If you have been living a life full of processed food, fats and sugar, the ascend into healthy eating cannot be an easy one. You can’t simply decide to turn your life around one day and start eating the healthiest foods available to you; for the plan to truly succeed and be consistent, you need to start small.
Starting to eat healthily should be a slow ascend; you need to think about each of your steps well before you make them, be sure that they will be sustainable in the long run. There’s no use if you’re trying to eat cleanly only to lose a few pounds because you might be tempted to stop the moment you have reached your goal.
The reasons behind eating healthily should be deeper than the need to lose weight; the more serious you are about living a healthy life, the easier you can change your bad eating habits into good ones.
Until then, here are some steps for you to follow if you want to learn clean and healthy eating.
- Stop Eating Sugar
The very first step in clean eating would be to stop adding refined sugar to your food. This means no sugar in your coffee or tea, and no sugar in your fruit juice; this also means stop drinking any kind of drinks that might have sugar in it, including carbonated drinks, caffeinated drinks, energy drinks, sodas, and sugary fruit drinks.
In a healthy diet, the only drinks for you should be regular water, black coffee and/or unsweetened tea, juices and smoothies made from fresh fruits, and detox water. Nothing more, because most of the drinks available in your local supermarket will be full of sugar and other unnecessary ingredients, even when they are advertised as “natural” or “sugarfree”.
- Stop Buying Frozen and Ready-to-eat Meals
It certainly is easier to go to the supermarket and pick up a few frozen, ready-to-eat meals for yourself and your family – something that you can simply put in the microwave oven and eat for dinner. However, all these frozen dinners and ready-to-eat meals contain high levels of sodium and harmful preservatives, not to mention trans-fats.
Clean eating means that the majority of what you eat should be freshly cooked, preferably at home. It is completely okay if you are eating out at healthy restaurants once in a while, but the healthiest foods usually come from your own kitchens. Your meals don’t have to be something elaborate and lengthy to prepare; the simple meals are the best if packed with nutrition.
- Shop More from the Produce Section
When you are shopping for your weekly groceries, you should be doing so more from the produce section of the supermarket than the processed food section. This means that your shopping carts should be largely filled with lean meat protein, fish and seafood, fruits and vegetables, and whole-grains instead of cookies, baked items, crackers, and chips, or instant noodles.
Whenever you are buying something from the supermarket, make sure they are as natural as you can possibly eat. Buy raw nuts and seeds for snacks instead of cookies, whole-wheat cereals for your breakfast instead of the heavily sweetened ones, and fresh fruits instead of artificially-sweetened fruit drinks and energy drinks.
- Count your Nutrition instead of Calories
Even if your initial goal is to lose weight, focus on the nutritional value of the food on your plate. Count the amount of nutrition you are consuming every day, instead of using all of your energy on counting calories. Everything you eat all through the day should be healthy and have some form of nutrition in them. Instead of counting how many calories a single chocolate chip cookie has, have a handful of pumpkin seeds or mixed nuts that is more nutritious.
Counting your calories is important when you want to lose weight, but learning to eat healthily is more important than that. When you get accustomed to automatically reach for the healthiest food option in front of you, you won’t have to worry about gaining weight or counting your calories ever again.
- Prefer your Snacks Raw and Natural
When it comes to some food, the more natural the better. For example, fresh fruits are better for snacking on than a bag of chips filled with trans-fats, preservatives, and salt; raw and unsalted nuts are much more nutritious than packaged and processed ones.
When shopping, always choose the simplest forms of food available, in the most natural form. Buy your favourite dried fruits, seeds and nuts, and mix them together for snacking instead of buying processed trail mixes that are usually sweetened with syrup or sugar. You can even make your own unsweetened and natural protein bars instead of buying them in bulks from the supermarket.
- Increase Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables
Almost no one in the world eats as much fresh fruits and vegetables as we naturally should; instead, we focus more on animal-based protein and processed foods that are more readily available to us. Indeed, all kinds of fruits and vegetables have all the natural vitamins and minerals our body needs for staying healthy. Everything from Vitamin C to Vitamin B12, iron, zinc and potassium are available in the everyday fruits and vegetables we eat.
Fruits and vegetables should ideally fill half our plates for lunch and dinner, while the other half is filled with proteins and whole grains. Citrus and naturally sweetened fruits, root vegetables and dark vegetables, leafy greens, raw vegetables for salads – these are what we need to eat every day for a healthy lifestyle.
- Stop Buying “Diet” Foods
Almost nothing that has the words “diet” printed on them are good for you, neither are they very diet-friendly. When you are buying “diet” soda, “diet” salad dressings, or “diet” energy bars, you can be sure you are eating something that is filled with preservatives, artificial sweeteners and even trans-fat.
Other words to stay away from are “diet-friendly”, “diabetic”, “fat-free”, “zero-calorie”, etc. because these are words you usually see on processed and packaged foods. It is much better to buy everything in their natural state instead of processed food sold as “diet-friendly” because these are not the type of foods you should be eating if you want to eat healthily.
- Stop Eating Simple and Refined Carbohydrates
White rice, white flour, white pasta, white bread, store-bought cakes and pastries, pies and cookies, breakfast cereals – these are all examples of simple and refined carbohydrates. They add to your weight and takes your body a lot of time to process, but you find these ingredients everywhere.
Although you should limit your carbohydrates in healthy eating, you should stick to whole-wheat grains whenever you are craving carbohydrates, cooking or baking with them. Always choose brown flour and rice, whole-wheat pasta and spaghetti, and brown rice, couscous, and quinoa for your meals. These kinds of carbohydrates are much better for your body and take less time to be digested.
- Drink Plenty of Water
Just regular water is what your body needs to stay hydrated and active – nothing more. However many cups of tea or coffee you take during the day or how many glasses of fresh fruits juice your drink, water is still important. The average adult needs to drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of regular, room-temperature water every 24 hours, more when it’s hot outside or if you are exercising.
- Stay Active
Of course, no amount of healthy and clean eating is going to work if you don’t lead an active life. Whether you walk everyday, jog or run, go to the gym or use an exercise machine at home, you have to stay active in order to be healthy. Take the stairs several times a day, walk your dog or do a few crunches when watching TV – what’s important is that you are actively burning the calories you are consuming every day.
Eating healthy isn’t very complicated. It might take you a few weeks to get adjusted if you have been living on fast food, junk food or processed food previously, but clean eating only requires a few positive changes in your eating habit – the ones you can make very easily if you are sincere about the whole experience.