Perhaps a new raw café has sprung up in your neighbourhood, or you’ve read about Miranda Kerr and Katy Perry being fans. Either way, eating “clean” is gaining traction! But what does it actually mean, how is it good for your body, and how can you jump on the bandwagon without draining your bank account?
The clean eating craze
Clean eating is a deceptively simple concept. Rather than revolving around the idea of eating less or more of specific things (for example, less white carbohydrates and more protein), the idea behind it is more about being mindful of a food’s pathway between its origin and your plate. Clean eating is not a diet.
At its simplest, clean eating is about eating “real” or whole foods. In other words, foods that are minimally or not at all handled, refined or processed, making them as close to their natural form as possible.
But eating clean isn’t all that simple. Because modern food production has become so sophisticated, simply eating whole foods can be a challenging proposition. And let me tell you, it comes with a rather hefty price tag!
For example, if you’ve ever perused the produce aisle of a supermarket, you’ll know that baby spinach costs more than a jumbo-sized bag of chips. Because of this, cleaning up your diet can be a huge financial commitment. But if I can promise you one thing, it’s that it’ll be well worth it. Let me elaborate…
Meaningful reasons to eat clean
The benefits of eating clean extend far past weight loss and general health maintenance. Loading up your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fatty fish and lean meats won’t only provide your body with nutrients to support healthy cell function, but also help fight chronic diseases!
Here are my top reasons to eat clean:
- You’ll boost your energy levels: A healthful diet that properly nourishes your body will help you feel energetic and productive. Eating clean can also help regulate your blood sugar, helping you avoid fatigue-inducing blood sugar spikes that occur after your eat processed foods.
- You’ll improve your heart health: A clean diet packed with fruits and vegetables will help lower your risk of heart disease and maintain the strength of your blood vessels. It can also help protect you against stroke and high blood pressure.
- You’ll reduce your cancer risk: A diet rich in processed foods puts you at an increased risk of cancer. A clean diet, on the other hand, will boost your intake of antioxidants and phytonutrients, and in turn help fight cancer growth.
- You’ll support your mental health: Apart from promoting physical health, a clean diet will promote mental health too. Nutrients found in whole foods, like vitamin B6 for example, make dopamine (your pleasure hormone). Increased dopamine levels will stave off depression and anxiety.
Now that I’ve convinced you that going over to the clean side is a great idea, let me tell you how you can do it even if you’re on a really tight budget…
Five tips for eating clean on the cheap
#1: Avoid buying superfoods
I find the notion that in order to eat clean, you must consume marketed superfoods, rather perplexing. Sure, it’s fun and interesting to try out things like maca powder and chia seeds, but you certainly don’t need them. You can eat a nutritious, wholesome diet without these super-expensive superfoods.
#2: Buy some foods in bulk
You can save money by buying foods like grains, seeds, nuts and even expensive flours in bulk either online or at a natural food store. Trust me – forking out a large amount of money to buy in bulk might not feel like a good idea when you do it, but in the long run it will save you a significant amount.
#3: Cut down on pre-made and packaged
Convenience costs money, so you can’t continue to buy the same pre-made and packaged food items on top of other expensive healthy items and expect to spend the same amount. Instead, buy whole foods like fresh grains and produce, and make your own meals. There are so many awesome clean eating recipes online to try out!
#4: Emphasise in-season produce
During harvest time, the costs of in-season produce drop because of their increased availability. This also happens to be when fruits and vegetables are at their best in terms of nutrition and flavour. Not sure what’s in season? Staff in the produce department will be able to tell you.
#5: Eat leftovers
As unglamorous as this may be, it has to become a way of life if your budget is small and your clean eating ambitions big. Try and think of it this way: You’ve invested time and good money into this wonderful meal, so why wouldn’t you want to eat what’s left over the next day?
It may take some time, practice and creative budgeting to adapt to the clean way of eating, but it can always be done. Even on the tightest of budgets!
Not sure where to get started? Here’s a list of some of my favourite local health stores:
011 430 0600
Blubird Shopping Centre, corner of Fort & Atholl-Oaklands Road, Birnam
Fresh Earth Food Store
011 646 4404
103 Komatie Road, Emmarentia
011 514 0958
Shop 31B Bryanston Shopping Centre, corner of William Nicol & Ballyclare Drive, Bryanston
011 325 5168
Shop LM3, Lower Mall, Hyde Park Corner, corner of Jan Smuts & 6th Street, Hyde Park
Please note: I originally wrote this article for a blog that I write for on a freelance basis called Joburg’s Darling. You can find it here.