It’s no secret that clean eating is a key component in a healthier lifestyle and lessens health risks and diseases. So why is it so hard to make the switch? Common grocery staples are oftentimes flooded with preservatives, unhealthy fats and loads of sugar and additives. Even healthy food are sometimes diluted in their health value when they are compiled with refined ingredients. The key to successfully eating clean is to eat as pure and raw as possible. If it came off of a tree, it’s probably nutritious.
- Don’t skip out on your veggies!!
Americans do not consume nearly enough produce. By increasing fruits and vegetables, you can reduce your risks for “chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer” (D’Agrosa). What isn’t included in that list? Organic produce is ideal, but the benefits that come from plain ol’ fruits and veggies in general are plentiful. Fully Raw by Kristina informs us of some excellent produce options which contain minimal to no pesticides and sprays: “onions, avocado, pineapple, mango, sweet peas, eggplant, cauliflower, asparagus, kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, grapefruit, sweet potatoes and honeydew melon.”
- Limit Sugar
Sugar seems to creep its way into all American foods somehow. Even healthy options like yogurt and sauces can have lots of excess sugar for flavoring. This is why it is so important to check the label! A good rule of thumb is if it doesn’t come with a label, the sugar is “good” sugar. Processed foods that come in packaging and include a label likely harbor added sugar that you do not want in your diet. “The American Heart Association recommends no more than about 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men. The average American gets about 4 times that amount…” ( D’Agrosa). Be sure to limit your sweets such as candy and baked goods and on top of that, don’t forget to check labels for sugar content. Ingredient lists can also give valuable insight. If the second ingredient is sugar cane or high fructose corn syrup, stear clear! Dairy products come with naturally higher sugar contents, but the high fiber and fat content help to minimize the sugars effect, so don’t fret.
- Avoid Processed Foods
If it doesn’t look natural, it probably isn’t. Our bodies are not made to undo the processing some foods have been through. Artificial colors, dyes and preservatives are toxic to our bodies. Another danger of many processed foods is the nutrients they can strip out of natural foods. Be sure to check ingredient lists, as this will provide a good indication of the level a food has been processed. If you can’t pronounce words, or if the list appears very long for something simple like cereal, that’s a good clue to skip. However, there are plenty of processed foods that are perfectly healthy and clean to eat: yogurt, cheese, packaged veggies, etc. Safeguard your body from unnecessary chemicals and provide it with the nutrients it needs by checking labels and limiting packaged foods.
- Eat Whole Grain
Some people are accustomed to the taste of white breads, white rice and other refined carbs, but they don’t realize how many health benefits they are missing out on by skipping whole grains. So many rich health benefits are stripped out when a grain is refined. Fiber, abundant in whole grains, is a dietary staple, helping move digestion along and avoid pain, constipation and diarrhea. Whole grains aide in regulating blood sugar, blood pressure and can even help lower cholesterol (Health 2016). While some diets believe in cutting out all processed-grains, we think whole-wheat pasta and whole-grain bread can have a place in a clean diet. As always, a helpful rule of thumb is to check the label. A truly whole-grain product should have whole grain listed as its first ingredient and the list should be short.
- Forget Calories, Focus on Nutrients
Nature is a beautiful thing: If you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet, the calories balance eachother out…naturally! As long as you’re eating whole, nutritious foods and aiming to hit all of your macros (fat-protein-carb ratio), chances are, you are in the bounds of proper caloric intake. It is much more beneficial to your overall health as well as gaining a fit physique to focus on consuming the right amount of nutrients versus just limiting your calories. News flash: 900 calories of carbs a day will not help you lose weight or get fit. The key is balance. Of course eating too much of anything can lead to weight gain and surpassing your advised daily calories by a landslide correlates to a higher fat percentage. The point is, if you are eating balanced and nutritious foods, the odds of significantly going over on calories is slim. Be sure to feed your body the nutrients and needs and it will return the favor!
- Stay Hydrated
Here’s another reason to eat your fruits and vegetables- most produce is over 50% water! If you’re not the kind of person who fills up your water bottle 8 times a day, don’t fret it! Just eat your vegetables and drink when you’re thirsty and you’ll probably be just fine. If you need some more motivation, here’s some facts for you: hydrated muscles perform better and grow faster. If you struggle with feeling hungry all the time, there’s a good chance you’re actually just thirsty. Substituting water with other high calorie beverages can also help you tame the scale. Other replacements that are low-calorie but not quite plain water are tea and flavored water with sugar-free electrolytes.
- Shop Smart (no buying junk food, stay to perimeter of grocery store)
We’ve all been there. You walk into the grocery store to re-stack on milk because you ran out and end up walking out with fritos and poptarts. It’s not all your fault though; high carb, low nutrient foods tend to reside near the front of grocery stores and toward the center aisles. They also, conveniently, tend to be priced lower and come in bulk. Here’s your solution: start from the outside and work your way in.Load up on produce and meats and use those items as staples to then support with snacks, condiments, etc. This will ensure your meals are more balanced and include essential nutrients. Going to the grocery store with a list already prepared is another great way to stop sugary treats from sneaking into your grocery cart. Less than half of the items you purchase on a typical grocery trip should be processed foods.
“18 Health Benefits of Whole Grains.” Health.com. N.p., n.d. Web.
“Fully Raw.” Dirty Dozen & Clean 15 | FullyRaw. N.p., 27 May 2015. Web.
R.D., Lisa D’Agrosa M.S. “7 Tips for Clean Eating.” EatingWell. EatingWell, 24 Apr. 2012. Web.
ShannonClarkFitness. “10 Rules Of Clean Eating: Live By Them And Live Long And Lean.” Bodybuilding.com. N.p., 15 Mar. 2016. Web.