Eating Clean vs. Losing Weight... and a Recipe!
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We are bombarded with information related to "clean eating," but what does that really mean? My clients struggle with this, and most people think they are eating "healthy." It can be a subjective term, so here is my definition:
A diet consisting of real, whole food, which is food or a combination of foods that are in their original form with minimal to zero processing or no added artifical ingredients - including added sugars and weird additives/preservatives. Look out for food that has been uber-processed with ingredients you would not cook with (e.g. ingredients starting with x's and z's :) )!
Clean foods also include all of their original properties, so that means avoiding foods that are labeled "fat free" when they naturally contain fat, etc. Watch dairy especially, and make sure that your fat free yogurt is not chock-full of sugar and artificial flavorings that enhance the taste. I use fat free or low fat plain Greek yogurt sometimes, but I make sure it only contains milk/dairy and live cultures.
Clean foods are those that are not genetically modified and are free of harmful pesticides and added hormones - here's a great reference defining the term "organic" on labels: http://www.organic.org/home/faq
Here are several examples of "clean food" choices to look for in the grocery store (there are many more) - I always recommend organic when possible:
1. Fresh fruit and vegetables
2. Chicken and grass-fed beef
3. Free range eggs
4. Nuts and nut butters with no additives, including walnuts, almonds, etc.
5. Wild caught fish - here's a guide showing mercury levels in various types of fish: http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/mercury/guide.asp
6. Plain yogurt, kefir
7. Minimally processed organic grains like quinoa, brown rice, steel-cut oats/oat groats, and sprouted grains.
8. Beans - dried beans are optimal (and cheaper!) because they haven't been as processed as canned ones, and it's probably best to avoided exposure to canned goods in general if possible.
9. Organic coffee and teas
You'll notice that everything on the list likely requires some sort of preparation, which will make some of you roll your eyes! I get it...your time is valuable, BUT all of the quick, processed foods are taking a severe toll on our health, so swap convenience for nourishing foods. Clean foods nourish your body and provide fuel to rebuild and energize you. If you fill your tank with junk, eventually you'll break down :(
That being said, I am ALL about efficiency! You'll actually save a lot of money by not eating out as much, and I would rather spend money on the front end improving my health than on the tail end with rising medical costs. Dedicating a few hours a week to grocery shopping, preparing clean foods, and having a selection of vegetables and fruits on hand will revolutionize the way you eat. It's not that bad...I promise! I still use some quick foods - like protein powders - that are high-quality and as organic as possible.
I truly believe if you eat "clean foods" 80-90% of the time, your health will improve tremendously. Like I have written before, start making small changes each week or each month, and you'll notice that converting to a healthy way of living is not as impossible as you may think.
Now, many people who are currently eating a heavily processed diet consisting of foods like breakfast cereals, lunch meat, frozen meals, "low fat" flavored yogurts, cookies/candy, etc. will probably lose weight just by switching to a clean eating.
However, simply switching to clean eating does not automatically equate to weight loss. Sorry :(
Although, your insides will thank you by seeing improvements in areas like overall inflammation, blood sugar stability, cholesterol levels, and energy levels, etc.!
If you switch to a clean diet and still have not lost weight, you need to look at overall portion sizes and macronutrient (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) ratios. If 80% of your diet consists of carbohydrates, like potatoes and beans, you probably are not going to lose weight.
The amount of food you are eating (calories), and the ratio of your macronutrients is extremely important for fat loss. Too much of any macronutrient will prevent you from losing weight.
There are different theories on what that ratio should be, and I think everyones' needs are unique and depend on a variety of factors, including gender, age, and activity level. It also depends on what your goal is - are you trying to lose weight or maintain?
The current U.S. dietary guidelines for carbohydrate intake is 45-65% of your diet. If my diet consisted of 65% carbohydrates, I would fall into a coma every afternoon and crave more carbohydrates!
However, when I have restricted carbs to low in the past, I felt horrible - I had no energy, was not sleeping well, had sugar cravings out the ying-yang, and had some digestive issues. I also used to avoid fat at all costs, which wreaked havoc on my hormones and made me feel hungry all of the time. There's a perfect balance for all of us, and you must find yours.
If you are trying to lose weight, experiment with your ratios, and if you need help, give me a shoutout!
Clean Eating Recipe: Mexican Citrus Salad
I brought this salad to a party the other night, where the host was serving homemade chicken tortilla soup. It paired wonderfully!
1 large bag or large container of organic baby kale or spring mix
1 navel orange or 2 medium oranges peeled and sliced into small (~1 inch) pieces
1/2 red onion diced
1/2 large or 1 entire small ripe but firm avocado peeled and diced into small (1/2 inch) chunks
2 cups of cooked mixed beans (kidney, black, and white) or just black beans
1/3 c of pepitas
Optional - I did not add tomatoes or corn, however organic baby heirloom tomatoes and corn would be a tasty and colorful addition!
Juice from 2 limes
Juice from 3 small oranges or 6 clementines(strain out seeds)
2 Tbsp dried oregano flakes
1-2 minced garlic cloves
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp of ground cumin
Pinch of dried chili flakes (depending on spice preference)
1 cup of fresh cilantro rinsed and dried
Salt and pepper to taste
* I always use A TON of spices! Taste the dressing and feel free to add more of any spices before serving.
Rinse and dry all of the greens for the salad
Top with all of the salad ingredients
Sprinkle top with pepitas
Put all salad dressing ingredients into a high speed blender (e.g. Vitamix) and blend until smooth. You may have to add a little water if it's too thick.
I did not mix the salad until serving because it looks too pretty!
Slowly add dressing as you mix salad immediately before serving so that it's not too soggy. Another option is to serve the dressing and pepitas on the side.
Store any extra dressing for later use
Per serving for 10 servings: calories 147; 6 g fat ; 17 g carbohydrates; 5 g fiber; 5 g protein
Exchanges: 1 grain/starch; 1 fat; 1 protein