What is “clean eating?” The basis of clean eating is eating things that are real food, in their natural state, without chemicals or preservatives. The focus is on lots of vegetables, fruits, meat, healthy oils and fats, etc. When eating clean, you want to eat locally raised and/or organic as much as possible, especially when eating vegetables and fruits with soft skins or exteriors that you consume— leafy greens, peppers and apples are just some examples. You can typically skip organic on things with a tougher exterior that you do not eat the skin of—bananas or avocados, for example. Additionally, you want to avoid processed foods, and read ingredient labels on everything you buy. This may seem time consuming at first, but you will be amazed at the number of additives, chemicals, and sugars that are in most processed foods. The general idea of clean eating is to know what is in your food and do the best you can to focus on natural ingredients. This website, 100 Days of Real Food, is a great starting point for reading and understanding clean eating.
Try to start by focusing on cutting out processed food from your diet. This is the basis for clean eating–eating plants, and not eating anything that was made in a plant! Start reading the labels in your pantry. If you’re ready to go all-in, throw away anything that is chemical-laden and contains ingredients you can’t identify. Focus on eating food that doesn’t have an ingredient list. What’s in lettuce? Just lettuce. Chicken? Same thing. Try to buy organic produce whenever possible, and check to make sure the animals were not fed growth hormones, antibiotics, etc. when being raised. You’re not only eating the meat, but also whatever the meat ate!
Below are some local resources for the Charleston area on obtaining your foods locally. We are sure there are tons of other options in addition to these, and suggest you do your own research as well; you never know what you might find!
Vegetables: Joining a CSA (stands for Community Supported Agriculture) is a great option to support local farms and get your weekly vegetable intake of local and sustainably raised vegetables. There are a number of these in the Charleston area. Some to check out are Rosebank Farms, Ambrose Farms, and Legare Farms. A more extensive list can be found here. Many CSA’s also include the option to add items on, such as free-range eggs from the farm!
Fish: Check out Abundant Seafood in Mt. Pleasant. Mark takes his boat out, and his wife Kerry emails all the members of the CSF when he’s headed back in, to announce pick up day. You take your cooler down to the dock in Mt. Pleasant and he filets the fresh fish right there in front of you. No farm-raised tilapia here! You can either join the CSF (same as a CSA, but for fish!) or you can just be added to their email list and buy it by the pound at the dock.
Meat: Have you ever seen how the industrial raising and processing of chickens, cows, pigs and other animals is done? Not the way nature intended, thats for sure. Get your humanely-treated, chemical-free meats locally from Cordray Farms, Keegan-Fillon Farms, or Chucktown Chicken.
Know of some other people providing locally sourced food? Share in the comments for others to enjoy as well!
Another great guideline for clean eating is the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) annual Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists. The Dirty Dozen is a list of 12 produce items that are best bought organic due to the amount of pesticides found in the non-organic varieties. The Clean Fifteen are 15 produce items that, if you have to purchase non-organic, are the safest ones that tend to have the lowest amount of pesticides. Use this on your next shopping trip to decide when to splurge and when to hold back!
Some people stress about the cost of a clean eating switch. And with good reason; it is undoubtedly more expensive than McDonalds. Keep in mind the old saying, “garbage in, garbage out.” Your body is a temple. Treat it like one. Take care of it, feed it well, challenge it, and embrace it. It will pay you back in the end.
If you’re thinking about making the switch to clean eating, or are just getting started on your journey, here are some tips and tricks to help and encourage you along the way.
- Plan out meals several days in advance. This is especially helpful if you lead a busy lifestyle.
- Cook meat in bulk. This way you have protein ready and on hand for your week. Cook a package of chicken breasts and you can make a variety of things throughout the week–chicken tacos, chicken salad, a healthy green salad with diced chicken–the possibilities are endless.
- Dedicate time to prep your meals every week. Try to pick one day a week where you can dedicate a couple of hours in the kitchen, cooking a few things in bulk. It will make it so much easier to stay on track as the week goes on.
- Prep meals in advance. Chop up ingredients. Pre-portion for the week.
- Well stocked fridge is key! Keep things like hard-boiled eggs, smoked salmon and chicken salad on hand. Things you can grab when you need something quick.
- Eat homemade broth regularly to boost your immune system and give you strength. Use it as a base for soups and stews.
- Remember: this is worth the initial adjustment period. It really is.
- Stick to your guns and you WILL be successful.
- Stop trying to be perfect. Instead be real about the journey.
- It takes time to adjust. Be patient with yourself and your body. You’re in this together, for the long term.
- Take the time to remember why you are doing this. Check in with yourself and be proud of the choices you have made.
- Be proud, be passionate, and be prepared!
- Leftovers! When you make dinner, make extra for lunch the next day. It leaves no room for the possibility of being unprepared the next day and running out to grab something that your body will not thank you for later.
- Read ingredient labels. You’ll be shocked at the number of things that contain sugar and the ingredients you can’t pronounce.
- It may seem overwhelming at first, but it is worth it.
- Take it one day at a time. It gets easier and it gets better.
- Pick a new recipe or two, once a week to make for dinner. It helps avoid boredom at bay and keeps things interesting.
- Always have a plan before going to social gatherings! There is a lot of social pressure to eat junk. Eat a satisfying meal before you go to parties so you don’t get tempted by unhealthy choices.
- Follow blogs and Facebook pages about clean eating. The more you see it and read it, the more it will stick in your head. In addition, you’ll get great support and recipe ideas!
- Use your crock-pot. This is great for cooking meat in bulk! Freeze leftovers for later use.
- Remember to get lots of sleep, fresh air, exercise and down time!