I consider myself a healthy eater. For many years I have made it a priority to eat as healthfully as I could and as a result, many of my efforts have become habits. I have never followed specific diet trends or relied on diet products, I just made it a point to eat whole grains, lean meat, fruits, and vegetables; while eating unhealthy foods in moderation.
But over the past year, I have learned many new things which lead me to realize that a lot of the food I eat isn’t as healthy as I had thought. I have learned that food marketing is extremely deceptive and food companies care only about making money. I have learned about the damaging effects of certain artificial ingredients and preservatives on the body. I have learned a little bit more about genetically modified foods (GMOs) and why they should be avoided. Because of my passion for an educational background in health, these realizations have led me to challenge myself to make the changes needed to truly have a healthy diet. That is why my New Year’s Resolution for 2014 is to get clean.
I don’t consider clean eating a trend as much as it is simply going back to the way our ancestors ate. Many of them had farms and gardens in which they grew their own food. They didn’t have the convenience of processed, boxed foods and microwave dinners.
Combined with modern recipes that incorporate the healthiest foods without sacrificing flavor, clean eating can easily be the most effective health tactic yet. Choosing whole, natural foods whenever possible will not only lead to weight loss but also will rid the body of unhealthy chemicals and preservatives and contribute to disease prevention.
Even for someone who eats well, to begin with, learning how to eat clean is not easy. Here are five ways to begin incorporating clean eating into your routine:
1. Cook from scratch. Whenever possible, make meals and baked goods from scratch. Do not rely on a boxed cake or brownie mixes, canned soups, or packaged snack items. They are all loaded with artificial ingredients and preservatives.
2. Stock up on produce. Keep your favorite fruits and vegetables readily available at all times, but also try something new every so often. I recently tried kale chips and they were delicious! The internet is your best friend when it comes to finding new recipe ideas utilizing fruits and vegetables.
3. Read labels on everything you buy. You’d be surprised by the number of unpronounceable ingredients in an item you thought was healthy. If you have staple items that you eat regularly, use the internet to look up how to make sure you are choosing the healthiest possible brand.
4. Budget a little more for food. Not only are prepackaged foods easier, but they are also often cheaper than buying all the ingredients to cook from scratch. If you truly want to devote yourself to clean eating, plan to spend a little more for ingredients and healthier brands.
5. Go easy on yourself. Don’t try to change your entire diet all at once. Take baby steps to avoid getting overwhelmed. Vow to make one change per week. I suggest cleaning up what you drink before anything else. Drink water as much as possible, soda as little as possible, and never drink anything labeled as diet. As the weeks go by, you will find that your clean eating choices become easier and even habitual. Allow yourself a break now and then and don’t beat yourself up over setbacks.
In the grand scheme of things, it may be impossible to have a completely clean diet all the time. I don’t plan on being perfect, but just doing the best I can. Every step benefits your body that much more. Think of it as a shower for your inside. Your internal system gets dirty through chemicals and preservatives in the foods we eat and the best way to help clean out the gunk is to feed it the most natural foods possible.
This year, give clean eating a try and see how you feel. Follow along with me as I try to clean up my pantry and strive to become a truly healthy eater!