Saturday, February 19, 2011

What is Healthy Eating (Clean Eating)

There are a million different diets out there and conflicting opinions as to what is “good” for you or “bad” for you. However, the more diets and fads there are, the more research shows that eating a good variety of foods and practicing proper portion control is the most effective way to maintain a healthy weight. The method that I’ve personally found to make the most sense for my family is described as Clean Eating and these are the general guidelines I follow when preparing our meals. You don't have to specifically be following Clean Eating to eat healthy, though. Each family will have to make their own decisions about what they do and don't eat.

Clean Eating is basically eating whole, natural foods and avoiding anything processed or refined. It is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. I’m no expert, but for me, whole, natural foods fall into the five basic categories of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and low fat dairy. Other important components are drinking lots of water, eating 5-6 small meals a day, and not skipping breakfast. The point is to keep your body fueled with healthy, nutritious foods throughout the day and to stay well hydrated. By eating small regular meals, you will never get to the point where you are starving and you overindulge in whatever is the fastest and easiest thing you can grab (i.e. skipping breakfast and finally going through the Burger King drive thru at 11:30 for a burger, soda, and large fries... not that I've ever done this or anything... I've just heard rumors that this could happen... you know, from people...)

Here are the guidelines in a nutshell:
  1. Eat whole, natural foods as close to their original form as possible (fruits, veggies, lean proteins, whole grains, low-fat dairy)
  2. Avoid anything refined (ex: white sugar), processed (ex: white flour), or man-made
  3. Always eat breakfast
  4. Eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day
  5. Stay well hydrated
  6. Plan ahead to pack healthy snacks and meals when you are on the go
Getting Started
Now that you know the general guidelines for eating better it’s time to put it into practice. Run to your pantry right now and throw out everything that’s not healthy, ban sugar from your house, and create an elaborate meal plan focused only on natural foods! Go, go, go!!!!..... Did you do it? If you did, then good for you. I admire your dedication and commitment. However, for the other 99.99% of us maybe a more gradual approach would work better :)
  1. Define what Healthy Eating means to your family. Read over the guidelines and decide what your “strictness” is with each. When I was first getting started I would think, “Could I have eaten this if I lived 1000 years ago?” If I couldn’t have picked, grown, hunted, gathered, or caught it then, I wouldn’t eat it now.
  2. Switch to whole grains.
  3. Eliminate refined sugar and artificial sweeteners.
  4. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.
  5. Stock your pantry with natural foods.
  6. Make a menu plan for the following week.
  7. Make a shopping list and do most of your shopping on the perimeter of the store (produce, meat, dairy) and less in the aisles where most of the processed foods are kept.
  8. Start reading labels on the things you buy. One easy trick is to not buy anything that has more than 3-6 ingredients and all of those ingredients listed should be things that a) you recognize and b) you could have in your own pantry at home.
  9. Plan ahead to pack healthy snacks and meals when you are on the go
  10. Eat more frequently.
  11. Drink more water.
  12. Start cooking.
This can be a very gradual process but even a little change, like switching to brown rice, makes a big difference over time. Gradually, all those little changes will add up until you get to the point where you make better, more nutritious food choices without even thinking about it.

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