5 Steps Towards a Clean Diet

5 steps to clean eating

As I’ve mentioned before, about a year ago I started my transition to a green, clean diet. At first I didn’t realize that was what I was doing, but as I learned more about it – it’s become the lifestyle for me. A green (or clean) diet focuses on eating whole, unprocessed foods with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds – accented by lean meat and whole grains. It is a huge change, especially in a society that has focused so much on created ‘convenience foods’ and has advertised foods as ‘low fat’ and ‘low calorie’ as good for your body. It’s a confusing health world out there, with articles one week saying that paleo is the way to go, and the next week saying that juice cleanses are the best thing. So here’s my philosophy: forget the diets, forget the rules and eat whole, unprocessed foods from nature. If your grandmother wouldn’t recognize it as food, don’t eat it. I promise, after you eat this way for a while your body will get over its sugar addiction and you’ll be able to enjoy the taste of real foods so much more than ever before. And those unhealthy, processed foods will start to taste like the chemicals masquerading as food that they are.

As I’ve said, this was a long journey for me. Mostly because I didn’t realize what I was doing as I was doing it, I just slowly started eliminating various unhealthy practices from my life (i.e. fast food, sugary drinks, processed food). I also took the approach of using up something I had around my house before starting a green alternative. For example, I finished using the laundry detergent I had and then replaced it with my homemade version (recipe here). Some people choose to purge their house first and start a green life from there. Here are a few of my tips to get you started.

1. Don’t drink your calories.
Luckily I stopped drinking soda in high school so this step wasn’t as hard for me as it is for some. Soda, not to mention being full of chemicals, is nothing but sugar that is doing absolutely nothing to improve your health. Your average soda can range from 100-200 calories for a 12 oz portion – and provides no fiber, protein, or other vitamins to make those calories count. Empty calories such as soda don’t fill you up – so you just end up eating more later. Need the caffeine? Try tea or coffee, both of which have healthy antioxidants and no (or in the case of black coffee, very few) calories. And increase your water intake – you should drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water every day. That means if you weight 140 pounds, you should be drinking 70 ounces of water a day.

2. Read ingredient labels.
Maybe the most important step you can take is to learn to read the labels on the food you buy. While the nutritional panel is also good to read, it can be misleading. For example, if a product contains less than .5 grams of trans fats – they are allowed to list 0 grams of trans fat on the label, and advertise the item as ‘trans-fat free’ on the front of the box/can/etc. However, .5 grams per serving size of the incredibly harmful trans fats is a lot considering the maximum daily allowance is set at 2 grams total. Personally, I prefer no trans fats at all. But in the case of products with less than .5 grams, the only way to tell is by reading the ingredients label – anything with ‘partially hydrogenated’ oil in it has trans fats.

Look for ingredients labels that have few ingredients, and ingredients that you can pronounce. A good goal is to avoid processed items with more than 5 ingredients, and avoid anything that has ingredients you don’t recognize as food.

3. Make your home, work, car, etc. a safe space.
I think the simplest and most effective thing you can do is remove unhealthy choices from your home, office, car – wherever you snack. When your cabinets are stocked with nuts and other healthy snacks it’s easier to make good choices. Also, if there are no donuts, chocolate bars, or chips around to snack on – then you can’t snack on them! Whenever I make a healthy meal, I like to double the recipe and freeze half so that I have healthy meals at the ready for nights when I didn’t plan dinner ahead. Make healthy choices easy for you to make – and you’ll make them more often.

4. Educate yourself.
This step is really where it all started for me. I subscribed to ‘Eat This, Not That’ and the health newsletters continued from there. Studies have shown that people who read about health regularly lead healthier lives – because that are more educated about food and their bodies. Makes sense to me! πŸ™‚ So subscribe to a few healthy twitter feeds or blogs or newsletters. I’d like to think reading this blog is a good first step πŸ™‚ but here are some of my other favorites:

Most of these blogs also have twitter and/or pinterest – so don’t forget to follow them there as well!

5. Harness the power of [organic] whole fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
Make fruits and vegetables a big part of your life. Structure your meals to include more fruits and vegetables – and make them the focus of more meals. One way I’ve started doing this is through Meatless Mondays during which I eat vegetarian for the day. It helps me think of fruits and vegetables in a new way, as the main component of a meal and experiment with new recipes. As a result, I find myself craving meatless options on a more regular basis. I wrote about this in detail in this post. Also, when you’re eating in this manner there’s less room in your life for unhealthy foods. Try adding a new, seasonal fruit or vegetable to your diet each week – through experimentation you’ll find the foods that you can crave just as much as unhealthy choices!

I hope these tips help – there are so many more but I didn’t want to overload one post. What are your favorite tricks for eating healthier?

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11 responses to “5 Steps Towards a Clean Diet

  1. We Three Locals

    I love eating, I love being in the kitchen, and I love making healthy choices. One of my favorite go-to tricks for eating healthier is finding healthy alternatives to generally unhealthy recipes. Some of my favorites include no-bake, eggless oatmeal cookies, greek yogurt smoothies, and using dates to nautrally sweeten, rather than processed sugars. :]

    • Those are all great tricks! I haven’t tried the no-bake cookies yet although I see recipes for them all the time on pinterest. But I definitely do a smoothie every morning and dates are so delicious! Thanks for sharing! πŸ™‚

  2. I think a really good trick to incorporating more fruits and veggies into your diet is to pay attention to color variety. When you’re putting together a meal, it should look like a rainbow on your plate. This makes for some awesome dishes! As a rice substitute, I’ll make a very fine saute` of yellow onions, red cabbage, cauliflower, and kale (or any leafy green for that matter), spice that up with whatever flavor I’m going for, and eat that with chicken or lentils or tofu πŸ™‚

    • That’s a great point! The different colored fruits and vegetables all have different vitamins and nutrients so eating the rainbow helps make sure you’re getting everything you need to be healthy πŸ˜„

  3. I totally agree with your views on not eating food with more than 5 ingredients or things you can’t pronounce. And I can’t bear low fat/no fat products that are just loaded with sugar. Great post!

    • Thank you! And I appreciate the comment πŸ™‚ You’re so right – low fat/no fat foods usually just have more of other bad-for-us ingredients like sugar or salt, or worse, a bunch of chemicals. Ew! Thanks for stopping by my blog πŸ™‚

  4. I’m happy to follow your blog! I can’t take the recipes with hydrogenated oils, artificial colors, marshmallows and mayo! I’m an ovo lacto veg and try to eat as cleanly as possible πŸ™‚

    • Thank you! πŸ™‚ I appreciate the follow so much!

      I completely agree with you – I hate it when I see a recipe out there that’s touted as “healthy” and the ingredients are a bunch of processed foods and pre-mixed seasoning packets. I try to eat as cleanly as I can and make as much as I can from scratch – and I’m learning more and more every day. What does ‘ovo lacto veg’ mean – it sounds like it means you eat milk and veggies and something else? Like slightly less restrictive than a vegan diet? I always like learning about new food choices πŸ™‚ Thanks for commenting!

      • I eat dairy and eggs but no meat. I just clarified because I’m not a vegan but I try to stick with organic dairy when possible. I’m not a good cook, so I have been going in the direction of simpler and simpler foods. Just started cutting down on white flour and soy in 2013 and I’m feeling so much better πŸ™‚

  5. I completely agree with you – simple food is always the most delicious. Fortunately, I love to cook and at least I think I’m pretty good at it πŸ˜‰ haha! Hopefully the recipes I share here can work for you too! I agree that since I’ve cut out processed foods and non-whole wheat grains I feel so much better!

  6. Pingback: Fabulous Fitness Survey | Foxy [Whole] Foodie

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