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! 🙂 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 🙂 but here are some of my other favorites:
Eat This, Not That!
Fannetastic Food Blog
Women’s Health Magazine Newsletters
Rabbit Food for my Bunny Teeth
Once a Month Mom
100 Days of Real Food
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?