We wrap up this journey of clean eating with some strategies for success. Again, apply these tips to your diet style and you will reap the rewards. Start simple, stay strong and rock on.
One of the first things to do when you are eating clean is to move away from highly processed foods and foods with added sugars and bad fats. To do this, you need to learn how to read labels. I learned many of these principles from one of my favorite books, “Food Rules” by Michael Pollan.
- Foods without labels are better. Real whole food is best. Eat packaged foods in moderation.
- Fewer ingredients are better. I aim for 5 or fewer ingredients in anything I eat from a package. This decreases your chance of eating something that may not be good for you.
- Recognize your ingredients. If you don’t know what an ingredient is, it’s probably not something you should be putting in your body. Eat food, not food-like substances
- Watch for added sugars. If any form of sugar is in the top three or four ingredients on a label, beware. Most of your sugar should come from naturally-occurring sugars like fruit or starchy vegetables. All other sugar should be viewed as a treat, not as a regular part of your diet.
- Increase the fiber. The more fiber in food the better. We fall far short of the daily required amounts of fiber (25 grams daily for women and 35 grams for men).Start choosing foods that fill you with fiber.
- Look at vitamins and minerals. The best way to get these is through whole foods (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, proteins), but finding them in packaged foods is a bonus.
- Watch out for unhealthy, inflammatory fats, such as vegetable, Canola and palm oils. Instead, opt for fat from coconut oil, olive oil, and oil from nuts.
Experiment with healthy carbs
Lately, it seems that everyone says carbs are bad. This is far from the truth. Carbs are our main source of energy. When we ingest them, they become glucose in our blood, fueling our body.
Complex carbs are a huge source of dietary fiber, which is linked to prevention of chronic disease like heart disease and diabetes. Dietary fiber also helps maintain bowel health. Carbs also can contain vitamins and minerals that are critical for good health.
The problem is with highly refined carbs, such as white flour, white bread, white rice or quick oats. Highly refined carbs can do more harm than good by spiking your blood sugar and leading to insulin resistance, weight gain and inflammation. Also, the more refined a carb is, the less fiber and fewer healthy nutrients it contains. These elements are stripped right out of the food.
The key? Don’t go low-carb. Instead, look for complex carbohydrates that are close to their natural form. Things like quinoa, steel-cut oats, fruits, vegetables, legumes and more can be tasty and part of a healthy diet.
Fill up on fiber
Americans are notorious for not eating enough fiber. The average American eats only 15 grams of fiber per day. It’s recommended that women eat 25 grams and men 35 grams a day.
Fiber has many benefits. It helps to normalize bowel movements, helps with weight control and can help prevent cholesterol and blood sugar problems.
How can you get more your fiber in your diet? It’s simple. By eating lots of vegetables and complex carbs. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes are naturally high in fiber. If you aren’t hitting the mark, consider supplementing with a fiber supplement like psyllium or another natural fiber blend.
Think diversity or try new things
I often get in a rut of eating the same thing every day – green smoothie with breakfast, salad for lunch, carrots as my snack and a roasted vegetable for dinner. This is a great diet, but I miss out on the flavors and health properties of some less popular or common vegetables.
Experiment with something new from the produce section and enjoy the nutritional benefits that come from a variety of vegetables. Make baba ghanoush from an eggplant, try to steam an artichoke or add some bok choy to your sir fry. Variety is the spice of life!
We are human beings, which makes us innately imperfect. Embrace imperfection and be forgiving with yourself when things don’t go as planned! Any movement towards a healthier diet is a move in the right direction. Celebrate your gains instead of fretting your losses.
It’s about more than food
While this article is about clean and healthy eating, you can’t be optimally healthy only by changing your diet. Exercise, good-quality sleep and stress control are also critical to consider if you truly want a healthy mind and body.
Still feeling overwhelmed with how to eat a clean or healthy diet? Check out my ebook “Eating Clean with Dr. Wagner” in my free resource library. You’ll find a simplified version of my clean eating tips. Thanks for joining me in my clean eating movement!