I continually hear from people that they want to clean up their diet and that of their family but where to begin?! What foods are “clean”? What foods should you steer clear of? There are so many diet crazes out there that advocate one way of eating or another but whatever it may be, it does not change what foods are healthy and what foods are not.
Quite simply, clean eating is eating more of the best and healthiest options in each of the food groups and eating less of the not-so-heathy ones. What’s good? Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy proteins and fats. What’s not so good? Refined grains, added sugars, salt and unhealthy fats. It’s not about counting calories or giving up entire food groups, it’s about balancing the right ones.
Here are the 10 Commandments, if you will, of clean eating:
- Eat 4-6 small meals per day. Why? Spacing your meals out to every 2.5-3 hours throughout the day keeps your blood sugar levels stable and your metabolism humming. This will prevent you from ever feeling hangry – we all know nothing good ever comes of THAT!
- Don’t skip breakfast. I’ve heard it before, “If I eat breakfast I find that I am hungrier throughout the day.” Well yeah! It’s called your metabolism and you have fired it up for the day – this is a good thing. Also, studies show that breakfast-skippers routinely consume larger quantities of food at later meals. Not a good thing.
- Drink more water. Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day. In addition to maintaining the balance of body fluids, it rids your body of toxins, increases energy, improves your skin and keeps your digestive system running smoothly. It also keeps your stomach full making you likely to eat fewer calories.
- Keep clean eating snacks on hand. What happens when you get tied up at your kid’s sporting event, get stuck in traffic or are in a meeting that runs late? The drive-thru starts to look mighty tasty and the cookies sitting out in the office kitchen look more and more tempting. I almost always have an apple and a single-serve packet of nut butter or an RX bar in my purse just in case!
- Limit alcohol. I’m not saying to eliminate it but enjoy it in moderation. Those are empty calories with no nutritional value. When you do drink, skip the soda, high calorie mixers & beer and have a vodka or tequila with soda and lime.
- Get rid of the sugar. IT. IS. EVERYWHERE. It hides in your pasta sauce, it hides in your bread, your crackers, sometimes it’s even in your peanut butter. Excess sugar is linked to higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure and inflammation. This is another reason why reading ingredient lists is so important.
- Keep your portions in check. Yes, you can eat too much of a good thing. Portions matter and unfortunately nearly all our meals are super-sized. You’ve heard the saying that abs are made in the kitchen or that your results are 80% nutrition and 20% exercise, right? Right?!
- Eat your veggies. Simply put, vegetables deliver nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber. Try to add them to all your meals. Sneak some spinach in your eggs or your smoothie, add a salad to your dinner!
- Combine lean protein & complex carbs at each meal. This duo will fill you up AND give you energy. Think yogurt and berries or string cheese and carrots. Winning combos.
- Make a meal plan! It sounds so ridiculous to say that writing down and planning your meals will make a difference but it does. Simply having the right foods in the house will not ensure that you will go for them when hunger hits. Know what you are going to be eating and plan and pack accordingly.
And there you go! Stick to these rules and you are on your way to a cleaner, healthier lifestyle.