Forget 5:2 or the Paleo diet – the hot new food trend is for ‘eating clean’ and it could mean you shift those stubborn extra pounds in just six weeks in time for summer
There’s a whole new diet in town – and what makes it revolutionary is that it has nothing to do with eating less grub. The latest hot food trend is simply called ‘clean eating’.
It has celeb devotees including Gwyneth Paltrow and Miranda Kerr. And its popularity has turned glam food bloggers ‘Deliciously’ Ella Woodward and the Hemsley sisters into overnight stars with book sales to rival Jamie Oliver and Delia.
Clean food recipes aren’t about denial. They include ice cream, shepherd’s pie, spaghetti bolognese and even chocolate puddings. But the best news is that evidence suggests this way of eating can help you lose weight – and boost your health and looks into the bargain.
What is it?
Clean eating is a deceptively simple concept. Rather than yet another spin on the idea of eating more or less of specific food groups such as carbs or protein, the idea is to avoid processed foods and only eat ‘real’ foods.
Sticking to this golden rule can involve a bit more cooking from scratch, but as long as you follow it, pretty much anything from steak to cake goes!
Brits Melissa and Jasmine Hemsley explain the theory in their hugely successful book Hemsley + Hemsley: The Art of Eating Well (£11.75, Amazon).
They say: “Eating unprocessed and nourishing food allows you to live a happier, healthier and more energised life. By preparing your own meals you can be in control of what’s going into your body and feel better for it.”
How clean eating helps you shift weight
The writers claim dieting isn’t as simple as ‘calories in, calories out’. “The answer is not to limit calories but to eat more high quality foods,” say the Hemsley girls. For this reason the sisters encourage dieters to steer clear of low-fat and sugar-free processed foods that often contain ingredients you don’t recognise.
“Think of these as fake foods that cause stress to the body,” they argue. The sisters’ recipe for a balanced diet is simple: “Cook and eat meals that are so delicious you’ll forget you’re eating ‘healthy’ food.”
This theory is backed up by the latest food science, according to nutritionist Linda Foster. She says: “Fresh, natural foods tend to be more satisfying and rich in nutrients such as protein and fibre than processed ones. These slow the breakdown of sugar into the bloodstream, keeping you fuller for longer and stopping those hunger pangs that leave you needing to snack.”
There’s also evidence to suggest that we need to consume a certain quantity of food each day to feel satisfied – regardless of the food type or calories it contains.
For example, to eat 100 calories we could munch through two apples (200g of food) or gobble one third of a Mars bar (around 20g in weight). Almost certainly, the apples would leave you feeling fuller, as you’ve eaten a much greater quantity of food.
Choosing the Mars bar would leave most of us eating the rest of it, with the inevitable result that we take in more calories overall.
In other words, the magic trick to consuming fewer calories is simply to choose more filling foods.
Eating clean does mean cooking more of our own meals, as we did 50 to 60 years ago, rather than relying on processed convenience foods.
US food expert Michael Pollan blames our ever-expanding waistlines on us no longer cooking real food – pointing out that the decline in home cooking “closely parallels the rise in obesity”.
Multiple studies have also shown diets rich in whole foods like wholegrain carbs, nuts, fruit and veg – and low in the likes of ready meals, biscuits and fast food – can reduce your risk of life-threatening conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even certain cancers.
There is also evidence that a real food diet can even benefit your looks – by leaving skin clear and glowing, and hair strong and shiny.
Your five clean food rules
Only eat ‘real’ foods: Put simply, this means buying recognisable ingredients to prepare at home and avoiding processed and packaged foods.
For instance, you would use whole oats and blueberries to make porridge topped with berries but you must skip the shop-bought blueberry muffin.
When you do eat packaged foods, only buy brands that contain real food ingredients with names you recognise and would use if you were making a similar recipe from scratch in your own kitchen.
Keep meals simple: Delicious, healthy food doesn’t have to mean hours in the kitchen. Keep your ingredients to a minimum. Just be sure to include a source of whole grains, lean protein and healthy fat at each meal.
For example, chicken and red pepper stir-fried with a little soy sauce and served with brown rice takes the same, or less, time to cook than a Chinese ready meal takes to heat up. And certainly less time than a takeaway takes to arrive!
Slow your eating speed: Studies show that the faster we eat, the more calories we consume. So chew slowly, rest your cutlery on the plate between bites to reduce your pace and really savour the flavour of your food.
Eat regular meals: Don’t let more than four hours go by between meals or snacks. This will help regulate blood sugar, which will keep you energised and help curb your appetite.
Listen to your body: Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full – meaning satisfied, not over-stuffed.
Unlike nearly all diets, the recipes here don’t include precise amounts – that’s because clean eating is all about getting used to relying on your natural hunger and fullness cues to tell you when to eat and when to stop.
Your meal planner
Pick one dish from each of the following three meals a day, using sensible portion sizes, plus two items from the snacks list. You could lose up to a stone in six weeks.
- Porridge, made with oats, semi-skimmed milk and handful of berries
- Spinach and pepper two-egg omelette
- Pot of full-fat Greek yoghurt with sliced banana and handful of almonds
- Pancakes made with wholemeal flour, milk and one egg, drizzled with maple syrup and raspberries
- Banana and almond smoothie made with banana, semi-skimmed milk, teaspoon almond butter (or peanut butter), teaspoon of cinnamon
- Spinach and rocket leaves salad with one can of rinsed cannellini beans, handful of cherry tomatoes, half an avocado, sliced, and balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing
- Tuna and salad wholemeal wrap with half a chopped red pepper
- Lentil and vegetable soup with a granary roll
- Salad of hard-boiled egg slices, asparagus, steamed new potatoes and two teaspoons of melted butter
- Baked sweet potato with homemade veggie or beef chilli topping
- Chicken and mixed veg stir-fry with organic soy sauce and wholegrain noodles
- Prawns cooked with mango slices, coconut milk, grated ginger and three chopped spring onions, served with brown basmati rice
- Shepherd’s pie made with minced lamb, veg and topped with sweet potato mash
- Grilled steak with grilled mushroom and tomatoes, plus side salad
- Spaghetti bolognese, served with wholemeal pasta or courgette ribbons.
- Small handful of any unsalted nuts
- Piece of any fruit
- Full-fat fruit yoghurt with no additives
- Hummus with carrot sticks
- Apple slices with peanut butter
Enjoy ‘clean’ unprocessed foods including:
- All fresh fruits and vegetables (including frozen)
- Beans and pulses, such as lentils
- Meat – the more free range or organic the better
- Unrefined grains, like wholemeal bread and pasta, popcorn, oats and brown rice
- Dairy – cheese, milk, butter, all organic if possible
- Olive oil
Avoid ‘dirty’ processed foods including:
- Ready meals
- Shop-bought cakes and biscuits
- Jars and packets of sauce
- Sausages, ham and bacon
- Sausage rolls and pastries
- Fizzy drinks
Make your own healthy crisps
Vegetable crisps are healthy ‘clean’ alternatives to normal crisps. They can be expensive to buy ready-made, but are actually pretty easy to make yourself.
Simply slice veg – such as parsnips, sweet potatoes and beetroots – as thinly as possible, brush with a little olive or coconut oil, spread on a baking tray and cook for 20 minutes at 200°C/gas mark 6, turning once halfway through.
Season with a little salt – and try spices such as chilli or cumin.
An even easier way to make veggie crisps is to invest in one of the latest must-have kitchen gadgets – a dehydrator.
They slowly dry food at a very low temperature so none of the nutrients are destroyed, meaning even healthier crisps with no added fat.
A good one to try is the Stockli Dehydrator (from £89, from).
You can also use them to make large portions of delicious apple, pineapple and banana ‘crisps’ so you always have healthy snacks on hand for you and the kids.
Banana ice cream.. without the cream!
Even kids will love this yummy recipe with no added sugar.
Simply freeze two or three very ripe, sliced bananas overnight. Then, using a blender or food processor on pulse, mix to a creamy consistency.
You can mash with a fork instead, but this will take longer and you’ll need to wait until the banana has melted a little.
Add a teaspoon of vanilla essence for extra flavour, or a teaspoon of cocoa powder for a chocolate banana flavour.