For many people, clean eating serves as a springboard to launch healthier eating habits. But while eating clean could promote weight loss, some strategies might not prove as effective as you’re imagining. It’s important to learn which suggestions to follow, which to ignore, and how to make clean eating more manageable and effective for you personally.
What is clean eating?
According to the magazine Clean Eating, eating clean should involve eliminating processed and fast foods, buying organic produce, eating more often, and scrutinizing food labels. The “clean” label typically includes eating foods with as few ingredients as possible, avoiding cooking methods like frying, and choosing locally grown and raised food.
While these are all reasonable healthy eating practices, some clean eating rules might not be the best to follow if you’re specifically trying to lose weight.
Eating mostly raw foods
Many people who eat mostly raw food do tend to lose weight — but depriving yourself of nutrition and calories for too long could actually lead to weight gain if you overeat to compensate. It’s also healthier to eat many foods cooked than choosing to eat them raw. Live Science outlines the many misconceptions surrounding raw food diets, like the belief that enzymes and nutrients get destroyed when you cook foods (they don’t!).
Raw food isn’t bad for you — but it’s best to have a mix of both.
Eating 6 times a day
The clean eating diet recommends you eat five to six small meals per day. It fails to specify how small a small meal is, though — and gives off the impression that calories and portion size don’t matter. The truth is, you can still gain weight eating healthy food — portion size does matter, says Harvard’s Obesity Prevention Source. The problem isn’t always the food — it’s often how much of it you’re shoveling onto your plate. Yes, there is such thing as too much quinoa (sorry!).
Shunning all processed food, always, forever
Processed food, for the most part, is bad. But depriving yourself of foods you crave can lead to overeating — and that will not help you lose weight. Women’s Health recommends choosing healthy foods first — and maybe indulging in something smaller if you’re still hungry after that. A little junk food probably won’t turn your scale against you if you limit your portions. Some processed foods are actually good for you — reach for those before that salty bag of potato chips.
Cutting out dairy products
Some clean eating enthusiasts say going raw is best when it comes to dairy. Some say you shouldn’t have dairy at all. However, Livestrong.com says keeping dairy in your diet could help you burn fat, build muscle, and maintain a healthy weight. Dairy products like milk and cheese do contain saturated fat, but they’re also high in protein. Especially if you want to trim meat out of your diet as part of your clean eating routine, eggs and cheese can replace a lot of the protein you’ll otherwise miss out on.
Saying no to sugar
Experts agree: Sugar is killing you, especially if you’re getting it from candy and drinks. But it’s not possible to cut all sugar out of your diet, like many people assume when they hear how dangerous too much sugar can be. When it comes to weight loss, trying to cut out sugar could tempt you to replace junk food with healthier foods that are still high in carbs. Fruits, vegetables, and unrefined whole grains contain sugar — but eating them alongside protein-packed foods and healthy fats will help set your weight loss into motion.
How to make clean eating work for you
There isn’t one formal set of rules that define one way to follow a clean eating diet. You pretty much have the freedom to pick and choose the guidelines that will help you specifically reach your weight loss goals. If you have a weakness for processed food, make that your clean eating focus. If you already only eat minimal amounts of processed foods, but want to eat more fresh vegetables, you can keep that one serving of ice cream on your dessert plate and pile on more clean veggies at dinner.
Clean eating should be about adopting positive habits that make you feel good. If you don’t want to stick to a strict set of rules that make eating feel like a chore, don’t.