If you are new to clean eating or new to our Clean Cuisine blog you may be feeling a wee bit overwhelmed with all of the clean eating rules out there. Trust me, I get it.
If you know my story, you know I have been following a clean food diet for over 19 years now. Thanks to my diagnosis with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1998, I radically overhauled my diet at the age of 22—–this was way before clean eating was the “in” thing to do. I didn’t have a lot of resources when I started and I vividly remember feeling VERY overwhelmed with it all.
I also needed to see big improvement in a hurry, not only because my health was in serious jeopardy, but also because I needed to start feeling better in order to maintain my motivation.
Let’s face it: it’s not easy to change your whole diet. It’s even less easy if you are not getting the results you want within a reasonable amount of time.
Today, there is no shortage of information on clean eating. The problem is, in some ways there is too much information. Where should you even start? And of course when it comes to adopting a unified set of clean eating rules, no such thing exists. In fact, a lot of the information on how to eat clean is conflicting. Is Paleo clean eating? Does adopting a clean food diet mean going grain free? Is a clean food diet vegan?
It can all be very confusing.
I’m writing this blog post for those of you who are feeling overwhelmed with where to start. Regardless of the reason as to why you are starting, if you follow two very simple clean eating rules you will undoubtedly start to see (and feel!!) results in a rather short amount of time.
Why Do Most People Start a Clean Food Diet?
People start a clean eating diet for many reasons, but I would say two of the biggest ones are:
- Weight Loss
- Reduce Inflammation
Now that I have been eating clean for almost twenty years, I know a lot more at 41 years old than I did at 22 years old.
After writing five books on the subject (“Clean Cuisine: An 8-Week Anti-Inflammatory Diet that Will Change the Way You Age, Look & Feel” is the most comprehensive of them all), I feel pretty confident in saying that if you want to see rapid results but you can’t commit to a total diet overhaul just yet then your best bet is to adopt two simple clean eating rules….
2 Simple Clean Eating Rules for Quick Results
Clean Eating Rule #1: Eat 7 to 13 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables a Day
I have said it many times before, but the number one biggest diet mistake people make is not eating anywhere near the amount of fruits and vegetables they should. Most people focus on all of the foods they shouldn’t eat rather than concentrating on eating more the foods their body needs.
Without a doubt, one of the food groups your body needs most for nutrition, energy, satiety, longevity and reduced risk of numerous diseases is good old fruits and vegetables.
It might not sound all that exciting, but if you did NOTHING else but drastically increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables you would see some pretty amazing benefits.
Studies show just 12% of Americans eat the minimum daily fruit recommendation of one and a half to two cups per day, and only 9% consume the minimum daily vegetable recommendation of two to three cups per day. And that’s not even close to eating the amount I am suggesting, 7 to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
One of the most consistent findings in the epidemiological and nutritional literature is that as fruit and vegetable consumption increase in the diet, chronic disease and premature deaths decline. The CDC, the National Cancer Institute, the American Heart Association, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture all recommend adults eat the amount I am suggesting, 7 to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
Fruit is Not Fattening
One of the conflicting clean eating rules involves fruit consumption. Just in case you are worried about all of the “fattening” fruit sugar calories, it is important to know that the real world effects on fruit consumption have actually been shown to be inversely associated with BMI and body weight. In other words, people who eat fruit weigh less. ***We talk in great detail about the research linking fruit consumption to weight loss in our book on page 71***
One of the reasons fruits and vegetables are so important to eat in abundance is because they offer such incredible vitamin, mineral, fiber, antioxidant and phytonutrient bang for such a teeny-tiny calorie buck. It’s pretty much impossible to overeat foods like apples, broccoli, cauliflower and blackberries.
And the more super low-calorie/ high nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables you eat, the less room you have leftover for unhealthy foods. If weight loss is your goal, then this is a huge benefit. Fruits and vegetables work mechanically to take up bulk and space in your stomach—if you fill your stomach with 7 to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day your appetite for other foods will decrease. A lot.
All Calories Are Not Equal
By eating more low-calorie/ high-nutrient fruits and vegetables you will eat less of other higher calorie foods. That alone will help with weight loss.
But there’s more.
It’s a bit too complex to dive into in this short blog post, but basically the calories in fruits and vegetables are not metabolized by your body the same as say the calories in steak or milk.
These are words you never thought you’d hear from the president of a $2.7 billion weight-loss empire. “Calorie counting has become unhelpful,” David Kirchhoff stated on the Weight Watchers International website. “When we have a 100-calorie apple in one hand and a 100-calorie pack of cookies in the other, and we view them as being ‘the same’ because the calories are the same, it says everything that needs to be said about the limitations of just using calories in guiding food choices.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
We talk more about how not all calories are created equal HERE and in our book, but all you really need to know is that if Person A eats 2,000 calories worth of fruits and vegetables and Person B eats 2,000 calories of steak, butter and cheese, Person A will weigh less.
Weight Loss = Reduced Inflammation
Not only are fruits and vegetables highly anti-inflammatory, but the weight loss associated with their consumption further reduces inflammation. Body fat is highly inflammatory and losing body fat will reduce whole body inflammation.
Phytonutrients in Fruits and Vegetables Help Burn Fat and Reduce Inflammation
Fruit and vegetable consumption further helps with both weight loss and inflammation because they contain special substances called “phytonutrients”.
Phytonutrients are plant-based super nutrients. They are only found in unrefined “whole” plant foods and fruits and vegetables are among the very best sources. Phytonutrients offer some incredible health-promoting benefits, including weight loss and reduced inflammation. Phytonutrients actually have the ability to “turn on” and “turn off” different genes in your body. They also have the ability to kick-start your body’s fat-burning engine. Certain phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables, can actually bind to special receptors, PPAR’s (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors) that turn on genes that cause your body to burn fat. ****We provide research and explain more how PPAR’s function our Clean Cuisine book****
Fruits and Vegetables Curb Food Cravings
Did you know that food cravings are often the result of a nutrient deficiency? Calorie for calorie, fruits and vegetables are the most nutrient dense foods on the planet and eating more of them will do wonders for curbing food cravings.
The Biggest Difference
Ok, so hopefully after all of that you are now convinced to eat more fruits and vegetables! Because in all seriousness, if you told me your goal was to lose weight and reduce inflammation but you also said you were willing to follow just one clean eating rule, then I would have to say my suggestion would be to eat way more fruits and vegetables. It’s that important. And it really does make the world of difference in your health.
Of course knowing that you should eat more fruits and vegetables and actually doing it and making it work in real life can be two different things.
5 Easy Tips for Eating More Fruits and Vegetables
Clean Eating Rule #2: Incorporate 12 to 16 Hour Intermittent Fasting Into Your Daily Diet
First of all, if the word “fasting” makes you nervous, please here me out…
Second, I can’t think of a single day in my life where I have ever gone a full day without eating. I am definitely not someone who fasts in the conventional way you might think of dietary fasting. So don’t worry, clean eating rule #2 is nothing extreme.
However, I didn’t realize until recently that something I have naturally been doing for years is considered a mini-fast.
So here’s the thing, I never eaten when I am not hungry. I learned from a very early age from both my grandfather (who was thin as a rail and never worked out a day in his life) and my dad (who was also very lean but muscular too because he did workout) that I didn’t need to eat if I wasn’t hungry. I also learned that if I was hungry I should listen to my body and eat—regardless of whether it was mealtime. I remember my grandfather eating a huge breakfast and then going the whole day without eating a single bite until it was time for dinner, which was also very big and not exactly “clean cuisine” lol. When I asked him why he didn’t eat lunch he said he simply wasn’t hungry and he didn’t think you should eat when you aren’t hungry. That always made a lot of sense to me.
If you have read any of our books, you know I have always emphasized the importance listening to your body and not eating if you are not hungry.
I have never been a fan of eating all throughout the day 5 or 6 “mini meals” as a way to stoke the metabolism. And now it turns out that going for longer stretches of time without food can actually benefit your metabolism and metabolic health (1, 2, 3, 4) Studies have even shown that when it comes to weight loss, intermittent fasting can be just as effective as traditional calorie restriction, if not more (5, 6, 7, 8)..
In fact, when I look back on my eating habits growing up I realize that even though I most certainly did not eat squeaky clean, I think one of the reasons I didn’t have a weight problem was because I never ate when I wasn’t hungry.
Chances are if you listen closely to your body you will find you can go a lot longer with food than you might be used to doing.
For me, this means doing a “mini fast” from the time I eat dinner until the time I eat again, at breakfast. Granted, for the majority of my “fast” I am sleeping, but when it comes to intermittent fasting sleeping still counts as part of the “fast”!
I usually eat dinner around 8:00 in the evening and I typically don’t eat breakfast until around 10:00 or sometimes even 11:00 the following morning.
I had NO idea there was real research behind the health benefits of 12 hour intermittent fasting, I was just listening to my body. But science is now starting to agree that keeping your stomach filled to the brim with food all day long might not be the healthiest thing to do after all. More recently, fasting diets are starting to gain popularity among mainstream doctors and scientists. Two doctors I highly respect, Terry Wahls, M.D. and David Perlmutter, M.D., both recommend fasting in their most recent books, The Wahls Protocol and Brain Maker (note: Dr. Perlmutter is my former neurologist.)
Of course fasting is nothing new!
The health benefits of intermittent fasting are pretty impressive, including improved brain health and enhanced detoxification. But the two benefits you will likely notice the quickest are a reduction in inflammation and weight loss. Here’s how intermittent fasting works:
- Reduced Inflammation. Fasting “turns on” the NRF2 gene pathway, which not only produces a dramatic increase in antioxidant protection and enhanced detoxification, but also decreases inflammation.
- Weight Loss. In general it takes between 6 to 8 hours for the body to burn through its glycogen supply. When glycogen is depleted the body will then turn to the energy stored in fat cells. Eating throughout the day makes it much harder for the body to burn fat. Extending the time between eating with 12 hour intermittent fasting will force your body to tap into stored fat reserves.
People get very nervous when they hear the word “fasting”. But just remember, you are fasting for 7 to 9 hours when you sleep each night naturally.
What If You Are Starving the Moment You Wake Up?
If you are new to clean eating, you may need to ramp up your nutrient and fiber intake before you can comfortably incorporate intermittent fasting into your daily routine. That’s because if your body is not getting enough nutrients and fiber, you will undoubtedly experience food cravings and hunger pains.
However, once you adopt the first of the clean eating rules (which is to start eating more fruits and vegetables!) you will automatically fill nutrient and fiber gaps. Once this happens, you will be able to go longer stretches without food.
Listen to Your Body!
I think one of the most important takeaways from clean eating rule #2 is simply to listen to your body. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of this…
More Information on How 12-Hour Intermittent Fasting Works
What Clean Eating Rules Work for YOU?
Ok, so those are my two best clean eating rules, but I would LOVE to know what works for YOU? Please leave a comment below and tell me all about it!
Looking for More Information on Clean Eating?
- If you are new to clean eating or new to Clean Cuisine START HERE!
- Confused about what clean eating means? Read Our Definition of Clean Eating
- Want More Easy Clean Eating Rules? 50 Clean Eating Tips