One of the things a lot of people struggle with when they’re trying to eat better and healthier is where to start. Adopting healthier eating habits can be challenging; all those cravings at night, the comfort food you’re used to eating and having to try new healthier foods can be hard at first. However, with time and a strong will, you can achieve your goal, whether your aim is losing weight or just trying to eat healthier.
To kickstart your journey, your best bet is to keep things simple and focus on making small changes, such as eating minimally processed foods. This does not mean emptying your kitchen cabinets and starting from scratch. Instead, you can begin by adding some quality healthy pantry staples, as well as stock up on fruits and vegetables.
What Is Clean Eating?
Clean eating doesn’t have anything to do with whether the food you’re eating is clean or dirty. It basically means picking minimally processed, real foods that offer maximum nutritional benefits. The idea is to eat foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. What’s more, eating foods that are grown more environmentally conscious is a great part of the concept of clean eating.
Nevertheless, when making food decisions and buying healthy pantry staples, make sure to do what’s practical for you. If you’re new to this, it might be easier to start just one small thing at a time, to make this whole process less overwhelming. Here are our tips and suggestions on what to eat when you’re trying to eat more healthfully.
Eat More Veggies and Fruits
There’s no denying that fruits and veggies are very rich in nutrients. They’re packed with fibre, minerals, vitamins, and other compounds that help your body fight inflammation and protect your cells from damage. As a matter of fact, many studies link high fruit and vegetable intake to a reduced risk of illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. Fresh fruits and veggies are perfect if your goal is clean eating since most of them can be eaten raw right after picking and washing them.
Eating organic products can also help you minimise your pesticide exposure which will consequently boost your health. Regardless of that, eating more fruits and veggies, whether they’re organic or not, is very beneficial for your health when compared to eating them in limited quantities.
Here’s how you can easily add more fruits and veggies into your diet:
- Prepare colourful and tasty salads, including at least three different veggies besides greens.
- Add fruits such as watermelon, apples, strawberries, or tangerines to your salad.
- Add berries, bananas, or plums on top of your cereal and yoghurt.
- Wash and prep veggies and put them in a container in your refrigerator for easy access.
- Add kale, spinach, collards, or squash to your stews and soups.
- Go with canned or frozen versions of fruits and veggies when cooking as they are usually more affordable and make meal prep easier.
Limit Processed Foods
Studies have shown that ultra-processed foods are linked to an increased risk of heart problems, so, if possible, try to avoid their consumption. These foods usually contain extra sugar, artificial colours, stabilisers, or preservatives. These foods include salty snacks like chips, packaged cookies, and fast food, which have undergone various chemical and physical processes.
Most processed foods have lost their nutrients and fibre but they have gained more sugar, sodium, and other ingredients that are meant to preserve them and make them tastier.
When buying items and reading labels, go for products that have the least amount of added ingredients – especially ingredients that you don’t recognize. Also, look out for items marked as “natural,” because even though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that the term should mean nothing artificial has been added to the food – that doesn’t include food production methods that use pesticides.
Although the idea behind clean eating revolves around eating whole and fresh foods, some packaged foods such as packed veggies, nuts, and meat can be included. However, make sure to read their labels to see if there are any preservatives, added sugars, or unhealthy fats added. For example, many nuts are roasted in vegetable oil, which can expose them to heat-related damage. Your safest bet is eating raw nuts, or roasting them on your own at a low temperature. When possible, choose unsalted nuts.
Furthermore, buying prewashed salad mixes can be great time savers, but make sure to double-check the salad dressings they might come with. These could be high in extra sugars, salt, and preservatives.
Reduce Your Intake of Added Sugars
Limiting the amount of added sugars in your diet is crucial for eating healthy and feeling better in your body. However, added sugars are commonly found in foods you might not have even thought of, such as condiments and sauces, so make sure to carefully read food labels to minimize your added sugars intake. Both high fructose corn syrup and table sugar are very high in fructose.
Research has shown that this ingredient might play a role in diabetes, obesity, fatty liver, as well as certain types of cancer, among other health issues. Nevertheless, if you’re dealing with diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or similar health problems, consult with your doctor about alternate sweeteners.