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Clean eating: 5 easy ways to clean up your act

At this time of the year we’re greeted with a flurry of food fads and diets aren’t we, but there’s one way of eating that’s stood the test of time. The clean eating movement has become a favourite because it is simple to follow and easy to stick with.

Unlike other healthy eating plans, clean eating isn’t a diet but a way of life. Yes, changing your attitude and eating more of the good stuff can bring great results for the mind, body and soul.

Whatever your goals, the basic principles remain the same. With clean eating, you say “no” to unhealthy, processed foods and a big, fat “yes” to whole, natural, and healthy ingredients, its really that simple.

Eating cleaner has been linked to a long list of health benefits, including enhanced cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, increased mental wellbeing, better sleep quality, and improved skin and hair health. Clean eating has also been found to have a profound effect on our energy levels as Livestrong details:

“A healthy diet that properly nourishes your body helps you feel energetic and productive. Several nutrients, including the B-complex vitamins and iron, help your cells access fuel so that they can function properly.

Clean eating also helps regulate your blood sugar, helping you avoid fatigue-inducing blood sugar spikes, which can occur after you eat processed carbohydrates, such as sweets or refined grains.”

Ready to feel the benefits mentioned above for yourself? Here’s five ways to clean up your act and get started now.

1. Eat more ‘real’ foods

Processed, unhealthy, inflammation-inducing foods have been linked to a number of health risks that we’re all keen to avoid, so lets replace those processed foods with real, whole food ingredients instead.

Fresh vegetables and fruits should be a staple as each is packed with a bevy of vitamins and minerals, as well as fibre and plant compounds. This high concentration of fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of illness, with cancer and heart disease just two of the conditions you’re less likely to develop as a result.

So increase your intake of fruits, and vegetables when ever you can including fresh, raw and lightly cooked. Choose organic produce where budget allows for fruits and veg that you are consuming with the skin on e.g. blueberries. When buying bananas and avocado’s for example which will be peeled, choosing organic isn’t as vital here if you are focusing on your budget.

2. Treat packaged foods with care

Being more food aware when it comes to buying packaged goods is another golden rule. Pre-packaged foods, including many store cupboard ingredients, can contain a range of preservatives, added sugars, and unhealthy fats. Even your friendly, seemingly healthy pre-washed salad mix could contain hidden additives! To learn about these often hidden nasties read more here.

Take a moment to read food labels properly before buying anything in a packet that does not look like a whole food. Try to make sure every ingredient you use and eat is truly wholesome. If you can’t understand an ingredient on a label then it quite probably isn’t a natural ingredient so think twice before buying. Read labels on all packaged items, including nuts and meats, to ensure there are no questionable or hidden contents. You will be surprised what unnatural ingredients can be lurking in something that seems, on the outside, to be so wholesome.

3. Cut the refined carbs

In addition to limiting the intake of processed foods, cutting the refined carbs that may currently make up the bulk of your diet is another must.

Not all carbs were created equal. Refined carbs differ vastly in terms of nutrition when compared to the healthy, complex carbohydrates found in wholegrain foods. Refined carbs can increase the risk of many health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Refined carbs (including the processed sugars and refined grains found in white bread, pasta, and rice) may give you a quick energy boost, but this sugar spike will quickly lead to a lull.

They also contain empty calories and will have been stripped of the fibre, vitamins, and minerals that make all foods worth eating.

This doesn’t mean “No Carbs” its more about switching out the refined and replacing with healthy carbs. Read more about the difference between refined carbs and healthy complex carbs, and discover exactly how to identify them here.

4. Look out for added salt and sugar

Naturally occurring sugars and salts form part of the healthiest, fruit, and veg rich diets. Cleaner foods are after all naturally low in sugar and salt, but it’s added salt and sugar that are the real enemies.

Seemingly healthy foods like yogurt and tomato sauce contain sweeteners, so again reading the food labels correctly will help to lower your intake of added salt and sugar. Want a flavour punch without these additions? Experiment with using herbs and spices instead.

5. Make more ethical choices

Shopping organic for your fruits and vegetables will go a long way when introducing clean eating into your lifestyle, but the same consideration should be given to the meat in your diet.

Choosing food from ethically raised animals isn’t just great for your conscience and the planet, it’s great for your health too. Organic meat is an investment in a higher standard of animal welfare, with livestock reared the organic way happier, healthier, and more nourished. Organic meat also contains less additives, preservatives, and chemicals, and is completely traceable.

Going down the path of a more plant-based or vegetarian diet and introducing meat-free mondays for example is another option to consider and there are some fabulous meat-free dishes to try. Here are our top healthy plant based recipes.

And a little extra point – stay hydrated

The wonders of water never cease to amaze me, remember we are made up of over 50% water so don’t forget to top your water up regularly. And, as the healthiest and most natural beverage in town, it’s an easy win in your efforts to bring more natural foods and drinks into your diet.

For more information on foods/recipe ideas, health and wellness tips, hit any of the links in this post or head back to my Wellness Journal page here and search up by topic.

Images: Brooke LarkMariana Medvedeva unsplashed.com

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