The seven commandments of clean eating
“Clean eating” seems to be a huge buzz term these days, but what does it actually mean? Eating clean can be defined in many ways, but the most common definition is that you eat the freshest, least processed foods you can find. This involves eating more fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein and less processed and junk foods.
Altering the way you eat can be a bit overwhelming at first (chances are your pantry is full of foods that don’t fall into the plan!), but it is achievable and will make your mind and body feel better. Whether you’re just starting on your health journey or you’re looking to improve an already-healthy diet, below are our seven commandments that everyone should follow if they want to eat clean.
- Eat whole foods, avoid processed. Make it your goal to stop by your local farmers market at least once during the week to pick up local fruits, vegetables, eggs and meats. Processed foods are not only highly addictive (we’ve all experienced eating an entire sleeve of Oreos in one sitting) but their high levels of refined sugars, processed flours, vegetable oils and other ingredients can cause inflammation, one of the leading causes of chronic illness. If you’re unable to get to a farmers market, shopping seasonally at your local grocery store is a cost-effective way to get the freshest produce available.
- Eat veggies with every meal. Vegetables are about as clean as food comes and are packed with vitamins and minerals for good heart and bone health. If you’re not used to eating vegetables with every meal, try eating celery with nut butter, a fruit smoothie with spinach added in or carrots and hummus as a snack. For larger meals, make a big salad the biggest portion of your meal.
- Cook your own meals. Although this may require a bit of preparation on Sunday, preparing and cooking your own meals allows you to know exactly what’s going into your food and to cut out added artificial ingredients, sugar and sodium. Not sure where to start with meal planning? Here you go.
- Drink less alcohol and more water. Start your morning with a large glass of water to kick start your insides and keep a water bottle at your desk all day so you get in the recommended eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. And while you don’t need to stop drinking alcohol all together, try only drinking in moderation (one drink per day for women, two for men). Alcohol dehydrates the body and adds in extra calories.
- Eat five to six small meals a day. Eating smaller meals throughout the day prevents you from getting overly hungry in between meals and opting for a bag of Lays out of starvation. Five to six meals might sound like a lot of meal preparation but it’s not. Here’s a list of small, healthy meals you can make in 12 minutes or less.
- Cut out added sugars and salt. Most Americans eat way too much sugar (100 pounds a year!) and salt (usually through processed foods). The American Heart Association recommends no more than six tablespoons of sugar for women and nine for men a day. As for sodium, keep it to under 2,300 mg a day. If you listen to our first commandment and try to eat mostly whole foods, it will be easier to follow this rule. Try to limit the amount of soda and junk food in your diet and season meals with herbs and spices instead of salt.
- Don’t deprive yourself. In the first few weeks of adjusting your diet, it’s totally normal to crave a not-so-clean treat. And while it’s important to have self-restraint, it’s also important to listen to your body. A good method is to decide what a treat is, maybe it’s a square of dark chocolate you keep in your freezer or small side of fries once a month. Enjoy that treat and then get back on the clean eating track – no binging on junk food allowed!
What are your best tips for eating clean?
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Photo credit: Le living and co