A new survey from the International Food Information Council (IFIC) reveals that just 16 percent of Americans practice clean eating. Furthermore, a mere 12.3 percent of adults meet the CDC’s fruit intake recommendations, and only 10.0 percent meet the vegetable intake recommendation.
To say that Americans need help eating more healthily feels like an understatement.
If you’re interested in clean eating but aren’t sure where to start, this guide is for you. It features simple tips to help you make your diet more nutritious and achieve your health and wellness goals.
What Is Clean Eating?
One reason so many people struggle with clean eating is that they don’t understand what it means. Does it mean only eating kale and blueberries? Does it mean you can never eat something that comes in a package?
Simply put, clean eating revolves around the following principles:
- Consume more whole, natural foods
- Reduce intake of processed foods, fast food, etc.
- Consume a healthy balance of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) at each meal
- Reduce sugar intake (especially sugary drinks like soda, flavored coffees, etc.)
There’s a lot of room for personalization within the clean eating framework. For example, some might decide to eliminate meat and animal products. In contrast, others may continue consuming animal products, but only if they’re pasture-raised, grass-fed, or wild-caught.
Simple Strategies to Eat Cleaner
The all-or-nothing mindset is a common stumbling block for those who want to practice clean eating. They assume that if they don’t make the healthiest choices all the time, they might as well give up and hit the drive-thru.
Instead of striving for perfection, aim to make gradual changes over time. Here are some simple strategies that will help you eat cleaner and develop a healthier lifestyle:
Choose Whole Grains
Despite what some would have you believe, you don’t have to cut out carbohydrates to eat clean. However, replacing refined carbs (white bread, white pasta, etc.) with whole grain alternatives is a good idea.
Whole grains typically contain more nutrients and fiber than their refined counterparts. They’ve also been linked to a reduced risk of several conditions, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Add a Fruit or Vegetable to Every Meal
Many people find adding nutritious foods to their diet easier than eliminating unhealthy ones. For example, instead of overhauling your entire meal at once, consider adding one nourishing item, like a piece of fruit or a serving of vegetables.
This approach allows you to continue eating the foods you enjoy and introduce new, nutrient-rich foods. Over time, you might find that the fruits and vegetables start overshadowing other items on your plate.
Protein is an essential macronutrient.
Remember that protein doesn’t just come from meat, poultry, and fish. You can also get it from legumes like beans and lentils, as well as dairy products like Greek yogurt.
Watch for Sneaky Sugars
When most people think of high-sugar products, they think of candy, baked goods, or soda.
Sugar is present in these items, but it also hides in less-expected places like pasta sauce, condiments, and flavored yogurt. Check ingredient labels on foods like these and look for ones that don’t contain sugar (or at least have minimal sugar added).
Minimize Artificial Ingredient Intake
An essential tenet of clean eating is sticking to whole, natural food as much as possible.
Whole, natural foods do not contain artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners. Be wary of products that contain these ingredients and opt for more natural, unprocessed items instead.
Drink Water First
For many of us, our favorite beverages are a significant source of added sugar, artificial flavors, and other less-than-wholesome ingredients. Instead of reaching for a soda or a cream and sugar-laden coffee, choose water first.
You can add flavor with fresh fruit if you want your water to feel a bit more special. Naturally flavored sparkling water is another fun alternative.
Find Healthier Fats
There’s no need to fear fat. Fat plays a vital role in skin and hair health. It also provides energy, supports cellular function, and contributes to hormone production.
The key is to consume the right kinds of fats.
Minimize your intake of highly processed fats like vegetable oil. Instead, choose less processed options like olive oil and avocado oil. You can also get healthy fats from nuts, seeds, and fish.
Pick Better Packaged Snacks
Some people assume they can never consume a packaged item when striving to eat cleaner. That’s not necessarily true, though.
Plenty of convenient foods contain healthy ingredients and are free from sugar, artificial flavors, etc., such as nuts, dried fruit, and dried seaweed. Read ingredient labels carefully to find nutritious items that align with your health goals and help you feel your best.
Fill in Micronutrient Gaps with Quality Supplements
Even the healthiest eaters in the world can use a little extra help meeting their nutrient goals. If you make changes like those listed above but still feel like your diet could use a boost, consider adding a quality supplement for additional micronutrients.
When shopping for supplements, pay special attention to the ingredient list.
Look for products that contain all-natural ingredients like alfalfa, chlorophyll, and reishi mushrooms. Steer clear of options that have artificial colors and flavors or added sugars.
Take a Step Toward Clean Eating with Substance
Clean eating isn’t as intimidating as some make it out to be.
Focus on whole foods, eat balanced meals, and minimize added sugar. You’ll be well on your way to a healthier, happier life with some simple swaps.
If you need some extra help meeting your micronutrient needs, consider a quality supplement like Substance.
Substance provides over 20 fruits, vegetables, and greens to fill in the gaps and provide extra nutrients for increased energy and mental clarity. It’s 100% plant-based, natural, sustainably made, and formulated in the USA.