You probably know that you do not go on a clean eating diet for a certain period of time. This expression itself might be misleading. Instead clean eating is a holistic approach to nutrition that you can practice for your entire life.
So let’s dig a bit deeper into the anatomy of clean eating and how you can simplify this healthy nutrition concept based on whole foods.
Maybe you are already “eating clean” without even knowing it. For many years, I was not even aware that I was already unconsciously embracing a type of clean eating philosophy. “Clean eating” a term that a lot of people in the U.S. have been using to describe healthy eating habits didn’t exist here in Germany some years ago.
Consuming more fruits and veggies, but less packaged foods with added sugar, is something our mothers taught us. This advice cannot be overemphasized, but it is not new.
If healthy nutrition disguised by the buzzword “clean eating” supports to spark the masses, it might help to combat the steadily increasing overweight and obesity rates.
So first let’s break down the anatomy of a clean eating diet.
1. What is clean eating?
2. Why is it so popular?
3. Weight loss
4. Health Benefits
5. Diet Basics
6. Who invented it?
7. Who is it for?
9. 52-week habit challenge
10. What really matters
11. The 80:20 approach
12. How to eat clean
13. You are what you eat
1. What is clean eating?
It is not easy to find an objective definition as this “marketing” term is not protected by trademark law.
A “clean” food for you might be unhealthy or inappropriate for another person. It comes down to many factors like your personal beliefs, your health situation, how and where you live, your culture etc.
- Are you a vegetarian or a vegan?
- Do you have any food allergies?
- Are you an emotional or stress eater?
- Do you suffer a specific illness?
- Are you an office worker or an athlete?
For each of you “clean” has a very subjective meaning and you will have to define it for yourself.
Sidenote: My own interpretation
For me it just means trying to maximize the nutrition of natural, plant strong whole foods while minimizing empty calories. As long as my food is nutrient dense, high fiber and has enough satiating power, then occasional deviation from the plan is fine. I love in this context the 80/20 approach: ‘If I can eat healthy 80% of the time, then I can afford to treat myself 20% of the time’. More about my 80/20 approach in a minute.
What does “clean” mean for you? Think about it!
2. Why is it so popular?
The simplicity and flexibility of clean eating is quite easy to understand and has thus gained popularity. You just ask yourself: Would my grandmother have it recognized as food?
Many people today are aware of the connection between poor health and processed food. Clean eating educates you on the pitfalls of our modern industrialized processed foods. It shows you how to remove chemicals, hormones and trans fats from your diet, while focusing on foods directly from nature.
The core and also the real challenge of clean eating is the habit-alteration. This is by the way also the focus of my website LeanJumpStart.com.
3. Clean eating and weight loss – why it goes hand in hand
As the ultimate un-fad diet, this nutrition concept does not tell you to lose weight, but instead shows you how to get healthy. It highlights the idea of eating the right type of food groups to make your body function better.
The primary goal is changing how you think about, select, and consume foods. This could mean instead of using store-bought dressings, preparing your own salad dressing with e.g. olive oil. Others might want to learn how to prepare an oil-free dressing. Weight loss – if wished – will just be the by-product or end product of the entire process.
4. Health benefits
Eating clean is not just for people looking to lose weight. Indeed, there is now an abundance of evidence to suggest that a clean eating lifestyle offers a huge array of health benefits. Among others it will help you:
- have a tougher immune system to fight infections
- have more energy and better concentration
- improve mood and boost happy feelings
- normalize blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- improve the heart function and circulation while reducing the risk of a heart disease or stroke
- reduces susceptibility of getting certain forms of cancer
- leads to a more active and longer life
5. Clean Eating Diet Basics
Here are the basic principles:
- Choose natural, whole foods
- Mix complex carbohydrates with lean proteins in most of your meals
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables
- Consume healthy fats
- Eat 5-6 meals throughout the day
- Preferably cook your own meals
- Drink sufficient water (downshift fruit juice)
There exist more radical approaches:
Some clean eaters focus on eating only organic food. Others avoid dairy. Again others who sympathize with the whole food plant based (WFPB) concept don’t consume any oil. It all comes down to what you personally will accept in your nutrition and life plan. The most scientifically supported solutions in this context are balance and moderation.
Don’t get me wrong I am a big advocate of organic food. But for many families, organic eating is not always a financially viable option. I’m convinced that those who are living frugally can also develop healthy eating habits.
6. Who invented it?
A clean eating diet is so common-sense that no one really can take credit for inventing this healthy eating concept. The following equation sums it up:
All Food – Food Inventions = Clean Foods
7. Who is it for?
At first glance such a diet might seem better for the fitness competitor or bodybuilder since they form their bodies to earn a living. But most of you are not paid to look good. Nutrition does not have to be the focal point of your life.
Having a simplified, practical way to eat healthfully is crucial. From your own experience you know that it is so easy to fall into a bad habit of fast food and TV dinners.
You wish to eat foods that are minimally processed before consumption. However, you are often organizationally overwhelmed. You do not have time to cook elaborate meals for yourself that your family is not going to eat.
Clean eating can work for you too.
I am convinced that with a “guided” common sense approach you could easily change your lifestyle. I will help you to develop and automate tiny, smart habits to work towards a healthier lifestyle.
8. Challenges of a Clean Eating Diet
The sad truth is once you are prepared to switch to a healthier, clean eating lifestyle you might encounter some unexpected hurdles.
Too extreme of an approach
Life is all about balance and to me many clean eating books show zero balance. I have read about diets that are too extreme or dogmatic for someone trying to make dietary changes. Everything you ever loved is cut out and replaced with food ingredients you have never even heard of or tried.
One thing that science has proven is that most overweight persons have a food addiction that is equivalent to an alcoholic or a drug user. Replacing every piece of food with an all “clean” diet is very radical. Trying to set everything into motion from the beginning provokes a high frustration level. People are overwhelmed, give up and open a bag of potato chips instead. 😉
But that’s not all!
Promotion of Supplements
Another problem is that many “eat clean” books promote the use of supplements that will empty your wallet and deliver only a placebo effect. These supplements are sold by an unregulated industry. Numerous studies show that these supplements are not useful.
Lack of simple step-by-step instruction
The most clean eating books I have read so far have one thing in common: They lack a simple step by step set of instructions on how to develop clean eating habits. However, many people want a diet plan they can follow to slowly phase out certain unhealthy foods and add new healthier foods.
9. 52 week habit challenge
The lack of simple step-by-step instructions was the reason I started LeanJumpStart in 2013 and developed the 52 week clean eating challenge. It is so easy to get obsessed with clean eating as a life goal and getting caught up in rigid rules. But that is not what you need.
10. What really matters are healthier habits.
By developing smart behaviors, you will have more energy and time for the people and things in life that are most meaningful to you. Although you cannot “buy” discipline you can learn it. The easier the habits you are tackling, the higher is your success rate.
That is why I have worked out an action plan for you to help you in developing smarter, tiny habits and routines. My main focus is on:
- fitness and
In my 52 Chef Habits Course you will get 52-weekly changes over the course of a year jam-packed with tips that give you clarity and direction. I have made these new behaviors so easy that you will not feel like you are making drastic changes. It will give you the organization you may be lacking in your life. 52 weeks of guided lessons that cover everything to make your clean eating habits stick.
11. Jumpstart your Clean Eating Habits:
The 80/20 approach (Part 1)
The 80/20 rule is also known as the Pareto principle which defines that 80% of results come from 20% of causes. There are two ways how I define 80/20 in the context of clean eating.
The habit changes that I present to you will have a “lean approach”. You just work smart on the 20% of right things to achieve 80% of your wished results – simple and yet very effective. (In the next section you will see how we turn this rule around and it still works for us. )
What you get:
- clever inspirations for saving time and calories in your kitchen
- the simplest preparation of any type of healthy recipe (I’m a big fan of fiber rich recipes with just a few ingredients)
- creative ideas about how to de-clutter your eating environment
- useful tips about how to make better food choices and to not be swayed by marketing
- organizational tips for healthy living
- free motivational or educational charts and tools
12. How to eat clean: 80/20 (Part 2)
There is a second way how you can interpret the 80/20 rule. In the context of healthy eating, 80/20 means building a lifestyle that you can live with for the rest of your life. You just aim for 80% clean eating while 20% is reserved for optional diversion from the plan.
Balance is essential. You do not have to be perfect all the time. The 20% gives you the necessary flexibility for different situations like birthdays, dining out, snacks etc. After many years of clean eating I’d even say that I nowadays just need a flexibility of 5% for optional diversions from the plan. Ok, around Christmas time it might be a bit higher;)
Did I mention that I love the Pareto principle? It works in so many areas of our life.
13. You are what you eat!
From day to day you begin feeling a little bit more energetic and a lot better about your ability to take charge of this important area of your life. The sooner you start, the better your chance of living a life full of energy with improved overall health and fitness.
Click below to jump start clean eating today!
This article is basically a 30,000 foot overview of what is taught in depth in the 52 Chef Habits Course, and sooo much more!
14. Are you a “Pro”?
Are you already eating clean, then you might be interested in my advanced approach. Check below what I have published so far for those of you who want to take clean eating to the next level:
- Smart goals examples
- How to drink more water
- Ways to get to sleep
- How to eat more vegetables
- Best fruits to eat
- How to stop watching TV
- How to stop procrastinating
- How to eat more whole grain foods
- Low Fat Dairy Products
- How to change eating habits
- Laughing just for fun
- How to beat sugar addiction
- Healthy Nuts
- Clean Eating Meal Plan
- Stop Emotional Eating
- Buy Healthy Oils for Cooking
- Walking and Weight Loss
- Clean Eating and Weightloss
- Mason Jar Salad
- Healthy Spices
- What are the benefits of chia seeds?
- Clean Eating on a Budget
- Checking Weight
- High Fiber Foods