image via weheartit
There has been a lot of talk about the subject of eating clean lately. Naturally (pun intended), I wanted to give my two cents since that's what I do best! First of all, let me preface by saying that I thought I was being healthy for years... before all this hype started, before things were labeled as bad for you, before any of this became a trend (and I do believe it's a trend, but also beneficial). Little did I know I was still eating preservatives and unnecessary sugars, and nowhere near the amount of veggies I should be. I like the quote above because it is so true.
Take a minute to think about what you put in your body daily. I want to address this because I have made changes in my diet that I never thought I could, or would. Once you get in the routine of eating what you like, it's kind of hard to get out of it. But our bodies are better served and more functional when we aren't filling them with things that have minimal or no health benefits. This is not meant to be a "get on my soapbox" post, it is simply to share the changes I've personally made to make a better diet a part of my daily life. Here are some things that have made me feel better overall:
1. No more than one cup of coffee a day. I was never an all-day coffee drinker, though I have worked with plenty of them. Coffee, in fact, has antioxidants and isn't bad for you. It's how much you drink and what you put in it that matters. Instead of using creamer in my coffee, I now use vanilla almond milk or coconut milk.
2. Read the labels. I can't stress this one enough. Have you ever actually looked at what is in your food? I know I didn't. A good rule of thumb is if you can't pronounce what's on the ingredients list or you have no idea what it is, it's probably best to stay away and find a healthier, natural alternative. Side note: some good things are just defined by their scientific name, like ascorbic acid (Vitamin C). It's a good idea to Google anything that you don't understand and see if it has any actual health benefits or if it's a useless chemical.
3. Make substitutions. This is a HUGE one for me. Once I figured out that some of my favorite foods are not so good for me, I didn't know how I would live! (So dramatic.) Trust me when I say that it is easier than you think to substitute healthier options for the things your body craves. For example, I love pasta. LOVE IT. Instead of white pasta (or even wheat), opt for quinoa pasta (I get mine at Trader Joes). The ingredients are quinoa (a super high source of protein) and brown rice. The next time you look at a box of white pasta, look at the ingredients list. I guarantee you it will be written in foreign language. I also use spaghetti squash instead of real spaghetti, and olive oil, lemon juice, and hot sauce for salad or pasta dressings. Take a look around the internet for healthy substitutions for your personal favorite foods.
4. Portion size. This one is common knowledge, right? Well, I still wasn't following this rule for a long time. While I am not overweight, I am a classic over-eater. I could sit down with a huge bowl of pasta or snacks and just EAT. Some things that help me fix that problem are only cooking with nutritional ingredients, using smaller plates, and following the rule of protein the size of your fist, small side of veggies, small side of grains. And choosing healthy snacks like carrots and hummus instead of chips... or if you must have chips, pita or corn tortilla chips. Just not the whole bag!
5. Cutting down on not so healthy things that I can't entirely give up. I love cheese. It's just a fact, and I don't want to live without it. But even low-fat cheese can be bad for you when you eat a ton of it in your pasta or have grilled cheese every day (oh, college times). Now, I choose a less fatty one like feta and sprinkle it lightly through salads and quinoa pasta if I must have it. And making cheese sauce out of cashews is a good alternative for things like mac and cheese if you get a strong craving. Sounds weird, but non-dairy people swear by it.
6. Completely cutting out things with zero nutritional value. We have all eaten things that don't do anything whatsoever for our bodies. We crave them because our bodies become addicted to them over time. The biggest one is soda. I have never been a big soda drinker except for ginger ale once in a blue moon. For those of you who drink one a day or more, hear me when I say this is doing nothing for you. There is nothing nutritional or good in soda. I guarantee that if you replace your soda with water or at least substitute seltzer, you will notice a difference in how you feel. If you drink it for the caffeine, I recommend weaning yourself off and replacing it with a smaller daily intake of coffee or tea. If you think there is no harm to it, realize that soda is nothing but chemicals (especially the diet ones), and daily consumption does affect your health. It may seem impossible to give it up, but your body will get used to it, and you will feel the difference. Sorry if I'm preaching at you here, but this is one item I feel passionate about!
I am by no means a nutritionist or a health food expert, so don't think I am trying to be. I have simply seen the benefits of eating well and making positive changes in my own life, and I wanted to share. I didn't think it would be possible for me to even make those changes at one point in time, so if I can do it, you can too. Don't beat yourself up if you relapse into a bad habit, just try to do better the next time. And of course, pair eating well with some type of exercise a few times a week to really reap the benefits. I really enjoy Way of Gray: awesome workouts that take only 30-40 minutes, with healthy recipes and food substitutions that Sophie uses in her own daily life. Clean eating may be a trendy thing in the world right now, but it's a trend your body can get on board with.