red flag was the Fructose Glucose Syrup. Products that contain FGS (known as High Fructose Corn Syrup in the US) are a marker for poor-quality, nutritionally-depleted, processed, industrial food, full of empty calories and artificial ingredients. If you find “Fructose Glucose Syrup” on the label you can be sure it is not a whole, real, fresh food, full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants. Stay away if you want to stay healthy.
Be aware of clever marketing. Sugar free cookies? Really?! If it isn't sweetened with real sugar, a lot of the times it will be replaced by chemically derived additives, so always make sure you know your ingredients and read the labels. Look for natural sweeteners like Stevia, honey, maple syrup and coconut sugar etc.
Bottom line – if it comes in a box/can it's probably not real food. However, we're human and sometimes convenience foods are just that – convenient. The trick is to know what ingredients to avoid at all costs, what to look for on the packaging so you can make more smart, informed choices.
I hope these tips help you when it comes to making good consumer choices. Like I've said before, it's ok to slip up sometimes or be with friends and eat a bag of chemical shit storm (I think I'm overusing this term now) because your body won't melt down right that second, but you need to think of the bigger picture and think of the all the cumulative damage you are doing to your bodies by eating these chemically laden products on a consistent basis. Be smart. Remember, try to aim for 80-90% clean with the odd chemical shit storm thrown in! Ok, ok! I promise I'll not use the phrase again.
3#Clean out -Once you've become a bit more savvy with reading food labels and understanding what is a clean food item, and what is not, you will start to clean out your cupboards and replace items with healthier, cleaner choices. Remember though, don’t get obsessive and throw out everything you love in one go! One step at a time. Read this it’s a brilliant guide I found which lists easy ingredient substitutions to make any recipe a cleaner recipe.
4# Don’t see it as a fad-Don’t think of this as some sort of new “diet” rather see it as a lifestyle choice. The key is to eat clean 80-90% of the time and don’t feel bad at all when you do have those cheat moments or days
or weeks. Moderation is key. Also key is educating yourself. Educate yourself on what is healthy and what myths there are out there about food. For example, eating fat makes you fat! I will be discussing fats in another blog post.
Eating clean, real foods needn't be so complicated. If we can, we should all try and eat foods from sustainable, independent foods system, instead of foods that come from corrupt mega corporations. The mega food corporations are there to serve themselves, they don't serve you!
When you know these truths, you will make make good choices enough of the time. When you know what really goes into a can of the famous Cola drink, you might think twice about consuming it. You're not gonna be perfect hell, I'm not perfect and do occasionally eat foods which aren't clean, but it's all about progress not perfection. The point is to always try your best and continually seek to educate yourself so you can make the right choices.
There is no one thing as a "natural diet" for all people. We are all individuals, with different bodies, and different needs, each group of people around the world has their own distinctive diet.
Bottom line: Starting with eating clean and eating quality is the best platform to achieve whatever health goals you wish to achieve. Be liberated from the next big mainstream “diet”, one day this diet is the next best thing, another day its another, usually it’s just recycling the same old thing and putting another label on it and getting people hyped up, in reality it’s just another hamster wheel for people to get on. Access your own common sense and inherent wisdom.