How to Eat Clean in 6 Simple Steps
How to Eat Clean in 6 Simple Steps
Build a Cleaner Plate
The decision to eat clean is an active one—an action that involves developing a closer, better relationship with your food. It’s about bringing food back to the basics and starting with the plate itself. Knowing what is in the food you are eating, the methods and preparations used to get it there, and where it came from is the foundation of a cleaner lifestyle. Use these six pillars for guidance, and start cleaning up your diet one plate at a time.
1. Cook More
The act of cooking empowers you to control exactly what goes into your food, which automatically puts you in control of being a cleaner eater. When you follow a recipe, you become the driver of what is in your food and where it comes from. Cooking allows you to cut back on added salt and sugar—and to completely remove preservatives, artificial flavors and colors, and trans fats from your plate. And that's where we come in. We are a food media brand. Our recipes are designed to service cooks of all skill levels and ages in an effort to make cooking at home more practical. About 70 percent of the recipes on cookinglight.com take less than 40 minutes from start to finish.
See More: 20 Clean Eating Recipes for Weeknights
2. Balance Your Plate
Make half your plate fruits and veggies. Shop from farmers’ markets, produce stands, or—even better—grow your own. Local produce is in season. In-season food is more flavorful, more nutritious, less likely to be modified or grown with pesticides, and better for your community.
Make whole grains your default and refined the exception. Whole grains contain more healthy oils, fiber, and protein than refined grains.
Go leaner and cleaner with meat: The USDA recommends just 5 to 6 ounces of meat per day for most men and women. (The average American consumes nearly double that amount, about 12 ounces.) At Cooking Light, we limit all of our meat portions—pork and red meat to 3 ounces, chicken to 4.5 ounces—and encourage more seafood and plant-based proteins. Look for meat that is grass-fed, raised without antibiotics or hormones, and preferably sold without an ingredient list.
3. Look at the Ingredient List
Look for less. The shorter the ingredient list, the better. Focus on the first ingredient. Ingredients are listed in order of weight, meaning the product is made mostly from the ingredient that is listed first. Aim for less than 10 ingredients, as a general rule. No ingredient list? These are often the best foods to fill your pantry with: grains and spices from bulk bins, fresh fruit and vegetables, and organically raised meat. Think about it—most farmers’ markets are full of foods without labels.
4. Know Where Your Food Comes From
Be aware of what you are eating. Can you trace the food you eat to the farm it came from? Buy food that didn't have to travel far to get to your plate (such as tomatoes from Alabama instead of Mexico). Shelf-stable foods may last longer, but they're almost always filled with artificial preservatives. Clean food shouldn't last 25 days without going stale. Ask yourself: Is it in season? Seasonal foods are nearly always fresher and taste better, too.
5. Drink More Water
About 43% of adults drink less than 4 cups of water a day, according to a 2007 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Beverages deliver more sugar, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and alcohol to the system than any other food source. By drinking more water, you'll naturally consume less of all of these. Bonus: People who drink more water are the same folks who eat a cup or more of fruits and vegetables a day, exercise more, eat less fast-food, and are more likely to shop at farmers' markets, according to the CDC report. Think about it: One medium skinny latte, a coconut water, and two glasses of wine might sound healthy, but in the end they add an extra 420 calories to your day, plus caffeine and alcohol.
Tip: Prefer a little flavor? Try infusing water with fruit, herbs, or even veggies.
6. Sit, Savor, Share.
Slow down. We eat mindlessly in the car and in front of the TV, valuing volume of food over quality of ingredients and even taste. Instead, sit down at the table to enjoy your food and eat with family or friends to improve the quality of a cleaner plate by sharing it with others.