First of all…
C/o my co-worker. It’s been a loooong winter here in Massachusetts.
In honor of the first day of spring tomorrow, I thought we could think about spring-cleaning our diets! March is also National Nutrition Month, so it seems an appropriate time to revisit our current eating habits, and perhaps tweak them a bit for the changing seasons. I’ve noticed I’m craving fewer warm comfort foods and looking to lighter, cooler foods.
Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “Clean Eating.” It’s become a bit of a buzzword lately, but it’s not a new concept in the least. So what does it mean? Clean eating involves eating foods as close to their original state as possible (minimally processed), and ideally free of pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals. This is how I try to eat most of the time and incorporating it into your diet isn’t as difficult as it may sound…just take baby steps and little by little all these baby steps will add up to big change!
Here are some main points to clean eating:
-Think outside the box (or bag, package, etc.): Instead of making a box of macaroni and cheese, why not make your own? All you need is some pasta, milk, butter and cheese! Better yet, make that whole grain pasta, and organic milk, butter, and cheese! Be sure to go light on the butter and cheese to avoid a hefty dose of fat. Can’t afford organic? Try doing at least the whole grain pasta and maybe just organic milk. Better yet, throw in some vegetables and have those be the focus of the dish instead of the pasta and dairy!
Some may think I’m weird for doing this, but I like to throw in lentils with my mac & cheese, as well as spinach (not pictured), plus I have some veggies on the side.
-Let produce be the star of the meal: Make sure your meal is at least 50% vegetable and/or fruit, then add in your corresponding protein and grain of choice. Be sure to include enough protein and fiber, as well as a healthy amount of fats, to keep you feeling full longer.
-Watch out for additional fat, salt, and sugar: This will be easier once you’ve cut out more processed food, but many people add these back in to create the same taste as processed food. Enjoy tasting your food the way it should taste, instead of just tasting sugar or salt.
When you do use these, aim for the healthiest, least processed versions of each. For fats, try natural sources such as such as olive oil, nuts, and avocado. For salt, aim for sea salt or kosher instead of table salt. The larger granules mean you’ll use less! Finally, in terms of sugar, avoid high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and other processed sugars, and aim for sugars from nature, such as maple syrup or honey. Just don’t add too much!
-Be choosy about your beverages: Drink water, tea, and coffee (black or only a small amount of milk/milk substitute and/or sweetener) instead of soda or energy drinks. Limit your alcohol, which is not only a source of additional calories, but promotes fat storage due to the release of estrogen into the bloodstream when you drink it (and when you have excess estrogen, you’re more prone to hold onto weight).
-Portion and timing: Be sure to stick to reasonable portion sizes and to eat about every three to four hours in order to curb hunger before it overtakes you and you overindulge. Need help with what the correct portion size is? Check out this link for more information.
Feeling a little overwhelmed with all of this information? Here are some easy examples to get you started:
- Choose fresh, whole fruit instead of fruit cocktail, dried fruit, or fruit leather. Organic is best, but as it can be very expensive, we tend to stick to buying the dirty dozen organic and not worrying about the clean fifteen.
- Pick cuts of fresh meat instead of processed chicken nuggets, fish sticks, or bologna. Even better is grass-fed beef, and even better than that is organic meats.
- Eat whole grains such as oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice instead of white bread, sugared cereals, and potato chips. Again, organic if you can afford it.
Questions: Are you over this winter? Do you consider yourself a “clean” eater most of the time? Do you have any clean eating tips and tricks?