Eliminating highly processed food from your diet and focusing on a clean eating lifestyle can be overwhelming in the beginning, especially if you are trying to do everything at once. These 6 tips will help you get started.
What is Clean Eating?
After my husband had a heart attack in 2013 at the age of 45, we knew we had to make some lifestyle changes. After a ton of research, we decided that rather than identify with a particular diet, we would keep it simple and eat as clean as possible. You can read all about our decision in My Journey To Clean Eating post.
My definition of clean eating is eating whole, unprocessed foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes. It also includes foods that have been minimally processed or refined, such as 100 percent whole wheat bread, hormone-free dairy, healthy fats, and humanely raised meat.
We do not count calories or fat grams, nor do we eliminate any food groups. We eat less meat and cheese than we did before, but we certainly haven’t eliminated them. We have cut out highly processed food and only eat refined sugar occasionally. We purchase organic and local food as much as possible.
Making changes in your diet can be overwhelming when you are first starting out. They definitely were for me. These 6 tips will get you started without giving you a list of things you need to eliminate from your diet.
1. Add More Fruits And Vegetables
This was something I did right from the start. I definitely was not eating 5 cups of fruit and vegetables per day. The recommended amount of fruit and vegetables vary according to sex, weight, and age. In general, 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables are recommended for adult men and women by USDA ChooseMyPlate.gov.
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can have great health benefits including a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke, and may also reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. The more I learn about the health benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables, the easier it becomes to incorporate more of them throughout my day.
I try to purchase organic produce whenever possible. I use the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide which gives a list of produce with the highest amounts of pesticide and a list of the produce that is least likely to contain pesticides.
Where can you add extra servings of fruits and vegetables?
2. Switch To Whole Grains
Whole grains contain disease-fighting phytochemicals and antioxidants. When you eat grains that are not 100% whole grain, you are consuming a highly processed grain that contains a lot of empty calories. Check out my Whole Grains vs Refined Grains post for a more detailed look at whole grains and what to look for on ingredient labels.
Try some whole grains that you haven’t had before. I had never eaten quinoa, farro, or bulgur until we switched to eating whole grains. Now they are staples in my pantry.
3. Read Ingredient Labels
When we first started cleaning up our diet, I began reading the ingredient labels on the packaged food in our pantry. Prior to this, I only looked at calories and fat grams. I then began researching what some of the ingredients that I could not pronounce actually were. I was shocked and could not believe the junk I was feeding my family. You can read more about what I learned in my Nutrition Labels post.
Start reading labels and looking for healthier alternatives for the products that are loaded with unwanted and unhealthy ingredients. Vani Hari aka The Food Babe has a great list of ingredients to avoid in processed food. Her Food Additive Glossary A-Z lists the ingredients, why they should be avoided, and the foods they are commonly found in. She also has a handy pocket guide.
4. Use Unrefined Oils
Refined oils are extracted using heat and a solvent. The oil is then bleached and deodorized. Yuck! Canola oil, vegetable oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil, margarine, and shortening are all refined.
We stick to unrefined oils which are cold-pressed without using heat or chemicals. Some unrefined oils include olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and sesame oil. We also use butter and ghee. Coconut oil, ghee, and avocado oil will not burn when cooking at a high temperature. Therefore, they are great substitutes for any refined oils you may be using. You can read more about unrefined vs refined oils in The Power and Potency of Unrefined Oils post.
5. Reduce Meat Consumption
As I said earlier, we do eat meat but we have reduced the amount we eat significantly. We have done this for several reasons. Less meat is better for our health and the environment. Another factor is cost. We try to purchase local meat that is raised under humane conditions, free of growth hormones and antibiotics. You can read more about our decision to reduce meat consumption and the benefits in my 4 Benefits of Reducing Meat Consumption post
Treat meat as a side dish rather than the main dish and have a few meatless meals per week.
6. Visit A Local Farmer’s Market
Shopping at a local farmer’s market has so many benefits. The produce is picked at the peak of ripeness which makes it taste better. It also provides the best nutritional value. Produce at the grocery store is often several days old before it makes it to the shelves.
The produce at the farmer’s market is usually grown within 100 miles of the market unlike grocery store produce which can travel 1,500 miles. By shopping at the farmer’s market, you are supporting family farmers and the local economy and you are helping to protect the environment.
When visiting the farmer’s market you are able to talk directly to the farmers about how and where the food is produced. Look for farmers who are certified organic or follow organic practices. I think it drives my husband crazy when I start asking my list of questions. That’s OK because I know he finds it interesting and we learn a lot of new information every time I ask questions.
I told you I wasn’t going to give you a list of things to eliminate from your diet. Clean eating does not have to be all or nothing. Starting with small changes can make a big difference in your health.
Which of these tips will you start implementing? Please let me know if you have any questions.