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Clean eating is often called a diet, but really it’s more of a lifestyle. People who eat clean avoid refined and processed foods with artificial ingredients, like corn puffs coated in an unnaturally hot-orange dust. Clean eating doesn’t have a hard or fast definition, and it depends largely on how you want to pursue it. 

Whatever clean eating looks like to you, it can be difficult to stick to it because let’s face it, a bag of chips or a fast-food order is a lot quicker than making a meal from scratch. 

There are ways to make clean eating second nature, though. Here are some great habits that people who love to eat clean practice!

1. Cooking food at home

The easiest way to know what’s in your food is to make it yourself. When cooking food yourself, you can use ingredients that you enjoy and need, and control your portions, salt, sugar, flavors, and fats as you see fit. Restaurant food can taste a lot better than home-cooked food, but that’s because they often use a ton of extra ingredients that aren’t the best for your health.

2. Reading nutrition labels

Something that will not just kickstart your clean eating journey but keep it going as well is educating yourself on how to read nutrition labels. Nutrition labels can help you pick out what foods will be conducive to your clean eating lifestyle. 

You’ll have the ability to pick up foods that have whole grains or whole wheat in the ingredients, stay away from food with high levels of saturated fat or sugar, and look for food rich in protein and fiber instead. Nutrition labels will also tell you how much sodium or MSG is in what you’re considering buying. 

The bottom line is, if you wouldn’t consider cooking with an ingredient mentioned in a nutrition label, maybe look for an alternative choice. 

3. Avoiding processed foods

Processed foods tend to have a lot of added sugars, preservatives, dyes, fats, salt, and more. These can affect how you feel. Instead, try going for unprocessed foods like lean protein, unsalted nuts and seeds, dried beans and legumes, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Unrefined foods carry more nutrients and fiber which is essential for your body. 

4. Avoiding drinking calories

One of the easiest and perhaps most often overlooked ways to consume unnecessary ingredients is by drinking them. Common drinks like carbonated drinks or drinks from places like Starbucks often have ridiculous amounts of calories and sugar with basically no nutritional value. Some drinks can have the caloric value of an entire meal – and yet you’ll be hungry in just half an hour! 

Try and watch what you drink as well. Read nutrition labels or try and gauge yourself how much sugar is in something, and as often as possible, have water. Try adding lemon, lime, mint or berries to make it more appetizing!

5. Embracing diversity

When you eat clean, you can fill up your plate with a large variety of healthy foods. Your diet can consist of all kinds of protein sources, vegetables, carbohydrates, and fruit. You can enjoy foods you’ve never tried before, and turn them into endless delicious combinations. It’s not just fun, it’s also incredibly healthy for you!

6. Treating food as an experience

Eating clean also means that you’re more mindful of your food intake. In doing this, food becomes an experience and not just something to be done three times a day. You can enjoy preparing and making food as well as having it. It’s even better when you share it with people you care about. 

7. Balancing meals out

And finally, eating clean is also great for balancing your meals out. Every meal should have a sufficient portion of protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, and fiber. The combinations are again, endless, and your body will truly thank you. 

Sticking to a lifestyle change can seem difficult when it’s contradicted by the world around you, but these are some simple habits that can help you to improve your diet while still being flexible and enjoying life!