Dancer : Rachel Ferring
Photo by : Geek With a Lens

If you ask most dancers, they will tell you they’re on a diet.  There are so many different diets out there from Atkins to Paleo.  There are diets that are of a specific global region like the Mediterranean or French Women Don’t Get Fat diets.  There are diets that center on certain foods like the cabbage soup and grapefruit diets.  There are cleanses, pills and supplements.  There are whole industries centered on dieting from Slim Quick to Jenny Craig.  It’s exhausting.

Here’s the thing, I don’t really believe in diets.  Any time people are told to cut out whole food groups, count calories, eat prepackaged meals or only drink shakes, I think there’s a good chance that it will lead to malnutrition, exhaustion, frustration and failure.  There is one thing that’s trending however that I think is amazing.  I guess I’ve always pretty much believed in it and more or less lived by most of its principles even though I didn’t have a name for it.  I guess I would call it a lifestyle and not a diet and it’s something I’ve been recommending to my dancers for years without even knowing it…it’s called Clean Eating.  Clean Eating is not exactly a new concept, but is gaining a lot of momentum, and for good reason, it makes a lot of sense.

What we’re really talking about here is instead of eating the banana nut muffin, eating the banana and nuts.  It’s about simplifying what you eat.  It’s about making things that you can yourself, not buying them from a store.  Here are some of the main principles behind Clean Eating: 

  1. Limit processed foods which is anything that comes in a box, bag, can or package.  They usually have excess sodium, sugar and fat.  Look at all ingredients on the packaged foods you buy and if the list is long or there are things you cannot pronounce or don’t know what they are, don’t buy it.  Make your own healthy versions of it instead especially when it comes to sauces, dips and dressings.
  2. Eat your veggies.  They are packed with nutrition and are low in calories so you can eat a lot of them.  Find ways to fit them in your diet by adding them to omelets, snacking on a cucumber or celery with peanut butter and eating a small salad before your dinner.
  3. Cut back on processed sugars. Reach for a piece of fruit instead which has natural sugars.  Use raw honey or pure maple syrup for your sweetener.  If you need a sweet, try a piece of dark chocolate which is less processed than other types of chocolate and that’s packed with anti-oxidants and has less added sugar.
  4. Choose Healthy Fats.  You need fat in your diet, but you need to be careful what types of fats you’re eating. Cutting way back on saturated and trans fats is so important when eating clean.  Most clean eaters try to get in 2 to 3 servings of healthy fats daily. Stick with nuts, seeds, olives, avocados, fatty fish like salmon or tuna, eggs, peanut and other nut butters (read your labels).  Try cooking with oils that are liquid at room temperature like olive and sesame oils.
  5. Watch your sodium intake.  Most people’s sodium comes from processed foods, not from salting their food. Most Americans take in way more than the recommended amount of daily sodium.  Cutting back on processed and fast foods should do the trick, but adding spices instead of salt for flavoring can help too.
  6. Choose whole grains.  Get rid of the ‘white stuff’ in your diet.  Go for whole wheat breads and pasta, brown or wild rice, quinoa or steel cut oats.
  7. Try and go organic.  I know this can be expensive so be smart about it.  If you go to http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/health/the-dirty-dozen-and-clean-15-of-produce/616/,it lists the dirty dozen and clean 15 of produce so you know what’s most important to buy organic. Try and buy organic fruits and veggies as well as meats that are free range, grass fed, fresh caught and antibiotic and hormone free.
  8. Don’t drink calories.  Clean eating applies to drinking as well.  Try to stick to water and mineral water and organic teas and coffees without the added cream and sugar.  Cut back on juices and any alcoholic beverages. Try and cut out soda all together. Clean eaters usually try and drink between 2 to 3 liters of pure water daily.
  9. When and what to eat.  Most clean eaters believe in 6 small meals a day and eating breakfast within one hour of waking.  They also try to have lean protein and complex carbs for every meal.     

This might be the smartest thing I’ve heard of in a long time when it comes to ‘diets’.  There’s nothing off limits, there’s no calorie counting, but it does make you more aware of what you’re putting in your body. With more and more studies saying that exercise is extremely beneficial to your overall well-being, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle and weight comes more from what you eat than anything else, it puts an even bigger emphasis on eating healthily for a long and happy life.  After all, the phrase “you are what you eat” is literally true, so being thoughtful about your food just makes a lot of sense.