You’ve probably heard of clean eating, but you may not know what it is exactly or how to go about cleaning up your diet.
These were my thoughts exactly when I first enrolled at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to get my health coaching degree. I wanted to make changes to my diet and lifestyle and wasn’t sure where or how to begin. We studied around 100 dietary theories. I experimented with all sorts of approaches: one week it was an approach that advocated a diet high in protein, the next week it was one that advocated a plant-based diet – exactly the opposite information. What was I to do?
I assessed our eating habits at home and started making small consistent changes that over time have lead to the bigger changes – to clean eating becoming our lifestyle and not a fad diet.
You see eating clean is about eating more of the best and healthiest options in each of the food groups. It’s not about giving up food groups. It’s about eating less of the not-so-healthy ones. That means embracing foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains, plus healthy proteins and fats. Choosing organic, grass-fed, chemical-free options as much as possible. Think of it as foods your grandmother would recognize! It also means cutting back on refined grains (grains that have been processed in a factory like a rice crispy for example– which is rice turned to cereal), added sugars, salt and unhealthy fats found in store-bought baked goods, fried foods and packaged foods.
If you’re looking to clean up your diet, here are some helpful tips to get you started.
Limit processed foods
Many processed foods are full of added sodium, sugar, fats and preservatives. Always look at the ingredient list on packaged foods. Just because it is on the shelf doesn’t mean it’s healthy for you. If the list is long (5 or more ingredients) or includes lots of ingredients that you can’t pronounce, try to stay away from it.
Tip: substitute with homemade versions of your favorite foods like tomato sauce, salad dressings and your favorite cake. And remember that not everything that comes out of a box, bag or can is bad for you.
Load-up on veggies
Vegetables are chock full of vitamins and nutrients. Vegetables are unprocessed – they come straight from the farm. They are a great source of natural fiber needed for proper digestions – which is lacking in our modern day diets. They are low in calories – you can eat bigger quantities without gaining weight.
Tip: Add greens and veggies to your meals by for example adding mushrooms and pepper to your omelet. Start your meals with a salad. When on the go, keep some cucumbers and carrots on you to snack on. That way you will meet the recommended daily amount for most adults which is 2½ to 3 cups.
Switch to healthy fats
You don’t have to cut out fats when you’re eating clean. You need to swap out fats (like those found in processed butters, cheese and meat) in favor of healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, and those found in raw nuts and fatty fish.
Tip: top your salad with nuts instead of cheese, use almond butter instead of cream cheese and replace mayonnaise with avocado on a sandwich.
Watch the sugar
Sugar is added to sodas, candy, ready made sauces, cereals, some yoghurts and baked goods to name a few. Read the labels and opt for low or no sugar foods.
Reduce Alcohol Intake
You can have alcohol but stay within the recommended limit—one drink per day for women and two for men. Alcohol in moderate amounts may be good for your heart, but too much alcohol dehydrates you and adds excess calories to your diet.
Switch to whole grains
Whole grains provide the body with more nutrients than refined grains because the bran and germ have not been removed. Go for brown rice, wild rice, quinoa and oats. These will keep you full for longer and reduce your sugar cravings. Let go of white flour, white pasta and white rice, which are processed and most likely, stripped of beneficial nutrients like magnesium, selenium and fiber.
Eat more fruit
Fruit are a delicious way to add nutrients to your diet. They provide us with vitamins, fiber and natural sugars.
Tip: Opt for seasonal, organic fruits. Frozen fruits are great to keep using in smoothies and healthy bakes.
Once you experience having more energy, improved mood and concentration, improved digestion and are happy with your weight, you no longer feel deprived, but rewarded at being able to eat and live this way. Your taste buds change. You make more educated choices about what goes into your body. You become what you consistently do.
Now that the weather is getting colder, a ‘clean’ meal in our house would consist of a warming soup such as Egyptian lentil soup. Followed by a batch of roasted seasonal vegetables such as carrot, beetroot, sweet potato, zucchini or asparagus served with a whole grain such as quinoa and large green salad. For animal protein, we cook that 2-3 times per week and opt for organic chicken, grass-fed meat and wild fish whenever possible.
You can download my guide for some tips I use in my daily life 7 Ways To Integrate Healthy Ingredients Into Your Meals
If you want to integrate healthier eating and lifestyle habits into your day to day and don’t want to go at it alone, I regularly run clean eating programs to help you do just that. Stay tuned for the next Eat Clean To Get lean 30-Day Program starting January 11th.