It’s no secret that here at Eat Clean Meal Prep, we’re all about, well, eating clean – from our protein and veggie packed meal delivery options to our additive-free spices and seasonings. Eating clean is more than just embracing whole foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains; it also means cutting back on refined grains, preservatives, unhealthy fats, and added sugar. Even if you only take a few steps toward eating cleaner – like cutting back on processed foods or eating more fruits and veggies – it can still make a big impact on your health! Here are some helpful tips and principles to abide by for eating clean in 2019.
1. Choose natural foods and minimize processed foods.
Processed foods are anything in a box, bag, can, or package, and although there are always a few exceptions to the rule (like a bag of fresh green beans), try to keep the majority of your foods fresh. Keep an eye out for anything with lots of sugar and super-long ingredient lists with foods you don’t recognize, as well as anything with partially hydrogenated oils. Limiting packaged foods can also reduce your exposure to BPA (which is found in some canned foods) and other chemicals found in plastics.
2. Go whole grain.
The cleanest whole grains are the ones that have been touched the least by processing. Think whole grains that look most like their just-harvested state — quinoa, wild rice, and oats. At the store, whole grains should always be the first ingredient; the ingredient list should be short and recognizable; and it should have minimal added sugar. When you swap out refined carbs (like white pasta, sugar, and white bread) for whole grains you’ll automatically get more fiber and antioxidants with every meal. Added bonus: people who eat more whole grains have an easier time losing weight and keeping it off long term.
3. Include protein, carbohydrates, & fat at every meal.
Most of us typically do well with carbohydrates and fat, but we often lack protein – especially in the early part of the day when we’re in a hurry to get out the door. Protein is an important muscle-builder and it can also help curb your appetite; when eaten throughout the day, it keeps us feeling full longer, which promotes weight loss.
4. Load up on fruits and vegetables
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, most of us aren’t getting enough. Eating more fruit and vegetables can help significantly reduce your risk for a number of chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer. The fiber in whole produce also helps keep your microbiome (the collection of good bacteria that live in your gut) happy, which can reduce your risk for autoimmune diseases, fight off pathogens and infections, and even improve your mood.
5. Limit added sugars.
This is easier than you think, particularly if you’ve cut out processed foods, which are responsible for most of our excess calories and high levels of fat, sugar, and salt. Remember to keep an eye out for sugars added to healthier foods like yogurt (choose plain), tomato sauce, and cereal. Look for foods without sugar as an ingredient, or make sure it’s listed towards the bottom, which means less of it is used in the food.
6. Watch your sodium intake.
Just like with sugar, most of us are getting far more sodium than we should, and a lot of the sodium in our diets is coming from convenience foods. Cutting back on processed foods will help you reduce your salt intake, as most packaged foods contain more sodium than homemade versions. To help minimize salt while you cook, flavor your food with spices, seasonings, herbs, citrus, and vinegar instead.
7. Cut back on meat.
More and more research suggests cutting back on meat is healthier for you and the planet. Veganism isn’t a requirement for clean eating, but simply eating less meat can help reduce your blood pressure, your risk of heart disease, and help keep your weight in check. Plus, eating more plants helps bump up the fiber, healthy fats, and vitamins and minerals in your diet. And if you’re worried about getting enough protein by cutting down on meat, have no fear! It’s easy to get a ton of protein through foods like eggs, other dairy, beans, grains, and nuts. When you do eat meat, choose options that haven’t been pumped with antibiotics (think grass-fed beef and wild-caught salmon).
Will you be making a resolution to eat clean in 2019? Check out our other blogs for some healthy recipes and other clean eating tips!
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