Following a clean eating plan is much easier than you might think. It doesn’t require a lot of extra time or money to follow these 7 basic tips:
1. Avoid most packaged and processed foods
The first step in clean eating. Read labels to avoid added sugars, salts, and fats. While bagged, boxed, or canned foods can be a convenience – especially for healthy, out of season foods (think canned tomatoes), make the habit of looking for added sugars, salt, and fats. You can always “correct” the flavors if you choose, with your own additions.
2. Choose real foods
Look for foods that you can recognize in their whole, natural state. Choose seasonal fruits and vegetables for optimal nutrient density and freshness. And include frozen fruits and vegetables in the mix (without sauces). You’ll save money and enjoy out-out-season produce, like blueberries in winter.
3. Cut back on added sugars
All humans are born with a “sweet tooth”. And fruit is nature’s candy. Fresh or dried, before there was candy, cookies, cake and other vehicles for loads of added sugars, we turned to fruit. Portable, economical, and a treat for your taste buds. And there is a range of sweetness in fruits. Slightly under-ripe fruit is on the lower end of the sweetness scale, while super-ripe and dried fruits concentrate and boost the sweetness signals.
4. Avoid trans-fats/ Limit saturated fats1
Swap out unhealthy, artery-clogging fats from all sources to healthy ones. Processed and packaged foods are the main sources of trans fats, but meat also contains small amounts. Saturated fats are found in fatty meats, full fat dairy, butter, and coconut/palm oils. Use heart-healthy plant-based oils like nuts, olives, and avocado.
5. Cook and eat at home
While not a food-specific recommendation, when you cook at home you know the ingredients and seasonings in every dish. No guesswork or taste-testing for hidden fats, salt, and sugar found in restaurant meals and prepared foods. You can personalize your eating with spices and herbs instead of salt, smaller amounts of healthy fats, and a lot less sugar.
6. Stay hydrated
Our bodies need abundant water for optimal function. And while fruits and vegetables are mostly water and contribute a large portion of daily fluid needs, added fluids are needed daily. While the newest guidelines suggest drinking “when thirsty”, most people ignore these signals, or don’t really recognize them. Aim for at least 6 glasses of water daily (which also includes non-caffeinated drinks, like herbal teas and coffee and seltzer). Spruce up your water with a slice of fruit, or even cucumber and mint.
7. Limit caffeine and alcohol
New science fully documents the health benefits of moderate amounts of caffeine. Caffeine can boost alertness, energy, and mental focus when used modestly.
As caffeine intake rises, so do negative side effects including jitteriness, anxiety, stomach upset, and insomnia.
Aim for up to 300 mg daily, which is about 2 large mugs of coffee (typical coffeehouse size of 16 – 20 ounces), or 4 large mugs of tea.
If you find you’re “caffeine-sensitive” with these guidelines, as many people are, cut back to an amount that is symptom-free for you.
And while alcohol can be a health plus, limit your intake to up to one daily serving for women, and two for men. A serving is not the size of your glass. It’s:
- 5 ounce glass of wine
- 12 ounce beer
- 1.5 ounces of spirits
Never add alcohol as a health booster if it’s not already part of your lifestyle.