November 14, 2010

Clean Eating #3: Transitioning

When transitioning to a "cleaner" diet, one that minimizes processed foods and centers around whole foods, start by making a list and prioritize the changes you want to make. Go slowly, maybe one new change a week. You want to make changes that you can sustain, and that don't feel depriving or painful. Be compassionate with yourself, and only make the changes you feel comfortable making. Have fun, experiment! Don't worry about getting it right, the only goal is to to feel healthier. Here are some suggested was to start:

1. Eat breakfast every morning and eat it at home. 

2. Find and swap what you are already eating with cleaner versions. If you've been reading labels you probably have a good idea of products that are full of preservatives and additives. Compare ingredients on a variety of products, you may be able to find alternatives with less sugar and less additives that taste the same or even better than what you are currently using.  Buy organic products, produce, dairy and meats. Certified organic foods do not contain artificial ingredients or preservatives.

3. Transition to whole grains. If you are currently eat white bread, to make the step up to 100% whole grains easier, try eating grains that include a portion of whole grains and white, such as a multi-grain variety or one that includes whole wheat or other grain. Whole grain blends of pasta are another way to transition. You can even mix in a little brown rice to white. Your taste buds will adapt more easily to the taste of whole grains, and you may soon find yourself preferring them. (see my post dated 10/30/10 for more about whole grains).

4. Add more whole fruits and vegetables to your diet: 
  • Swap processed packaged snacks for healthy fruits and nuts. Take snacks from home when you go out so if you find yourself hungry you won't be tempted to get something from the vending machine. Apples are extremely portable. I wash one and stick it in a baggie and take it with me. Add a small handful of nuts as well for a complete and filling nutritious snack! I don't buy energy bars (have you read the ingredient lists on some of those?) Another option is to take along some trail mix, or make your own from nuts and dried fruit.
  • Add a serving of veggies to each of your meals. Keep bags of frozen vegetables in your freezer to add to casseroles, omelets, stir fries, pasta sauces, and canned soups. 
  • Each week try one new fruit or vegetable or whole grain.
  • Shop at a farmer's market; all those whole foods can sure be hard to resist! Nothing beats fresh produce in season just picked from the farm! It's also great to meet and talk to the farmers directly. If you are unsure of how to prepare a new food, or even variety of fruit and vegetable you haven't seen before, just ask them. There's something also to be said seeing many people buying a vegetable you haven't tried before, always makes me wonder what I'm missing out on!
  • Make smoothies with frozen fruit with low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt or tofu.
  • Put fruit in plain sight in your kitchen. The easier it is to see, the more you will reach for it.  
  • Keep a container of washed and ready to eat finger fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator and reach for them first when you are hungry and want a snack. I chop up a bunch of vegetables at once to add to salads, they last for days in the fridge. I also buy frozen fruit in bags or cut up and freeze myself fruits such as pineapple, berries, bananas, grapes and mangoes. A bowl of low calorie frozen fruit is my favorite evening dessert!
    • Top sandwiches and pizzas with sliced vegetables.  
    • Demote meat and grains to the supporting role and not the main attraction in your meals. I no longer center my meals around meat and grains. Vegetables now take the starring role with only a small amount of meat and grain thrown in (if at all!). Check out Mark Bittman's books and column that focuses eating in this "minimalist" way. You might even consider going vegetarian one day a week. There's a great movement gaining speed recently called Meatless Monday, even some restaurants are joining this bandwagon.

    6. Don't drink your calories. Swap fruit juice for fresh fruit, cut down on the soft drinks and other liquid candy (such as just about anything but black coffee or tea from coffee bars). Even cutting back to one every other day instead of daily is a great way to start. Include a glass of water at each of your meals. I don't go out anywhere without a refillable bottle.

    7. Cook more meals at home. Eat out one meal less a week and bring your lunch to work. Prep your food ahead of time so it can be quickly prepared after or before work. When you cook, make extra to serve at another meal or to bring to work for lunch.

    The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living

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