So, you’ve always wanted to eat clean but you haven’t found something that has quite stuck with you. From yo-yo dieting to trendy juice cleanses to having a hard time avoiding office temptations, there are many reasons why a clean eating plan hasn’t stuck with you yet. There is real gold in finding a healthy lifestyle that sticks with you longer than through a wedding or festival season. Although the food system in society is definitely a setup for failure, there are proactive steps you can take to set yourself up for success and help you change your mindset when it comes to healthy eating. Because remember eating crappy is a punishment for your body, not a reward. Below are steps you can take towards reaching your best self and giving yourself a whole new way to look at the food you’re eating:
1. Limit processed foods (& start viewing this food as nutrient poor)
There’s a reason the Twinkie business went under. No one wants to eat fake yellow cake who’s ingredient lists sound like a ticking time bomb ready to explode toxic compounds in your gut. Still, there is an array of processed junk in a majority of the grocery aisles and checkout lanes. There are so many fake ingredients, food dye and added sugar in today’s processed food. The key to forever getting rid of junk food cravings is to start look at this food as nutrient poor! Let me list some common ingredients found in these foods and why they are not so great for you:
High Fructose Corn Syrup – Chemical processing of this ingredient often leads to fatty liver disease in the body which can lead to heart attacks, Type II diabetes & cancer, not to mention other chemical toxins says Doctor Mark Hyman on the Huffington Post.
Food Dyes – Depending on the food dye, there are different compounds that show negative side effects from increasing hyperactivity and ADHD in children to a chemical called benzene (found in Red 40 and Yellow 5 and 6 ) which has evidence of cancer-causing potential. While most other countries have banned the use of benzene, U.S. companies continue to use Red 40 and Yellow 5 and 6 in their processed foods – YIKES! (source)
Soy Lecithin – While there are some questions about quite “how bad” this ingredient is which commonly found in A LOT of our food, a 1985 study on rats showed that rats who consumed a diet of 5% or 2% soy lecithin over their lifetime were “hypoactive, had poor postural reflexes, and showed attenuated morphine analgesia” (study). I’ll skip my chances on this ingredient.
Vegetable Oils – This very processed oil is far from natural and it’s compounds have been linked to numerous diseases from asthma and eczema in young children to cancer in both animals & humans to links to severe depression (source). Watch out for this ingredient lurking in many foods!
And remember that not all calories are created equal.
Consuming 200 calories of coke will not have the same effect as consuming 200 calories of almonds on your body. Almonds, a nutrient-rich, complex whole food with fiber, healthy fat & protein gets processed slower by the body due to the fiber and its healthy fat & protein combination will leave you feeling fuller with more energy (source). A can of coke, however, will cause sugar to immediately hit your bloodstream and spike your insulin levels and shortly later leave you with a sugar crash and no energy (source). While soda is currently getting a lot of negative publicity, remember that many processed foods won’t give you lasting energy your body is truly craving from nature-made foods.
2. Start reading food labels
Take this jar of Jif peanut butter for example. This brand added vegetable oil and sugar to your every day peanut butter. But WHY? Peanut butter tastes delicious without all that added junk and we all know the negative side effects from vegetable oil (See above if you missed it). So read twice before thinking the average typical “health food” doesn’t have any of the added fake crap.
3. Cook at home more (or meal prep)
This study showed that people who cooked at home 6-7 times a week eat less calories even if they weren’t specifically trying to lose weight. Researchers also found that those who cook at home are less likely to choose fast foods when they eat out and rely less on frozen foods for their meals. Don’t have time to cook every day? Cook in bulk on Sunday/Mondays and have enough food for up to 5 days. That’s my motto!
4. Avoid having too much sugar (& sugary drinks in particular)
Sugar is the real culprit in America’s unhealthy diet. This 2014 study showed a strong correlation between increased sugar consumption and increased risk of cardiovascular disease mortality. The study also stated “Individuals who consume higher amounts of added sugar, especially sugar-sweetened beverages, tend to gain more weight and have a higher risk of obesity, [and] type 2 diabetes.” The worst part is that sugar calories can sneak up on you really quick. Even if you avoid sugary sodas, watch out for Crappuccinos or other loaded coffee drinks.
Also, you may not be the one to blame from your chemical addiction. This study proved sugar to be as addictive as other drugs such as cocaine or heroin and can have similar opiate-like withdrawal signs. Wonder why your sugar habit is so hard to break? There you go. Here are some healthy ideas to replace your sugar cravings with:
Low Glycemic Fruit such as cherries, grapefruit, kiwis, watermelon & blueberries
Chocolate Protein Powders such as Vega Sport Performance and Shakeology
Dark Cacao Chocolate
Here’s to putting our best foot forward every day starting with the food we eat!