12 Steps to Clean Eating
There are so many different diets that it can be hard to decide which one is best. Trying to “stick” to a diet can often lead to frustration, deprivation and overeating. Over the years, I have followed different diets, such as, Vegan, Raw and Vegetarian, but have found that I personally don’t like to have a label tied to the way that I eat, or have a strict diet that is hard to "stick" to. I like to focus on eating nourishing, plant-based, real food that keep me healthy and provides my body with the nutrients that it needs. What has worked for me and my family is “Clean Eating” which is consuming primarily whole, unprocessed, real food. While clean eating may not sound very exciting or flavorful, it actually can provide an array of flavor and options. Eating a clean diet of whole foods and unprocessed ingredients ensures you get adequate amounts of essential nutrients and minerals, like vitamin B12, magnesium, calcium, fiber and much more. Whole foods boast incredible nutrition profiles, and it’s best to eat a wide range of nutrient dense foods to ensure any nutritional void is filled. When you stick to whole foods, you’re much more likely to keep your caloric intake at an appropriate level for your body and maintain a healthy weight as a result.
Whole foods actually fill you up and fuel you, whereas empty calories, like those found in processed foods like, candy and chips, fill a mental craving, but don’t physically fill you up. Your mindset will improve when you switch to whole foods since it’s hard to feel guilty after filling up on genuine nutrients. Whole foods also regulate cholesterol levels and ward off cancer, heart disease, dementia, and many other conditions. In addition, the high fiber content of fruits, vegetables, and grains keeps the digestive system in tip-top shape, which is essential to optimal health. Other benefits of clean eating include, weight loss, increased energy, clearer skin, shinier hair, better sleep and increased mental well-being.
The 12 steps below will help you start on your journey to eating clean. Pick one or more to try each week.
1. Eat Whole Foods
Whole foods are those that occur in nature and don’t go through a lab or another manufacturing unit. Have you heard the statement: "If it comes from a plant, eat it; if it’s made in a plant, avoid it"! Examples of whole foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
2. Spend time in the kitchen
When you cook for yourself, you’re almost guaranteed to up the nutritional value of your food. Experiment with new recipes each week. Try meal prepping to have healthy items on hand and ready to go for quick meals. Restaurant food is more processed, less fresh, and often over seasoned. Keep it simple and then build your repertoire as you learn more.
3. Eliminate refined sugar and carbohydrates
You’ll want to remove white foods (like white sugar and white flour) from your diet if you’re aiming to eat clean. This includes all standard desserts containing white sugar, as well as, white pasta, white rice, white bread, and pastries.
4. Drink Water
Start each day with a glass of fresh lemon water. The many benefits of this include: helps flush the digestive system and rehydrate the body, helps purge toxins from the body, balances the acidity in your body and boosts your immune system. Make sure to stay hydrated throughout the day. Add lemon or fruit to make water more flavorful.
5. Maintain blood sugar.
Keeping your blood sugar stable greatly contributes to healthy food choices. When you wait too long between meals or eat processed foods that spike blood sugar – leading to a crash in energy – you’re more likely to reach for sugar, fat, or caffeine to keep your energy up. If you continue this cycle, you’ll always feel irritable and exhausted. If you ensure you eat whole foods every 3–4 hours, your blood sugar and mentality will remain stable.
6. Remember the magic combination of protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates.
You should aim to get a serving from each group at every meal. This will create optimal blood sugar levels and stave off your cravings and brain fog. Some examples of great protein sources include fish, tempeh, and tofu. Top-notch fat options are avocado, olive oil, nuts, and seeds. When reaching for complex carbs, try quinoa, brown rice, or sweet potatoes.
7. Add herbs and spices
Adding herbs and spices will enhance the flavors of your dishes and add many health benefits without the extra calories.
8. Watch out for fat, salt, and sugar.
This is easier than you think, particularly if you’ve cut out processed foods, which are responsible for most of our excess calories and high levels of fat, sugar, and salt. Clean foods are usually naturally low in all of these ingredients. Try natural sugars such as raw honey, maple syrup, or dates.
9. Don’t drink your calories.
High calorie drinks like specialty coffees and soft drinks can tack on many extra calories. Always choose water first or unsweetened tea.
Regular physical activity is a must for many reasons. Not only does it decrease fat, strengthen and build muscle, and help you burn more energy at rest, it keeps your heart, lungs, and bones healthy and strong.
11. Savor Your Food
Take your time to enjoy meals whether alone or with family. Sit down and enjoy all of the flavors of the meal. Try to keep distractions such as phone and television out of reach to fully enjoy the meal.
12. Clean Out Your Pantry
Toss foods that contain processed ingredients such as, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, artificial flavors or sweeteners and any ingredient that you don’t recognize or cannot pronounce. These processed ingredients can be harmful to your health.
*Adapted from Integrative Nutrition, Inc.
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PLEASE NOTE: The information provided throughout my website pertaining to your health or wellness, is not intended to be a substitute for the professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by your own physician or health care provider. It is intended to be provided for informational, educational, and self-empowerment purposes only. This information should not be used to diagnose, treat or cure any illness or health condition. If you have, or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your physician or health care provider. A Health Coach is defined as a guide and mentor who empowers clients to take responsibility for their own health and supports them to implement and sustain lifestyle and behavior changes that will contribute to the achievement of their personal wellness goals. I became certified as a Health Coach because of my passion for health and wellness, and to work with others on incorporating positive and healthy changes in their lives.
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