In 2016, one of the most important investments into a healthy year is to not go on a diet to lose, but instead a diet to gain. The word “diet” has come to mean a severe restriction of calories and consumption of complicated food choices. At the start of January, it is used in a promising, hopeful way, but by February, “diet” become yet another four-letter swear word. Though keeping a healthy weight is vitally important, and roughly 3/4 of losing weight has to do with food choices, diet can also mean a way to become our healthiest selves and stop the madness of torturous diets. If diet were no longer a focus on just losing weight, but instead on gaining health, perhaps eating right (and losing or maintaining weight) would no longer be so complicated.
Clean eating is just such a diet. This term originated in the 1960s when natural health and natural eating began blossoming. Nearly 60 years later, and the concept of eating clean is seeing a resurgence, and one that has been more defined over the years. With the Super Bowl, and the rest of the year, right around the corner, there is no better time to start a clean eating diet than right now.
Clean eating is simple in its principles, with seven main concepts that will lead toward a better physical self, and one that could also see permanent weight loss as well. Here are the basic concepts of each step:
- Whole Foods vs Processed Foods
- Unrefined vs Refined Foods
- Balanced Plates: carbs, protein, healthy fat
- Limit Sugar, Salt, and Unhealthy Fats
- Graze on 5-6 Meals Daily
- Choose Water over Liquid Calories
In more detail, each of these steps should sound quite familiar. While trendy diets, like Paleo and Engine 2, certainly have weight loss benefits, for many people the diets are hard to follow, expensive, or are lacking in some sort of nutrition. For example, the Paleo diet might be difficult for a vegetarian or vegan to follow, and Engine 2 diet, while highly rated, is a bit complex and scientific. So, before frustration levels rise, try simply eating clean.
In short, here are the basics as assigned to the list above:
Pick Whole Foods: Refrain from packaged or processed foods as much as possible, and instead choose food in its most natural state. For example, cook beans from scratch (set in the crock pot in the morning and they will be ready by dinner time) instead of opening a can. Choose a fresh apple instead of apple sauce or a packaged fruit leather. Also, choose wild caught fish and not factory farmed fish and meats. Whole foods also means avoiding the fast food drive through at all costs.
Pick Unrefined: While mothers around the world always hope their children will be “refined,” this is not what is needed in our foods. Some refined foods to avoid are white rice, white bread, flour and corn tortillas, couscous, most crackers and pretzels, and likely most things made with corn, like corn flakes. Much like whole foods, unrefined foods are less processed, have no additives, and can generally be found at a farmers market. Examples to include in a regular diet are brown rice, millet, and the super power of quinoa.
Pick a Balanced Plate: for years we were told carbs were the devil. However, in proportion, healthy carbs are an important part of a healthy diet. Try to have a portion of each with each meal. For example, breakfast might be an egg, and toast with avocado.
Pick Less Sugar and Salt: start reading ingredient listings on any processed foods purchased. Pay attention to your own cooking as well, considering how much salt and sugar is added. For example, most vegetable and meat stocks have a great deal of sodium, unless otherwise noted. Cooking with such sodium levels means trying not to add more salt. High sodium level can lead to health issues like hypertension. Too much sugar in a diet means weight gain and possible health issues like diabetes or cavities. It is advised that an adult should eat no more than 25g per day for a woman and 36g per day for a man. A breakfast of oatmeal with a little honey and brown sugar, then coffee with flavored creamer, alone can rack up about 25g of sugar. With five more meals and snacks to go, the sugar intake racks up fast.
Pick All Day: Eating smaller meals all day can help prevent skipping meals (thus making one overly hungry later and apt to consume large quantity of calories in one sitting), keeps energy levels consistent throughout the day, and makes checking for clean eating requirements easier.
Pick Calories Wisely: Eating throughout the day can also help curtail outrageous caloric spending. A large serving is harder to calculate calories than a smaller one. In this way, drinking calories is hard to keep track of as well. While the specialty coffee house coffees are enticing and delicious, an average size serving can pack on 400-500 extra calories. The best choice is always water, since in general people drink only half the recommended water per day. Don’t add packaged flavorings to water if H2O bores you; instead, try infusing with natural fruits, vegetables, and herbs, like lemon, cucumber, or mint. Black coffee, or 100% juice cut with sparkling water, are also great options for low calorie clean drinks.
Pick Active: While exercise is only a small percentage of losing weight, it is a large component for living healthy. Regular exercise of any level keeps the heart and lungs healthy. Impact workouts improve bones and strengthens muscles (which is needed as we age), and challenging workouts can help lose fat and burn calories. An excellent, low impact workout that builds up muscles, heart, and lungs is lap swimming, but anything that gets you moving will do.
There are many options for dieting, but a general healthy diet to longevity means clean eating. More at home cooking, less sugar, and lots of exercise will put everyone on the right path for a healthy 2016.
To learn more about healthy, whole eating, look here: http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2013/01/18/10-highly-processed-foods-to…
For clean eating recipes, look here: http://www.cookinglight.com/eating-smart/smart-choices/clean-eating-recipes