The term ‘clean eating’ is making rounds lately, but what does it mean? In simple words, clean eating means eating food that is organic and minimally processed. Clean eating is a process that involves eating as little processed food as possible, and sticking to naturally grown foods such as whole grains, leafy vegetables, seeds and nuts.
Why Is Clean Eating Beneficial?
Clean eating is extremely beneficial for maintaining good health. A lot of food we get in the market is heavily processed in factories – food such as pasta, refined sugar, store-bought yoghurt, etc. Because of the growing demand for food across the country, quantity is given importance over quality, and processed food lasts longer. Thus, most of the food we consume is laden with chemicals we shouldn’t put in our body.
Lucky for us Indians, achieving a proper clean eating plan is not a far-fetched idea because buying fresh veggies and loose grains is a part of our culture, no matter how many brands sell processed versions of it! Push aside the store-bought atta and go to your local kirana store and get loose wheat grains instead. Take the grains to your local chakki walah and get organic wheat flour to make your meals with. Clean eating is not as difficult as it sounds.
How to Lose Weight By Eating – Clean Eating Plan
Clean eating works wonders on your body and causes natural weight loss because you will automatically stop putting harmful chemicals in your body in the process. Remember that clean eating does NOT mean starving yourself – it means eating right. Knowing that is essential if you want to start the process of eating right through the clean eating plan.
Here are a few tips to abide by when starting a clean eating plan to lose weight:
1. Read Your Food Labels
This is the most important part of clean eating. Your food labels will have all the information about what the food contains in terms of calories, nutrition content, and other added preservatives. Do not stick only to reading calories because that is not as important as the other information – read the percentage of fat, components such as MSG, trans fats, and most importantly, processed sugars. Knowing how much stuff your food contains can help you eliminate the product and go for a more organic option instead.
2. Reduce Your Intake of Processed Sugar
Too much sugar in the system can slow down the process of weight loss, especially if you’re not an active person. Sugar tends to accumulate in the body as fat if not burned via exercise, causing lethargy, mood swings, anxiety and headaches if consumed in high quantities. To have a productive day, cutting down on sugar is a good idea. This is probably the most difficult part of clean eating, but the impact of cutting excess sugar from your diet will immediately show results not just on your body, but also your mind. You’ll have more energy to do things, you’ll have fewer mood swings, and you’ll be generally happier.
3. Understand the Science Behind What You’re Eating
The word ‘diet’ is thrown around loosely and carelessly. Have you ever wondered why people can’t stick to diet plans? It is because the approach behind dieting is flawed. There are very few nutritionists that are both well-informed and within one’s budget, and even then, a lot of them start with all the things you shouldn’t eat instead of telling you what and how you should eat. Clean eating is not just choosing organic food, but also understanding the science behind what you are eating.
The body requires four major things apart from vitamins and minerals – proteins, carbohydrates, fibre, and fats. Carbohydrates are required by the body to function on a daily basis – sitting, standing, breathing, walking, etc. These are also absorbed very quickly into the system, which then causes hunger. If a person increases their carbohydrate intake and does not exercise to burn off the excess, the excess converts to fats and gets stored in the body. This explains your belly and the jiggly parts of your body.
Proteins and fats on the other hand do not get absorbed into the system as quickly as carbs – their break-down process is slower and hence, they last longer in the system. Fibre is required for the clean functioning of your bowels.
We need all these things to function, and drastically cutting down on any of them is harmful. Thus, it’s important to understand what you’re eating. In order to lose weight and not struggle, reduce the proportion of carbs you eat, and slowly increase your protein, fat, and fibre intake. Make sure to eat good fats like almonds and walnuts, and not only cheeses and butters. Remember, not all carbs, fats and proteins are good for you, and educate yourself on each of these things for maximum benefits.
4. Go Local
If you want your clean eating plan to work effectively, go for local sources of produce as opposed to store-bought, pre-package stuff. As mentioned above, Indians are lucky in that department – we already have a culture of vegetable vendors and local bakers in markets who are available 24/7 and it is not going to go away, so make the most of it. Not only is the produce fresh and clean, but is also less likely to be injected with hormones or food colouring to make it ‘look’ good. Buying food from local sources is a guarantee that the food is not processed or laden with bad fats, chemicals or added sugar. Aside from that, it is much cheaper, and the money goes directly to the farmers who have toiled to grow these crops. Clean eating, thus, is not just good for your health, but also for your wallet and for the well-being of your local farmers.
5. Modify Your Favourite Meals
Clean eating isn’t as difficult as you think. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys eating out or cooking ‘unhealthy’ stuff, you can try and modify your favourite dishes to suit your new clean eating plan. You don’t have to completely give it up – you can just change it. For example, if you like eating pasta, try to avoid store-bought pasta and find a local baker who makes pasta and sells it. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can make pasta yourself! Instead of store-bought juice, go for fresh fruits and make the juice yourself. It will taste better and will be devoid of artificial flavour or added sugar. Making simple switches like brown rice from white rice and brown bread from white bread can make a world of a difference.
6. Add Colour to Your Meals
The easiest way to make sure you are eating correctly and enough is by making your meals colourful. This doesn’t mean adding food colouring, but adding more different items into what you eat during every meal – a little bit of green could be palak, a little red could be some chicken curry, a little yellow could be some dal, some brown could be brown rice – different colours will ensure that you’re eating from different food groups and not just sticking to the same two or three things.
7. Listen to Your Body, Not to Other People
Every person’s body is different, and different things suit them. Understanding your body’s needs is the prime way to get your weight down, because you won’t be blindly sticking to a diet chart. For example, when your body needs water, it sends out a signal that is the same as feeling hungry. We often mistake this signal for hunger and end up eating more than required. As a habit, before you eat, drink a glass of water and see if it makes a difference to your ‘hunger’ pangs. If it still does not, eat something.
8. Time Your Meals Right
Ignore any diet plan that tells you to skip meals, because that is dangerous for the body. Instead, opt for small, timed meals – keep munching on something every 2 hours along with your water to allow your body to get all its nutrients and stay full. Remember that the fresh produce you eat will also naturally keep you full, because it does not have any harmful preservatives or chemicals that can alter your system.
9. Check Your Progress Without Checking the Weighing Scale
We have been fed constantly that our weight determines our health status. That is far from the truth. Obviously, you would like to see the progress you are making, but the weighing scale may not be the best idea for it. Every person’s body is made differently, and your weight does not actually determine how well you are doing. For example, 1 kg of fat weighs less than 1 kg of muscle. If you are doing well with your eating and exercise, there is a chance that your fat is getting burned off, which is actually a great thing – but it may look like you’ve gained weight according to the scales because your body is turning more muscular. This can lead to sadness, obsession, and the need to give up. Instead of the weighing scale, measure your progress through other ways – are you feeling more energized lately? Can you walk up three flights of stairs without huffing and puffing? How many rounds can you run since you’ve started eating clean? If you want more accurate results, measure your body’s fat percentage – there are machines available for that. Ideally, each body has an optimum level of fat that is better not exceeded. Instead of checking your weight every week, eat clean and exercise daily for a month and measure your fat percentage. A reduced fat percentage is always a good sign – it means your body is getting healthier.
10. Have Fun with Your Food
This cannot be stressed enough. A word of advice: scratch the word ‘diet’ out of your vocabulary if you truly want to get healthy. Food is meant to be enjoyed and not seen as a punishment, so don’t hate yourself if sometimes you crave a chocolate or you just really want to have a packet of Maggi. Be kind to your body and your body will reciprocate. Conversely, start looking at fresh produce as good food too – fruits and veggies can taste as good as you make them. Make an effort to stick to a meal plan, and give yourself a cheat day to reward yourself. The only person responsible for your health is you, and how you get there is completely under your control.
Clean eating is a great idea to get healthy – it does not involve a strict regime per se, but it requires dedication which you can develop over time. It’s time to debunk the myth that eating less is the only way to lose weight – in fact, eating right is a better and more fun way to do so!