Make The Choice To Eat Clean
The decision to eat clean does not need to involve self-deprivation. Nor does it need to lead to a fanatically strict diet that “outlaws” all of your favorite comfort foods such as chocolate ice cream. The decision to eat clean is simply one small step in your journey to healthy living. Remember, you can reach a far healthier lifestyle than you ever imagined just by making small choices, over time, that will greatly effect the state of your health in the long-run.
Take Small Sustainable Steps
Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of small, positive steps towards your goal. In order to begin eating clean, simply make a conscious choice to change minute details of your diet. For example, instead of eating a piece of pie for dessert every night make a conscious decision to eat a piece of fruit. Before you know it this will become your new habit. Practice these small changes until they become habit. Once these small changes become a part of your everyday norm you will begin to see them add up to a big change.
Drink Less Alcohol
A few years ago a number of studies came out that confirmed the health benefits of wine, especially red wine. Unfortunately though, a large number of people took this as an excuse to begin drinking wine to excess.
It’s important to remember that even though alcohol, especially wine, does have its place in a healthy diet, alcohol is also a powerful diuretic which can lead to dehydration, heart disease, and liver problems. So, it’s important to keep your alcohol consumption to a minimum. The recommended amount of alcohol for women is 1 drink a day and for men is 2 drinks a day.
Drink More Water
A large number of Americans unknowingly suffer from mild, chronic dehydration. This dehydration is brought on, mainly, by our tendency to over-indulge in caffeine and alcoholic beverages. Though a case of mild dehydration sounds insignificant its important to remember that this condition can lead to all sorts of health issues including headaches, premature skin aging, and weight gain. How Much Water Should You Drink?
Eat Less Salt
One of the best ways to reduce your sodium intake is to replace all high sodium snacks, such as potato chips, with fresh snack items such as fruit and vegetables. Another great way to reduce your sodium intake is to avoid high sodium fast food, such as pizza and Chinese food, and instead cook your own meals, flavoring them with sodium-free alternatives such as Mrs. Dash’s spices.
These small changes can make a huge impact on our health. According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine if we reduce our sodium intake by just 1,000 mg (1/2 tsp) a day, we may lower our risk of heart disease by up to 9%.
Eat Less Sugar
The American Heart Association recommends that women eat only six teaspoons of sugar a day and men eat only about eight teaspoons of sugar a day. Unfortunately, the average American eats about 30 teaspoons of sugar a day which translates to over 400 extra calories of sugar a day. One of the best ways to limit your sugar consumption is to use Agave Nectar instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners to sweeten your drinks.
Limit All Things Artificial
Learning to spot and limit all artificial ingredients that can sneak into your diet is an important component of learning to eat clean. Often, these ingredients are present in the form of artificial preservatives and dyes. Therefore, by eating real food (all things that come from the earth and/or were born of a living creature) you will limit the artificial ingredients that you consume.
Eat Less Saturated Fat
Saturated fat is the type of fat that is often found in dairy products and meats. This type of fat is believed to raise “bad” cholesterol levels. Therefore, it is wise to limit the consumption of high fat dairy products and other animal products in order to protect the health of your heart. A great way to do this is to implement “meatless Monday” one day out of the week in which you make a conscious effort to eliminate all animal products from your meal plan.
Eat Less Refined Grains
All things white (white bread, white rice, white flour) are stripped of vitamins, fiber and minerals. In essence, they are empty and high glycemic carbohydrates that can wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels and overall metabolism. The best way to spot these refined grains is to check the label. If the word “whole” appears in the ingredients label (ex: whole wheat flour) you are on the right track.
Eat More Whole Grains
Whole grains are a good source of complex carbohydrates as well as fiber and a host of vitamins and minerals such as selenium, potassium and magnesium because these grains have not had their bran and germ removed by milling. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that at least half of all the grains we eat be whole grains.
Eat Less Processed Snack Items
Eating less processed snack items is a highly effective way to eat clean. Limiting your consumption of processed snacks will help you limit your sodium, sugar, preservative and artificial dye consumption. This may seem drastic but I hope the following example will help clarify this point: Pringles can’t call themselves “potato chips” because they are only 42% potato. The rest of their “chips” are made up of rice, flour and other fillers.
Eat More Fruit
People’s reluctance to eat fruit is the biggest consequence of the latest high protein diet craze. Fruit are not just delicious but also extremely good sources of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Eat More Raw Vegetables
Like fruit, raw vegetables are also highly nutritious sources of the kind of fiber which can help you manage your weigh.
Eat More Seasonal Foods
Seasonal fruit and vegetables are not only the freshest produce available at the market but they are also the least expensive. So, make a conscious effort to reconnect with nature and learn which fruit and vegetables are in season at what time of the year. You’ll be doing your health and wallet a favor as well as the planet since seasonal foods, on average, travel a shorter distance to get to you and hence have a slightly lower carbon footprint than other foods.
Drink More Green Tea
Green tea is a powerhouse of antioxidants. Best of all, drinking green tea may help you manage your weight. Research has shown that consuming three or four cups of green tea a day can help speed up your metabolism and thus speed up fat loss. This is because green tea contains a compound that reacts with caffeine to boost fat oxidation and our bodies’ resting metabolisms by an average of 20%. Note: Due to its high caffeine content, it is best to drink green tea, instead of coffee, in the morning.
Drink Less Processed Fruit Juices
Processed fruit drinks are nothing more than flavored sugar water, sweetened with excess amounts of high fructose corn syrup and pumped full of artificial dyes. These so called “fruit juices” often contain as little as 1% fruit juice. That’s scary! So, why not take a few minutes to juice your own fruits and vegetables or make a conscious decision to buy nothing but 100% unsweetened fruit juices?
Eat More Fish
Fish such as Salmon, Halibut, Bass and many others are great sources of lean protein and healthy oils which help keep your skin looking young and your waistline slim and trim. But, best of all these lean proteins also help keep you full while keeping your saturated fat consumption to a minimum.
Avoid Processed Meats
I want to scream every time I see .99c cold cuts at supermarkets. Though these cold cuts may seem convenient and cost effective it’s important to keep in mind that they are nothing more than mystery meat held together with water, salt, MSG and a host of other unwholesome preservatives.
But, the good news is that you don’t have to put deli meats aside entirely. With a little research you can find perfectly healthy deli meats that are high in lean protein and low in sodium. These deli meats cost a little more but the higher cost is worth the healthier option.
Eat Something Raw At Each Meal
Make a conscious effort to fill at least half of your plate with raw fruit and vegetables such as a salad. This is a great way to control your portion sizes as well as ensure you eat a balanced diet full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.
Look for eco-friendly labels such as Certified Organic, Bird Friendly, Marine Stewardship Council, Fair Trade Certified, Grass-Fed, Rainforest Alliance Certified, Food Alliance, Certified Humane Raised and Handled, and Hormone free.
Though recent research indicates that such labels don’t guarantee that the food you eat is more nutritious they do indicate the fact that your food has a low carbon footprint and has not been exposed to pesticides and other harmful chemicals.
Photo courtesy of: celesteh