Clean eating is not a diet. It is not a fast fix. It is about slowly changing habits, building health routines in order to create a lifetime of good health. Sustainable change does not happen overnight. The foods you choose, how and why you choose them are deeply engrained. The first step on your clean eating journey is to make a commitment to yourself to do what it takes to be healthier. The commitment can be the hardest part. Once you have made the decision to take back your health, I suggest starting with 1 or 2 items to work on. Establish routines to create healthy habits that you can build on. We all know what happened to the 2 little pigs who hastily build their houses. Make sure your health foundation is rock solid before adding on.
* choose 1-2 to start with, and add 1 at a time from there*
1. Utilize small plates for meals (no larger than 7"-8" in diameter).
2. Fill 1/2 your plate at every meal with vegetables.
3. Cook more at home. From scratch.
4. Eat out less. Much less. Make eating out and pre-prepared meals the exception, rather than the rule.
5. Ditch soda, sugary drinks, energy drinks, and artificially sweetened beverages.
6. Drinking at least 64 ounces of water every day.
7. Incorporating whole grains into your meals. Learning how to cook and prepare them, experimenting with new flavors you have not tried before.
8. Keep added sugar intake low - less than 25 grams per day. Read labels always for added sugars.
9. Quit eating at least 3 hours before bedtime.
10. Eat breakfast daily.
11. Experiment with vegetable cooking techniques. What tastes best to you? Roasting, stir frying, incorporating them into soups?
12. Try out herbs and spices. If you have not cooked with cumin or coriander, try them out. Cinnamon, chili powder, sage, rosemary, garlic, fennel. Find out what you love and use those combinations!
Establishing a clean eating lifestyle is like a pyramid. You need to establish a permanent base before you can reach the top, which is refinement and maintenance. Establishing healthy habits will help you rewire your brain to crave healthy food - to associate food with health and fuel for your body. Clean eating is about a sustainable, lifelong eating pattern.
Refinement and Maintenance Steps:
1. Expand your scratch cooking. Create recipe "frameworks", that you know by heart for quick cooking, and can substitute on-hand ingredients for. A soup framework is an example: a base of carrots, celery and onion added to broth with salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin/coriander is my framework. From here, I can add bell peppers, poblano peppers, black beans, zucchini, corn, chicken as well as chili powder and tomato paste into the broth and garnish with avocado, cilantro and tortilla chips for chicken tortilla soup.
2. Transition to 100% whole grain - no refined white flours or breads.
3. Shift the majority of the starchy carbohydrates you are eating from breads, bagels, boxed cereals, crackers, pastas, etc. to unprocessed whole grains like wheat berries, quinoa, barley, and wild rice.
4. Use seasonal and local produce.
5. Fill your plates with a wide variety of deeply colored fruits and vegetables - think deep orange butternut squash, deep green kale chips, rich red marinara sauce.