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Clean Eating Series Part 1

New Year, New You!

Christina Markos

As the great Adelle Davis once said, “As I see it, every day you do one of two things: build health or produce disease in yourself.”

Happy New Year Everyone! We all made or tried to make some healthy resolutions for 2014. Almost a month in, how are we all doing on our progress? Has anyone felt as though they have hit a plateau? Not sure where to go next? Here is a simple way to get jazzed up about healthy living again. Remember being healthy is not a fad diet- it is a lifestyle and when you begin to look at it that way it becomes a whole lot easier!

I was talking with a friend whom after a month of baking and eating holiday goodies and going out to many holiday gatherings and dinners was feeling sluggish, a few pounds heavier and her stomach hurt all the time. Her New Years Resolution was to go on a diet. Sounds familiar, right? I explained a different approach would be more beneficial in the long run and easier to maintain. This would be a lifestyle change- not a diet. Many of you have probably heard about “clean eating” but you may be wondering what it really is and if it is just another diet, etc. When you start to “diet” everything in your life begins to feel restricted. You can’t go out to eat with friends anymore, you start to really crave the foods you can’t have and you end up bingeing on something that wasn’t on your “diet”. Diets are not healthy and they confuse your metabolism which is crucial for regulating your digestive system and maintaining a healthy weight.

I told her what clean eating was and how simple it is to incorporate into your life. The simplest way of describing clean eating is:

1. Eat an orange instead of drinking a glass of OJ. This can also be said for a lot of things while you are clean eating. Eating the “whole” version of something is almost always better. The more the food or item is processed it becomes laden with preservatives, sugars, artificial dyes and ingredients, and other added “flavors”. To ensure you get the appropriate nutrients, eat an orange with breakfast, or eat an apple for a snack. Any item in its natural unprocessed form is always best.

2. Only buy things that have less than 6 ingredients. Have you ever looked at the ingredient list of most processed foods there are at the grocery store? There are tons and tons of unhealthy and unnatural ingredients even hidden in health food products. Eating clean means staying away from all of these unnatural ingredients that accumulate as toxins in your body. Most on-the-go snacks have so many ingredients its hard to even know how to pronounce them all. Keep it simple and you will be healthier. A handful of homemade trail mix or raw nuts, an organic string cheese and apple,and if you have to get a bar choose gluten free and vegan options such as lara bars which have 3 ingredients or less (fruits and nuts and a little salt and that is it).

3. Use healthy fats and oils. When you are clean eating you want to use healthy cooking oils and eat healthy fats. Olive oil, grapeseed and coconut oil are going to be the best options. As for healthy fats (other than those oils) stick to nuts and nut butters, flaxseeds, avocado, low-fat dairy, and salmon. All of these contain healthy healthy omega 3 fatty acids that are so good for us.

4. Rid your pantry of highly processed foods. For example that box of cookies, or cheese crackers. Opt for healthy snack and dessert alternatives. Low-fat cheese and wasa crisps or yogurt dip with veggies. Desserts could include a healthy low-fat greek yogurt parfait with berries and agave nectar, a fresh ripe piece of fruit, a healthy homemade hot cocoa or a few raw cocoa nibs. It is about buying foods in their purest form and eating them in that form. Next time you are in your pantry look at the ingredients in your cereal, crackers or cookies. If they have more than 6 ingredients or you don’t even know what some of them mean, it is time to toss.

5. No more white flour/ limit white sugar. Even in whole wheat bread sometimes the second ingredient can be white flour! Look for healthy breads such as Ezekial or find whole wheat bread that only contain 100% whole wheat flour. Switch out your pasta to whole wheat versions (stores are now making gluten free pastas and pastas that use brown rice and quinoa) Use brown rice or quinoa for the majority of your grain/ carb intake.

6. Make you plate colorful and savor each bite. The idea with clean eating is when you make simple and healthy meals they are most likely going to look amazing on the plate. Colorful veggies, brown rice, fresh salmon with a salad makes for a pretty plate. Yogurt and fresh mixed berries is a pretty way to start the day! Take the time to sit at the table when you are eating your major meals. It will help you to slow down, savor and realize when you are full.

Once my friend started to live this lifestyle she began to immediately feel more alive and her digestive system improved. She felt strong enough to begin yoga classes and to take regular walks. She also told me she no longer craves fried foods very much and that her skin is glowing. The best thing she said, “It never feels like you are on a diet or restricting, it simply is just a way of life and you get to eat yummy foods and feel great!”

More on clean eating later this week with recipe ideas and plans!