Whenever someone tells me they eat clean, my next question is always, “What does clean eating mean to you?” A clean diet could include meat, dairy, and grains, or it could exclude one or all of these groups. With all of these options and more, it’s hard to know which approach is best.
Often we think our diet is healthy because it is full of fruits, veggies, and lean meats. And yet the scale isn’t moving the way you would like it to. What could the problem be? Here are a few tips to clean up an already healthy diet and achieve your weight loss goals.
Tip #1: Snack Smart
Snack on raw foods. Snacking can get out of control quickly. We’re all guilty of sitting down to watch TV with a bag of “healthy” rice cakes and devouring the whole thing. If we snack on raw foods, we automatically have to pay more attention. Raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are some options. For example, raw cucumbers are my favorite snack. But in order to snack on cucumber slices, you have to cut them up. I like to eat them with hummus or soaked in apple cider vinegar (Sounds kind of gross. It was a thing my dad used to do).
Raw almonds are another great choice. Here, the extra attention is the chewing. Raw almonds require more chewing than roasted almonds. Many fruits require slicing, peeling, or other prep work.
Tip #2: Cook With Coconut Oil
Don’t cook at high heat with olive oil. Olive oil is a healthy fat straight out of the bottle, but cooking changes it. High heat transforms the fat molecules in olive oil and causes many of its healthy benefits to disappear. When olive oil smokes and oxidizes under high heat, it becomes like any other cooking oil. If you need to use cooking methods that require high temperatures, such as roasting or sautéing, choose coconut oil instead.
Tip #3: Control Your Carbs
Keep track of carbohydrates. Yes, quinoa is good for you, but having a heaping bowl at every meal is not. Healthy carbohydrates have a place in everyone’s diet. Sweet potatoes, oatmeal, fruits, and whole grain pasta can all be part of healthy diet, but they shouldn’t be consumed in excess. Having oatmeal for breakfast, pasta for lunch, and quinoa for dinner will not help you reach your fitness goals. Have a few small portions throughout the day, not three or four large servings.
Tip #4: Pay Attention to Your Gut Health
Locate food sensitivities and don’t ignore them. Sensitivities may be caused by fruit, gluten, or dairy. I even have a friend who is allergic to red meat. Both major and minor food sensitivities can disrupt digestion and cause stomach aches, so pay attention to the symptoms. When your stomach is uncomfortable, reach for what is comfortable. (In my case, ice cream.) Avoiding discomfort altogether is the way to go.
Tip #5: Spice Things Up
Explore spices. There are so many available, and experimenting with them can keep you from getting bored with your food. Cumin is delicious, as well as curry and garam masala. Experiment, but don’t forget the last tip, since spices can also give you tummy troubles.
Tip #6: Stay Local
Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). They often deliver fresh produce, dairy, and meat to a location near you. This is a great way to experiment with fruits or vegetables you may have never tried, like kohlrabi or jackfruit. You also support local farms and gain access to fresh, clean food.
Experiment with new foods like jackfruit (left) or kohlrabi (right) to make clean eating fun.
Tip #7: Try Canning
Learn how to can food, or make friends with someone who cans. Canning your own food has loads of benefits like longevity, better taste than store-bought, and no mystery chemicals or additives. You can also can food in Mason jars instead of aluminum cans, which gets rid of the metallic taste of grocery store canned foods.
Have Fun Experimenting With Your Diet
These tips have definitely cleaned up my clean eating plan. There are plenty of other ways to clean up your eating, so try them all and see what works for you.
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Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.