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Off late, new-age wellness has seen a lot of different trends that keep cropping up regularly. There’s veganism, detox diets, the growing popularity of organic foods – and now, joining the bandwagon of popular trends is ‘clean eating’! Plenty of wellness bloggers and fitness enthusiasts have been trying their hand (or mouth!) at eating clean, with varying results to show for it. But is eating clean really worth all the hype?
First of All, What is Clean Eating?
Clean eating is based on the principle of eating food that’s as close to its natural state as possible. This means packaged and processed foods are totally out of the picture, and home-cooked, plant-based meals rule supreme. Food with high levels of sugar need to be replaced with fruit or their healthier counterparts and lean proteins should be the preferred choice of meat.
When the instructions sound so straightforward, it does sound like we’re talking about healthy eating habits right? Well, turns out that clean eating has its differences, and these differences should probably make you move towards healthy eating, rather than clean eating.
4 Reasons Why You Need to Eat Healthy Than Eat Clean
While clean eating is based on the principles of healthy eating, the former could be more trouble than it’s worth.
1. Healthy Eating is More Suitable for the Long-term
An extreme clean eating plan can prohibit you from ever looking in the direction of sugar, gluten, dairy, alcohol, and all things deemed inorganic and unhealthy. The change can be a bit too drastic for someone who finds dieting difficult, let alone cut out any bit of food that can offer joy! While there are certain things you can slowly cut out of your diet and will do you good too, saying no to anything that isn’t organic or locally produced is bound to get difficult after a point – especially if there isn’t a dire need for such an action.
On the other hand, healthy eating requires you to find a balance between different food groups and incorporate it all into your diet in the right proportion. This ensures that you’re not quitting anything cold-turkey and have a bit of everything to eat, making it a friendlier style of eating to adopt over the long term.
2. Healthy Eating Promotes a Healthy Attitude Towards Food
Imagine attributing virtue and goodness to all things green and freshly cultivated without as much as a speck of a chemical in sight, then looking down upon ‘evil, processed foods’ like that bag of chips you so loved – till you began eating clean. Restrictive ways of eating not only put certain foods on a pedestal, but completely diminish any value of foods that do not meet the diet’s standards. What this does is slowly turn you against such ‘bad’ foods, feel anxious because you crave for them, but feel wracked with guilt once you’ve so much as had a tiny piece.
Sometimes, it’s important to understand that if a particular kind of ‘unhealthy’ food makes you feel good and is your once-in-a-while treat to yourself, that too is an important aspect of treating your body right! A healthy relationship with your body calls for an equally important relationship with what’s on your plate!
3. Healthy Eating Ensures That You Don’t Miss Out on Any Nutrients
Cutting out food groups or steering clear of certain foods because you couldn’t find their organic alternatives can make you deficient in certain nutrients over a period of time. Unless there is an absolute necessity to go gluten-free (you have celiac disease, for example) or dairy-free (lactose intolerance is a pain!), don’t scratch such products out of your daily diet forever; it’s only going to cause you more harm than good!
Healthy eating helps you gain a balance between various food groups, thus ensuring that you get a bit of everything and that your nutrient quota is satisfied!
4. Clean Eating Can Aggravate Eating Disorders
If you were already battling an eating disorder, clean eating can push you over the edge, or cause you to become prone to orthorexia, the rigid and wrong obsession with clean eating. This is not to say that everyone who tries clean eating is going to turn into gluten-free-dairy-free-sugar-free-all-things-free monsters overnight! But if your mental health takes an unhealthy turn once you start with your clean eating regime, i.e. you feel unhappy, unhealthier, dissatisfied, and completely uncomfortable with your relationship with food, etc. then you probably need to reassess if the plan is right for you.
Given that healthy eating doesn’t focus on depriving you of foods or make you feel guilty for eating something you’d wanted, your relationship with food stays healthy, making you less prone to developing any eating disorders.
Things to Keep in Mind While Adopting the ‘Clean AND Healthy Eating’ Plan
If you feel like you want to stick to the clean eating plan, make sure you go about it the healthy way! Here’s everything you can do:
- Find a balance between the various food groups. Do not restrict yourself from any in particular, unless there is a strong reason to do so.
- Don’t cut the unhealthy stuff out of your life entirely. Sure, a chocolate bar isn’t the healthiest snack out there, but indulging in your guilty pleasures once in a while will only make you feel better! Just make sure that they don’t become too frequent in nature.
- Make changes slowly. If you’re not really a veggie person, a salad bowl for lunch is just going to depress you. Why subject yourself to something so drastic so soon? Instead, add healthy components to your dishes on a daily basis, while slowly phasing out elements you could do without. This also helps you stick to your plan over the long-term because your body gets time to adjust to the changes you’re making.
- Understand that ‘organic’ doesn’t always mean healthy. If you’re gorging on your gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free cookie thinking that you’re helping your body out, bad news – a cookie is still a cookie. It can be packed with calories or fats which are not doing your body any favours!
- Home-cooked foods – easy, nutritious, delicious – can help you stay on track more than depending on restaurant dishes or packed foods that claim to be 100% healthy. At least you’re sure of what’s going into the dish you’re cooking!
As is the case with anything that’s good, benefits can only be reaped if it isn’t exploited in excess or overdone. Eat healthily, eat clean, but let loose once in a while and give your body what it asks for – that’s how you ensure that you stay on the right track!
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