Eating clean really is about lifestyle. You probably saw our recent post recapping an article that UK chef Gizzi Erskine did talking about her battle against food “gurus.” We’re not entirely on the same page as Gizzi – but we did think it merited talking about.
Clean eating has a different definition for everyone. For us, it’s about whole, natural ingredients and taking the time to cook, bake and prepare meals together. We also love to see families enjoying our snacks together – even when they’re on the go.
At the end of the day, deciding to eat clean is an action. It’s something that requires that you pay more attention to the relationship you have with your food. It’s about getting back to the basics – not all the nonsense that gets added in (much like our snacks!). It’s about knowing what’s in the food you eat. How it was prepared. Where it came from.
The results from clean eating can be dramatic. There are those who have lost tens and even hundreds of pounds by deciding to eat clean. But, it won’t happen overnight. It will happen one small decision at a time. Here’s six ways that you can start improving your relationship with food.
Slow down, baby, now you’re movin’ way too fast.
Maybe the Beatles had it right. We eat mindlessly in front of the TV. We eat in the car. We pay more attention to the volume of food over the quality of ingredients. Let’s be honest, it’s easy to pay more attention to how much we had rather than the taste of what we’re eating.
Try this. Cook a meal – with fresh ingredients – with a loved one or even a group of friends. Then, sit down at a table to enjoy your food. Pay more attention to the smells and how much better the food tastes. Enjoy a long dinner – where the conversation is as important as the food.
Divide Your Plate
Imagine a line down the center of your plate. Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables at every meal. Take a trip to your local farmers’ markets, stop at that produce stand on the way home from the office. Consider growing your own – it’s easier than you think!
When local produce is in season, grab that. In season food is generally more flavorful and more nutritious for you. When you can’t get fresh produce, either because of cost or access – consider using freeze dried fruits and vegetables in your recipes. Because of the freeze drying process, the nutritional value remains basically the same as fresh produce.
Try swapping for whole grains (think not white bread). Whole grains contain more healthy oils, fiber, and protein than refined grains. Plus, there’s generally fewer additives and ingredients you can’t pronounce.
When it comes to meat, remember that the USDA recommends just 5 to 6 ounces of meat per day for most men and women. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that the average American consumes nearly double that amount, about 12 ounces each day.
You might also consider swapping out two red-meat meals each week with seafood or plant-based proteins. You can also consider raising the quality of your meat, too. Look for meat that is grass-fed, raised without antibiotics or hormones. You should just walk away if your butcher hands you an ingredient list for the meat you’re about to buy.
Cook. Then Cook Some More.
We’ve talked about making meals with those you love. We can hear some of you now, “But – I don’t LIKE or KNOW HOW to cook!”
Cooking is a skill like any other. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Check in at your local cookwares store (most malls have a Williams and Sonoma) to see if they offer classes. Check out Meetup.com for local chefs offering classes in your neighborhood. Basic classes including knife work and kitchen basics are a great place to start. If you don’t enjoy cooking – just give these classes a try. You might surprise yourself.
As simple as it sounds, cooking allows you to control exactly what’s in your food. This automatically increases your ability to be a cleaner eater. When you have a recipe and you follow it, you are the boss of what is in your food. You’re in charge of where that food comes from. You can cut back on added salt and sugar. You can completely remove preservatives, artificial colors, flavors and trans fats.
Become an Ingredient List Snob
This is definitely a case where less is more. Look for foods with 5 ingredients – that you can pronounce – or less in the foods you’re buying. Pay special attention to the first ingredient. By law, ingredients must be listed in order of weight, meaning the product has most of what ingredient is listed first.
No ingredient list? You’re a clean eating super star! These are the best foods to keep on hand: grains and spices from bulk bins. Fresh fruits and vegetables. Organically raised meat. Farmers don’t put ingredient labels on their foods.
One thing to think about: fresh produce goes bad more quickly than processed food, so buy less of it at a time. You might consider using freeze dried fruits and vegetables to help you reduce your spend on super-fresh fruits and veggies.
Know Your Food
Have a local beef or dairy farmer? Try visiting your local butcher shop or meat market (they’re becoming more rare – but they do exist). Do you have a Farmers’ Market or Public Market in your town? Go there! You’ll be amazed at the variety of foods you can find!
Market Pro Tip: go later in the day, or be prepared to hang around until the end of the day. Farmers don’t want to take their product home – so they’re more willing to haggle when it comes to prices at the end of the day. You won’t have the same selection – but you might just get a great deal!
Believe it or not, according to a 2007 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 43% of adults drink less than 4 cups of water each day. What we drink contains more sugar, caffeine, artificial sweeteners and alcohol to our bodies than any other food source. By drinking more water, you’ll automatically take in less of all these things.
Here’s a real bonus: people who drink more water are the same folks who eat a cup or more of fruits and vegetables each day. They exercise more, eat less fast food and are more likely to shop at farmers’ markets, according to the CDC report. That skinny latte, a coconut water, and two glasses of wine might sound healthy – but at the end of the day – you’ve just taken in an extra 420 calories, plus the caffeine and alcohol.
If you want some flavor in your water, come back next week for our little demonstration of how to use freeze dried fruits and veggies to infuse your water with a great kick!