One of the biggest reasons I created this blog was to share my love of healthy living with anyone who was interested in changing their lifestyle. I wanted to be able to decode some of the information and break everything down for someone just starting down the road to a better life or someone stuck in a rut. When I began my journey to a healthier life I realized there was so much information that my head was always spinning and I was constantly confused when it came to healthy eating.
It’s been over a year since I started this blog and I am thankful to share my journey with all of you. Healthy living and healthy eating doesn’t have to be tricky or confusing. Healthy living is simple. I’m not a nutritionist or dietician, so please don’t take my word as the gospel or anything. I am writing based on all my research and personal experience. I believe healthy living and healthy eating in particular can be traced back to nature and simplified from what we know as Americans.
Plants are the base of my diet and I strive everyday to eat more plants than the day before. Plants are rich in nutrients that our bodies need to be healthy and have many healing qualities that sometimes get forgotten. Our ancestors ate mostly plants because they were always available and most cultures used plants as medicine.
Clean eating and plant based eating can seem complicated at first, but is really very basic once you break it down. I’ve put together a list of tips to help you transition to a more plant centric lifestyle. Healthy eating is simple once you understand it a little better.
Whole Foods. This seems like an easy concept, but many people still don’t quite understand it. The foundation of clean eating is eating foods in their real or whole state. This means eating foods that are minimally processed and free from additives. Whole fruits and vegetables are the easiest place to start. When you eat items the way they are found in nature then they are free of additives and contain the highest amount of nutrients.
- Example: Apple Pastry (highly processed) versus Applesauce (processed) versus Whole Apple (not processed at all)
Salt and Oil. Two items that are often added to foods are salt and oil. Avoid products that contain added salt and oil. Choose nut butters free from both and choose canned items (particularly beans and tomatoes) that are free from salt. Another easy place to cut out salt is in vegetable and chicken stocks. There are many varieties are sodium free and of course you can make your own.
Cook At Home. This goes without saying I think, but some folks still don’t get it. If you want to eat clean or focus on plant centric cooking you need to be eating nearly all of your meals at home. When you cook at home you can control what makes it into your meals. You control the salt, sugar and oil which give you the power to know what you are eating. Knowledge is power, ya’ll! Some people get tempted to order a salad when dining out, but often this is not the best option. Be mindful of the ratio of plants to extras (meat, cheese, egg, dressing, etc.).
Gluten. For many of us clean eating also means watching the amount of gluten that we consume. Some athletes embrace a gluten free or grain free lifestyle because they feel better, but others have no choice due to Celiac disease and intolerances. While I eat gluten and don’t have any intolerance to it I still watch how much I eat. Most breads and pastas are heavily processed so that’s something I don’t want to be eating at every meal. There are tons of healthier options on the market place today, so opt for a whole grain or whole wheat option. It’s important that you get fiber into your diet so your blood sugar doesn’t spike like it does when you consume white bread or pasta. Most plant based and clean eating diets will be lower in gluten naturally because it doesn’t naturally exist in many whole foods.
Meat and Dairy. Another aspect to consider on a plant based diet is the consumption of animal protein. Some folks believe they need animal products to survive or build muscle, but the truth is that our ancestors ate a significantly lower quantity of animal products than we consume today. When it comes to clean eating or plant based eating the important thing to remember is that plant protein is in nearly everything and animal protein should consist of lean meats and small amounts of dairy. There are different schools of thought regarding meat and dairy consumption, but my advice would be to limit the amount that you consume and pump up the plants. I have no doubt that in a couple weeks you will feel much healthier and have more energy. Consuming meat free meals is also amazing for your digestive system.
Sugar. Sugar is nearly everywhere and is used in so many processed foods. The important thing to remember is that not all sugar is created equally. Sugar that is found is fruit is different than the white sugar you might add to your coffee. Sugar found in plants is naturally packaged with other items like nutrients, fiber and vitamins while white sugar is heavily processed and doesn’t contain anything of value to your body. Easy ways to watch your sugar is to remove it from items where you can like in canned food products like tomatoes, dairy free milks, etc. Add sweetness to your meals using items like raw honey and fruit instead. If you would normally add brown sugar to your morning oatmeal swap it for fresh berries and cinnamon instead. Your tastes will eventually adjust.
Eat the Rainbow. It sounds silly, but it’s the truth. If you aim to eat the rainbow you are doing it right. Each plant has different nutrients and vitamins so by focusing on eating a little of this and a little of that you will be in taking a variety of nutrients that can benefit your body. Also, by focusing on eating the rainbow you will naturally remove white food like bread, pasta, sweets, white potatoes, etc.
Try New Foods. It can seem quite challenging when you switch to a plant based diet or clean up your eating habits, but it doesn’t have to be. You need to be willing to try new foods and prepare them differently than you normally would. If you don’t like a particular vegetable, try roasting it because chances are you will like it better roasted than steamed. Grill or roast lean cuts of meat or fish after marinating them in fresh herbs. Once you start trying new foods and preparing what you currently like to eat differently things will get easier and seem to taste better. It will take time for your tastes to adjust to food that is lower in salt, sugar and fat.
Eat More. The biggest thing you will soon realize when you begin to eat a cleaner and plant based diet is that you will actually need to eat more food. It seems counterproductive, but it’s absolutely not. Plants and vegetables in particular are less in calories than a cheeseburger and fries so your body will need more of them to use as fuel. This is true with the exception of starches, root vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds that are naturally higher in carbohydrates or fat than items like cucumbers, greens, peppers, etc.
No matter where you are on your journey to a healthier you it’s possible. It may seem challenging and difficult but the end result is even better than you could possibly imagine. Clean eating isn’t about being perfect, it’s about trying to eat as many whole foods as possible and controlling what you can. There are so many food and diet fads on the market, but nature told us what we need to be eating a long time ago. Plants have the power to heal your body and sustain it. I have experienced this first hand and so have so many others.
Healthy living isn’t about trying to attain the unattainable or eliminating everything so you are left with nothing to eat. Instead plant based eating is about enjoying the fruits of nature in the way they were meant to be enjoyed…as whole foods.
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