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If you have developed a habit of unhealthy eating, then join the club. Eating foods that feed our emotions, rather than foods that encourage a healthy body, is quite common.
And, this doesn’t mean that we should never indulge in something that isn’t so healthy.
But, if we clean up our eating habits and change our mindsets to crave foods that offer nutritional value, then it can become much easier and even simple to live a healthier lifestyle.
So, let’s first define what clean eating really is. To eat clean is eat a diet that is rich in foods that provides the body with the highest nutritional value.
Whole foods, such as whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables are going to be the best choices when comes to feeding our bodies.
This is because these foods are in their whole state and have not gone through any processing. When eaten, these foods provide great nutritional value to the body that encourages health and energy to the body’s organs.
Why We’re Eating Wrong in The First Place
Perhaps we’ve developed unhealthy eating habits because of lifestyle and convenience. Grabbing a meal on-the-go seems like a great idea when you’re short on time.
But as you may know, fast foods are not the best choice when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet.
The key here is to change our definition of fast foods. It usually takes only minutes to order and receive a full meal from a fast food restaurant.
But the better alternative is eating foods that are also fast and satisfying such as raw fruits, vegetables and nuts.
It only takes minutes to whip up a healthy salad and have all the components of a well-balanced meal.
There is no denying that foods like French fries, cookies, and pizza are delicious in taste.
But when we follow a diet that is high in processed foods like this, we deprive our bodies of what it needs to be healthy.
Instead, we feed it things that it doesn’t need at all.
According to Dr. Vilma Andari MS, of the American Heart Association, fast foods and snack foods tend to be low in nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Furthermore, these foods are highly processed and contain large amounts of sugar and sodium which are known to be stored as fat.
When this happens, it contributes to raised cholesterol levels and encourages disease in the body.
So, how do we eat clean and where do we start?
1. Drink Water
Research suggests that drinking a glass of water before eating will cause you to eat less. Essentially, staying hydrated and drinking water will help the body to process foods properly.
Water helps move foods through the system and encourages proper elimination.
You should also avoid filling up on soda and sugary drinks that are full of empty calories and offer little to no nutritional value.
Try infused water instead. If you feel like you still need a little fizz, go with a sparkling water for an extra boost.
2. Pace Yourself
Bad habits can be hard to break. Chances are that you’ve been eating unhealthy foods for quite some time and changing your diet may feel intimidating.
Just keep in mind that you don’t have to be in a rush when it comes to transitioning to a clean diet.
Making too many changes all at once may become overwhelming and tempt you back to old eating habits.
Instead, try replacing an unhealthy item with a clean item at each meal. Do this a couple of days and then switch out another item until you’ve changed the diet completely.
Remember, this is a lifestyle change so take your time.
3. Color Your Plate
A clean meal should be vibrant with fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Make sure to add fruits and or vegetables to every meal and include seeds, nuts and legumes as toppings and snacks.
If you are a meat eater, then it is best to choose organic or grass fed. But, you should also note that beans and legumes are also a great source of protein.
4. Readjust Your Focus
There’s nothing worse than craving something that you really want to eat and not being able to have it.
Not satisfying these urges may tend to make you want it even more than ever.
So instead of focusing on what you can’t have, try focusing on what you can have to help make the shift.
Now, this may not be so easy at first. But eating a healthier diet will encourage you to crave healthier food choices.
Eliminating processed foods while replacing them with whole nutrient enriched foods will help you feel full while supplying you with more energy throughout the day.
So, shift your focus and try out different foods that are not only good for you, but taste good to you.
5. Reduce Your Sugar and Sodium Intake
There is sugar and sodium in almost everything that we eat. It’s used so much, that you almost need to stay away from anything in a box or a bottle just to avoid it in large amounts.
The following are the recommended amounts as suggest by the American Heart Association.
For optimal heart health, the American Heart Association recommends you consume:
- No more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.
- No more than 6 teaspoons or 100 calories of sugar a day for women.
Following these guidelines is a great way to monitor your sugar and sodium intake daily.
6. Check Labels
We know that eating whole foods are going to be the best choice when it comes to diet.
It is strongly suggested to stick to these types of foods if you are following a clean eating diet.
However, checking the nutritional value on items is extremely important when consuming foods that have been minimally processed.
A few things to note are going to be the daily value in nutrients per serving. The Food and Drug Administration suggests less than 100% of the daily value in sodium, cholesterol, sugars, trans fat, and saturated fat.
Follow the following guidelines to help in your food choices.
7. Eat Primarily for Substance
The foods that we consume play a huge role in our overall wellbeing. If you’re not going completely cold turkey on unhealthy foods altogether, then it may not be so bad to have an occasional food that is not so healthy.
However, most of your meals really should be for substance and nutrition.
Foods that are going to feed the body, build the immune system and give it energy should be your primary focus when it comes to diet.
JJ Smith, a nutritionist and author of Lose Weight Without Dieting Or Working Out, suggests having no more than 1-2 cheat meals per week.
Eating for substance and not pleasure is an important component to staying on track.
8. Prepare Your Own Meals
You may make healthy choices when you are out to dinner or eating meals away from home.
But the only way that you can be sure of how your food has been prepared, is if you have cooked it yourself.
Your best choice is going to be prepare your own meals.
Get into the habit of meal prep and prepackaging your foods for easy access.
Also, if you know that you’re going to be out for a while, pack an insulated lunch bag full of healthy snacks so that you have what you need when you are away from home.
Being proactive is going to be one of your best tools when it comes to transitioning to a healthier diet.