Lesson 1 - What is Clean Eating

1. Eating Real, Whole Foods

Clean eating is a lifestyle that revolves around eating real, whole foods – foods that are unprocessed (or minimally processed) and don’t contain refined sugar or other man-made, added ingredients.

In simpler terms, it’s about eating food as close to its natural form as possible; food as it is meant to be.

Rather than focusing on eating less or more of something (like calories), clean eating focuses on what is going into your body and how it might effect your body and your health. It is about being mindful of the foods you are eating and considering it’s origin, and it’s pathway through your body.

Remember, Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) says,

This verse goes to show the mere importance of nutrition according to the Islamic faith. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) has provided us with an abundance of delicious and fresh foods that are meant to fuel and nourish our bodies, not harm them.

2. Listening to Your Body

A lot of times, the world of dieting creates a disconnect between food and the body.

You’re taught to see food in terms of numbers (e.g., calories). Calories are important, but they don’t tell the whole story. Instead of focusing on calories alone, we should be focusing on how food is making us feel. We should be focusing on eating mindfully, and paying attention to when we are actually hungry (not just bored), and when we are satisfied.

We should be paying attention to our cravings; often times craving certain foods are your bodies way of telling you which nutrients you are lacking. Instead of thinking “OK I need to eating x amount of calories because I’m hungry” we should be thinking “what is my body trying to tell me it needs.”

When you focus on calories, you start to eat like a robot, rather than really giving your body the attention it deserves.

BONUS READ: Compelling Reasons to Start Eating Mindfully

3. Making it a Lifestyle

The most important aspect of clean eating is that it is a lifestyle.

Let’s compare a diet of tracking calories verses a diet of clean eating. Tracking calories can be beneficial for a time, but after a while it gets tiresome. It’s tedious, it takes a lot of extra work and time, and it can easily lead to an unhealthy mindset. You will start to view food as numbers. You will be paying so much attention to how many calories you are eating that you might forget where those calories are coming from. After a while, this type of diet is not sustainable. You’ll get tired and weary of having to constantly write down everything you are eating and paying attention to every calorie.

Clean eating, on the other hand, doesn’t require all of that extra work. Don’t get me wrong, it still requires work and determination and persistence. But, it’s so much more flexible. You don’t need to worry about every calorie. Rather, you focus on eating foods that will make you feel good, that will keep you full and hold you over until your next meal. This is much easier to hold onto for the long-term rather than a diet of tracking calories.

Clean eating is not restrictive, nor is it a “diet.” It is about choosing real, whole foods and using that create meals that you love. It is a lifestyle.

4. Eating a Balanced Diet with a Variety of Foods

Clean eating does not cut out any food group.

There’s a big trend going around for plant-based diets, gluten-free diets, dairy-free diets, and the like. A clean eating lifestyle generally advocates for eating a variety of foods from all of the essential food groups. It calls for getting a variety of different proteins and fats from both animal and plant-based sources. It does not cut out dairy, gluten, or any other food group.

If you want to cut out a food group due to personal, religious, or medical reasons, that is totally fine. If you prefer a plant-based diet, go for it. If you have an intolerance to dairy or gluten, certainly you can cut them out. If you prefer a lower carb diet and like to follow the paleo trend that is totally OK. But in general, you should be eating a balanced and varied diet. Clean eating is all about making it your own, while following the foundation of eating real, whole foods a majority of the time.

The Benefits of Clean Eating

When people hear the term “healthy eating” or “clean eating,” weight loss is usually the first thing that comes to mind. While weight loss is definitely a bonus of healthy eating, it is not the only benefit.

Here are a few reasons why clean eating is important:
  • Reduces risk for heart disease and stroke
  • Reduces risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes
  • Aids in maintaining a healthy weight
  • Boosts energy levels
  • Promotes a better sleep
  • Protects against certain types of cancer
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Promotes healthy cholesterol levels
  • Enhances mood and lowers risk for depression
  • Reduces risk for age-related cognitive degeneration, such as Alzheimer’s disease
  • Improves workout capacity

As you can see, there are so many reasons to begin on a clean eating lifestyle. I hope you can see what an amazing investment and committent you’ve made to learn all about clean eating and how you can make it a part of your lifestyle.

Now that we know what clean eating is, let’s talk about how we can take action and make cleaner choices.

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