When you are eating clean you no doubt hear similar comments. “Well, what can you have?” Many people envision a clean diet as one that is boring, restrictive, and tasteless. That couldn’t be further from the truth! Eating clean means flavorful, exciting, feel-good foods.
This whole notion of bad foods vs. good foods is a bit antiquated. The real comparison should be nutritional foods vs. non-nutritional foods. Either the food provides you with nourishment or, well… it’s not food. How can you tell if an item in the grocery store is a non-food or not? We’re here to help you out!
Clean Eating with Real Foods
There are some basic guidelines to follow when you go to the grocery store. Abiding by these will help you to decipher if a food is clean or not.
1. Eat Fresh
No, that’s not an invitation to eat at your local sandwich shop chain. Always choose fresh over frozen or canned when possible. Even better, make it organic. Some will tell you that choosing organic doesn’t provide more nutrients than non-organic foods. However, eating clean means you avoid putting toxic chemicals inside (or even outside) your body. Fresh, organic foods provide your body with more nutrients than their frozen and canned counterparts.
2. Shop the Perimeter
Generally speaking, the pre-packaged (aka “junk”) food is located in the center aisles. These are the foods you want to avoid as much as possible. Stick to the perimeter to find the fresh, whole foods you want.
3. Exceptions to the Perimeter Rule
There are exceptions to be made for whole grains, beans, spices, herbs, and oils. These are found in the interior aisles. Be sure to check labels before putting it in your cart. For example, you may find a really yummy-looking spice concoction, but it may have additives such as sugar, corn syrup solids, or other non-foods. Stick with the basics. Could a person grow this food item? If you can say “yes”, then it’s a real food. Stick to the basics such as thyme, olive oil, black beans – these are good examples of real foods for clean eating.
4. Read Labels
The fewer the ingredients, the more likely it is that you have found a real food. This is not a hard and fast rule, though. Reading labels will allow you to spot food impostors. For example, potato chips usually only have three ingredients: potatoes, salt, and some kind of oil (usually canola or corn). However, oils used potato chips are often rancid oils, not fresh. Knowing your ingredients can help you to decipher the good from the bad.
This also means you have to be able to pronounce the ingredients. If you can’t read the ingredient, chances are it’s a chemical that you don’t want in your body.
5. The Red Flags
There are a few red flag items that are never a good idea. Some of these are:
- sugar listed as the first ingredient
- artificial sweeteners
- artificial coloring
- anything hydrogenated
- corn syrup
- high-fructose corn syrup
These foods are guaranteed impostors. Stay away.
Try to make out a shopping list before you hit the grocery store. This will help you to guard against impulse buys like sugary junk foods. You will also be shopping with a purpose, instead of aimlessly. When you know where each food item is going, which meal it will be used in, it will make it much easier to justify the purchase – as if you needed another reason. Instead of thinking that you’ll just pick up some veggies to use in something at some point (until they inevitably rot in the fridge), you will be buying intentionally.
Could you use a hand picking out some clean eating foods? We’ve got just the thing for you! Our ebook The Simple Guide to Clean Eating even includes a printable grocery list. Download it today – it’s on us!
- Clean Eating Substitutions (atlasdrugandnutrition.com)
- Reading Labels for Clean Eating (atlasdrugandnutrition.com)
- Avoiding the “Dirty Dozen” and How it Relates to Clean Eating (atlasdrugandnutrition.com)