Do you vow to yourself every January 1st that this year is going to be the year to get healthy? If so, you’re in good company. Many of us make health related goals year after year and yet they don’t stick. This year, instead of trying the latest diet trend, overcommitting to exercise or falling trap to seemingly impossible end goals, we’re sticking to five simple guidelines to eating clean. So what exactly do we mean by “eating clean”?
According to Terry Walters, author of Eat Clean Live Well, “Eating clean is about filling your plate and your diet with super-nutritional foods that heal and nourish…and doing the best you can… one healthy choice at a time for sustainable good health. There are no rigid guidelines or harmful judgments, just abundant seasonal foods that are minimally processed for maximum nutrition … These are the foods we all need more of no matter what else is on our plates — whole grains, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and fruit, all in a rainbow of color and all five tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent).”
In simple terms, eating clean is a good way to refresh your eating habits. It’s about embracing foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains, plus healthy proteins and fats – while cutting back on processed and fried foods, refined flours and sugar laden foods. The best part? It’s not about counting calories or giving up whole food groups, which makes it easier to follow. Instead of trying to change your whole routine and lifestyle overnight, take it slow and steady; start by making small adjustments each week. Pick one health goal to work on for 1-2 weeks until it becomes a habit before adding on a second.
- Get rid of diet food and start getting real. Chuck out all of those protein powders, power bars, diet pills, low-fat or fat-free foods. Instead reach for whole grains, fresh seasonal produce, unsaturated fats like extra virgin olive oil, lean proteins, nuts and seeds.
- Mix up your favorites. Swap mashed potatoes for sweet potatoes. Try grated cauliflower in place of rice or use it as a base for pizza crust instead of wheat. Add some kale to your pesto. Puree some cooked carrots or squash to add to pancakes or your favorite pasta sauce. Cook with extra virgin olive oil instead of butter or canola oil.
- Learn to love fat! Pair carbohydrates with healthy fats to slow their digestion. This will help keep you fuller and more alert longer. Fat is a powerhouse for the body. Fat not only provides longer lasting energy for the body but it is a main source of fuel for the brain. You don’t have to cut out fats when you’re eating clean; instead just focus on healthy fats. Start by swapping out saturated fats (butter, cheese, meat) for healthy monounsaturated fats (extra virgin olive oil, nuts, fish). Studies have shown that monounsaturated fats are good for your heart and can help raise your HDL “good” cholesterol. Need an easy way to get in more healthy fats? Make your own dressings. An average bottled dressing is not only costly but is loaded with preservatives, sugar and sodium. Making a simple extra virgin olive oil based dressing at home is free of preservatives and added chemicals plus it could save you a pretty penny.
- It matters how it’s made. Look for seals of quality and certifications. Don’t be fooled by “all-natural” or “healthy” claims. Know what to look for! There are many great resources to help you cut through the marketing claims. When it comes to organic, it’s not all or nothing. The simple guide to the “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” will help with making decisions regarding produce.
- Get colorful! Try for three different colors at each meal. Especially try to sneak in dark leafy greens. Try different combinations. Buy seasonal produce – this will not only save you money, but will help improve your health by ensuring you get the most nutrient dense produce and the widest array of nutrients.
Learning to eat clean can be a big lifestyle change. Take things a day at a time, one meal at a time, one decision at a time. Each time you choose whole foods over processed foods you’re making progress. Keep it simple and make it fun!