Hippocrates famously said, “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” This could not be more true today. Talk to any doctor, and they’ll tell you that you should adopt a clean eating diet and that whole food is the best preventive medicine. But what exactly is clean eating?
At its core, clean eating is the act of consuming food the way nature gave it to us, or as close to it as possible. The Veggiecurean approach to clean eating is a lifestyle rather than a diet — the distinction is important:
- Embrace Whole Foods Plant Based (WFPB): Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains (yes, carbs are OK!), and legumes, and avoid ALL animal-based products. This is a tough transition that takes some time. My approach is to gradually add green leafy vegetables, fruits, root vegetables, legumes, and whole grains to your meals and snacks. As you add more and more of these to your diet, you’ll crave animal-based products less and less.
- Go Local: Choose organic, local whole and plant-based food whenever possible. Go shopping at local farmers markets or join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group. I always refer to GrowNYC to locate farmers markets around New York City and USDA for other areas.
- Be Anti-Process: Avoid processed, refined foods and juices. It’s ok to be just a little picky and say “no” to things that aren’t nutritionally dense. Plus, if you fill up on whole and unprocessed food, you won’t crave processed foods.
Clean eating sounds somewhat impossible right now, doesn’t it? I always tell people that, like many things in life, clean eating is all about the 80/20 rule: eat clean 80% of the time, indulge the other 20%. And by “indulge” I mean have a piece of cake or a glass of wine — my rule for myself when I go out is I can either have wine or dessert, and more often than not I go for the wine!
Here are a few specifics on the types of foods to eat (and avoid) for a clean eating lifestyle; it’s a lot easier than you may think:
- Replace regular pasta with whole grain or whole wheat pasta, or even quinoa. The Veggiecurean Option: Quinoa Fried Rice
- Swap white bread with whole grain or whole wheat bread, or corn tortillas. The Veggiecurean Option: Cucumber Hummus Toast (pictured below)
- Get your daily protein from legumes, nuts, whole grains, or quinoa. The Veggiecurean Option: Indian-Style Curried Quinoa
- Snack on veggies, hummus, fruits, and peanut or almond butter. The Veggiecurean Option: Kale Chips or Okra Fries
- Add some kick with the goodness of homemade spices. The Veggiecurean Option: Make Your Own Curry Powder (pictured below)
- Drink unsweetened tea, coffee, seltzer, and water instead of sugary soda or juice. The Veggiecurean Option: Ginger Turmeric Tea
- Have chocolate for dessert; it’s a great antioxidant and proven to prevent memory decline. The Veggiecurean Option: Vegan Chocolate Mousse
So now that we know what clean eating is, the next question we should answer is “Why eat clean?” My go-to source for food and health is NutritionFacts.org, a non-commercial, science-based resource from Dr. Michael Greger. Dr. Greger says a whole-food, plant-based, clean eating lifestyle has been proven to help people improve their overall quality of life with more energy and less fatigue, plus:
- Reverse or prevent heart disease
- Lower risk of cancer and diabetes
- Improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
- Lower cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar
- Help lose weight and manage hunger
Avoiding animal-based products, processed food, white bread, and regular pasta for all the above health benefits doesn’t sound so impossible now, does it? So next time you’re cooking at home or out to eat, see if you can make 80% of your meal WFPB, and then go all out for the other 20%. Bon appétit!
by Shikha Bhakoo, Founder of Veggiecurean
About Shikha Bhakoo & Veggiecurean: Shikha is an Institute for Integrative Nutrition-certified health coach and food blogger, sharing her fun and healthy recipes on the Veggiecurean food blog. She lives, cooks and eats in New York City with her husband and two children. Follow Veggiecurean on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest!