Every one of us is different. We are at different ages and stages of our lives. Our health conditions vary, our levels of fitness or fat also vary. Therefore, you should always approach your own fitness journey without comparisons. It is your own path. Don’t set yourself up for failure from the beginning. What works for you may not work for someone else. As long as you’re in tune with yourself, you will find what works best for you. Having said that, here are some tips that will help you figure out clean eating for yourself:
- Drink more water. This is applicable for most people who don’t move around enough and even for athletes who need to be reminded about basics from time to time. Drinking water helps you feel full, it regulates your digestion, helps with blood circulation and its zero calories. Drinking more water also helps reset your taste buds. So if you’re someone who’s always craving flavoured beverages, then water will help ‘re-set’ your cravings for something more natural.
- Reduce processed foods. Processed foods are foods that come in cans, foods that have been artificially preserved and can last a long time on your shelves. Things such as potato chips, processed meats like ham and salami, ready to eat frozen foods such as samosas and paranthas. The amount of chemical additives in such foods is much higher than the nutritional value of these foods (which is almost nil). So basically, you’re making yourself sick by eating these foods – therefore, avoid.
- Avoid foods that raise your blood sugar levels really fast. This is because such foods, lead to insulin imbalances in your blood and increase your cravings a lot more. These are mostly sugar based foods such as ketchup, dhokla (which is doused with sugar syrup), tamarind sauce, Indian sweets, caramel, butterscotch, all sugared aerated drinks, cakes and desserts sold at pastry shops, any type of white bread.
- Eat more of foods that are filling and help regulate your metabolism. Eating healthy fats such as those found in nuts, coconut oil, olive oil, ghee. Don’t shy away from fats as long as you don’t overdo your consumption of these. Fats help you stay full longer and actually aid in fat burning.
- Eat more proteins. Proteins are the building blocks of our muscles, hair, nails and our skin. Proteins also help you stay full for longer and help burn fat while being digested. Proteins are found in pulses (dals) and beans such as chickpeas and kidney beans (choley and rajma) and for non-vegetarians in meat and seafood. However, since a lot of poultry these days is injected with antibiotics which in turn causes hormonal issues in humans, it is best to consume poultry from organic sources or limit the overall intake. I personally choose fish over chicken (but one can never be sure of the contaminants in either).
6. Eat more greens: yes, your mother was right! More green leafy stuff, more spinach (palak), broccoli, celery, snow peas, green beans, avocado and rocket lettuce – just add these into your meals to make them more nutritious. Green leafy vegetables are rich in fibre, antioxidants and minerals and vitamins. If you can source more organic vegetables then that’s even better. A great way to cook these veggies is to simply stir fry them with garlic, sea salt, sesame oil and a dash of light soy sauce. Add in your proteins to make it a complete meal.
7. Consume more healthy fibre. A lot of times eating extremely clean (no carbs, high fat and high protein diets) can play havoc with our systems. We need to balance it out from time to time and give our systems a rest from excessive protein and fat. Thats when fibre – both water soluble and insoluble help clean up your system. Water soluble fibre such as oats or brown rice are a great way to get some energy in and keep your tummy happy. Insoluble fibre such as isabgol are great for cleaning or regulating your digestive system. However, when consuming more fibre, make sure you increase your intake of water and probiotics to make sure there’s enough good bacteria hanging out in your system.
These are broadly my guiding principles of clean eating. As long as you imbibe them, you should be able to stay on track with your health goals (of which exercise & weight training is a major aspect). The idea is to eat right for life. As long as you follow this 80% of the time, and 20% of the time you struggle, that’s fine too. Each time you’ve had a bad week, bad hour or even a bad month, just turn it around. Get up, get a good workout in, Eat clean, sleep well, drink more water and repeat. Repeat till one day you’re not struggling anymore and this is second nature. Good luck!