It is Springtime, and this month's topic will be all about eating clean. Start your Spring off right with fresh, non-refined foods.
Clean eating made simple is to choose wholesome foods. This includes a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats. Clean eating also means reducing your intake of refined grains, pesticides, additives, preservatives, dyes, trans fats, and large amounts of refined sugar and salt.
Here are some tips to get you started!
- Load Up On Fresh Produce - most Canadians do not get enough vegetables and fruits. Eating more vegetables and fruits can help significantly reduce your risk for a number of chronic diseases including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer. The fibre in whole produce also helps keep your body's microbiome (healthy bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract also known as your gut) happy, which can reduce your risk for autoimmune diseases, fight off infections and pathogens, and even improve your mood. Choose organic as much as possible. Focus on purchasing fresh produce from EWG's Dirty Dozen List.
- Go For Whole Grains - While some may abstain from eating any grains, I think that whole grains such as quinoa, wild rice, oats, barley, amongst others that are minimally processed are part of eating clean. Watch out for "whole grain" claims on labels. Look at the label, make sure whole grains are listed first, and that the ingredient list is short, with recognizable ingredients, and minimal added sugar. Reducing refined grains such as white pasta, sugar, and white bread for whole grains will give you more fibre, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. Moreover, people who eat more whole grains are better equipped to lose weight and keep it off.
- Eat Plant-Based Foods More Often - eating less meat can reduce your risk of heart disease and help you achieve a healthier body weight. Eating more plants increases your fibre intake, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals overall in your diet. Don't worry about protein. Most Canadians get more than enough protein. Plus whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes will provide you with plenty of protein in your diet. Clean eating also means cutting down on processed meats like cold cuts, bacon, and sausage.
- Limit Processed Foods - Technically when we chop, mix, slice and dice we are processing foods. The trouble is the processed food at the grocery store that is inundated with unnatural ingredients such as neon coloured foods or blue candied cereal. Watch out for foods with lots of refined sugar and refined grains on the label or very long ingredient lists. Natural foods on their own do not have many ingredients. Also, look out for ingredients you don't recognize or cannot pronounce as well as hydrogenated fats. Clean processed foods include plain yogurt, cheese, whole wheat pasta, packaged salad or baby spinach. Ideally you would make sauces and condiments at home but you can also find clean versions of pasta sauce, hummus, and salad dressings at the grocery store. Limiting packaged foods can also reduce your exposure to BPA and other chemicals found in plastics.
- Limit Refined Sugar - Health Canada and the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) recommend no more of 10% of your total daily calories come from added sugar. This translates to no more than 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men. Many Canadians get much more than that from juice, pop, sports drinks, and flavoured tea/coffee alone. To eat clean, cut down on sugary drinks as well as baked goods. Beyond desserts and sugary drinks, watch out for hidden sugar such as flavoured yogurt (choose plain instead), tomato sauce, ketchup, cereal, and anything packed in syrup. Naturally occurring sugar in foods like fruit, milk, milk alternatives are fine since fruit comes with fibre to help moderate the effect of sugar on insulin and blood sugar levels. Both fruit and milk/milk alternatives also provide you with nutrients and not just empty, sugary calories.
- The Sodium Challenge - Like with sugar, Canadians get way more sodium than is needed or is healthy. Aim for less than 2300 mg of sodium daily. This is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of salt. The biggest culprit for high sodium intake is from processed foods (canned, prepackaged), restaurant food, and takeout. Strive for home-cooked foods more often and use other flavourings instead of salt such as herbs, spices, lemon and lime juice. You could even do half salt and half herbs and spices as another way to get down on your sodium intake. Go for coarse sea salt or kosher salt instead as they contain less sodium compared to table salt.
- Consider the Environment - Clean eating is better for you and the planet. The food we eat takes resources to get to our plate. Some accounts estimate that agriculture may account for one third of all greenhouse gas emissions Agriculture and Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The meat industry has a big impact because of the resources it takes to raise and feed an animal and the methane released from digestion and manure particularly from cows, goats, and sheep. This makes the carbon footprint bigger. Some marine habitats have been overfished reducing the overall supply. Produce production can take its toll with herbicides, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers impacting water and soil quality. Shifting to a diet that is mostly plant based (rather than meat-heavy) can reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as elongate your life. Choosing organic or grass-fed meat is a more environmentally-friendly choice. Vegetables and fruits can be purchased organic, as well as local and in-season to help cut down on their carbon footprint.
Want to take the 30 Day Challenge to Clean Eating that is safe and effective. Partake in this journey with me by starting fresh this Spring and eating clean!