Ever heard the saying “abs are made in the kitchen?” Most nutritionists and trainers agree that a healthy diet is crucial to muscle development and avoiding weight gain in the form of body fat. Additionally, clean eating has other invaluable benefits that aid in maintaining clear skin, increasing energy levels throughout the day, and providing nutrients to internal organs and bones that will help us stay fit as we grow older.
However, clean eating isn’t the easiest thing to maintain on a daily basis as we go about our busy days, and we often sacrifice the opportunity for a healthy bite with a quick hunger fix in the form of a snack high in sodium, bleached flour, and refined sugar. Even going to the gym every day and incorporating a healthy mix of cardio and weight training won’t compensate for an inadequate diet, not to mention that an optimal gym routine paired with the right food would see a dramatic increase in results. Nonetheless, there are simple steps we can take to maximize the benefits that healthy, clean food can provide.
From planning snacks when you are on the go to meal-prepping at home, here are 10 Simple Tips for Clean Eating
10. Substitute Breakfast Cereal for Oatmeal
That sugar-rich bleached flour cereal you eat for breakfast? It’s gotta go. And by substituting it for oatmeal, I don’t mean the pre-packaged instant oats that are also rich in sugar. I recommend regular “rolled” oats (often labeled as old-fashioned oats). Experts at WebMD agree that regular oats that are not steeped in sugar are known to lower bad (LDL) cholesterol, in addition to helping ease constipation and keeping you feeling full for longer periods of time due to the high fiber content.
Instead of topping your oatmeal with syrup or sugar that will cause an unhealthy spike in blood sugar (the opposite of what’s good for your body in the morning), nutritionists recommend adding cinnamon, ginger, or fresh fruit/frozen berries for taste. Although this process might take a few moments longer than pouring milk over cereal, the health benefits are well worth it.
9. Replace Spaghetti with Spaghetti Squash
Squash is regarded by nutritionists as one of the healthiest foods on the planet, due to its high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits. It is known to promote optimal health by providing a healthy supply of B-complex vitamins, known to regulate blood sugar. Additionally, squash has been measured to block the formation of cholesterol in our cells.
One great (and very simple) way to prepare this food is in the form of spaghetti squash. Most recipes call for a cook time that is lower than 1 hour.
8. Make Quinoa Instead of Pasta or Rice
Whether you’re preparing a well-balanced dinner or cooking for a full week of lunches to take to work, it’s definitely worth considering making quinoa instead of pasta or rice for a healthier grain dish. Experts at WebMD also love this food because it is one of the most nutrient-dense gluten-free alternatives out there. It also provides approximately six grams of protein per cup, and a high amount of fiber as well. This dish is a favorite among athletes as well due to its high lysine content, a vital amino acid known for its ability to heal muscles after a grueling workout.
There are some tricks in preparing quinoa to make the taste more appealing. For example, you can heat a small amount of olive oil on the stovetop and roast the quinoa for about 3 minutes before mixing in your liquid base to “open up” the grain. I personally like to use beef, chicken, or vegetable stock instead of water as my liquid base as it manifests a heartier taste (although it’s important to make sure the stock you use is low in sodium).
7. Carry An Apple, Banana, and Nuts When On The Go
This is just a trick that works well for me personally, but I think it’s definitely worth sharing. I believe there is a psychological process behind carrying healthy snacks with you as it deters you from grabbing quick, unhealthy bites during down time or to get a quick hunger fix. The convenience of reaching into my bag and having a snack easily accessible makes me feel guiltier going out of my way to buy something I don’t need.
My favorite item to snack on is almonds, not only because they are tasty, but because they can reduce the risk of heart disease, deliver whopping amounts of antioxidants, and contain healthy fats that can help you lose weight. According to World’s Healthiest Foods, almonds also lower after-meal surges in blood sugar, which in effect reduces the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
6. Start Your Day With Apple Cider Vinegar + Fresh Squeezed Lemon Tea
It’s actually pretty delicious. All you need is one tablespoon of unfiltered apple cider vinegar, ½ of a fresh squeezed lemon, a little raw honey, and some hot water. The lemon will take away the bite of the apple cider vinegar, and the honey will help sweeten the concoction.
The reason this is an awesome way to start your day is that both apple cider vinegar and fresh lemon have amazing health benefits. Unfiltered apple cider vinegar has not only been linked in many studies to effective weight management, but it’s also excellent in aiding digestion due to the high content of probiotics and other good bacteria. Lemons are also a great source of vitamin C, and have the ability to fight free radicals in the body that can cause inflammation. Pairing these together in a morning drink that help regulate hunger and digestive patterns throughout the day.
5. Try Using Hummus Instead of Mayo on Sandwiches
It really tastes just as good, if not better. Hummus is known to contain healthy fats that help optimize brain functioning, and also provide nourishment to the cells. Like quinoa and oats, hummus is also high in fiber content, which helps to aid digestion and maintain a healthy intestinal tract. I usually substitute traditional condiments like mayo and mustard for hummus on sandwiches. It also works great for dipping raw veggies for snacks, or even mixing into quinoa for extra taste.
4. If You Must Drink Alcohol, Cut Out Sugar
Alcohol is already horrible for the body as it is, but mixing it with liquids that are high in sugar and carbonic acids make it all the more terrible. If you are out at the bar and do decide to drink, consider getting your spirit of choice on the rocks. Consider that the average margarita contains between 12-20 grams of refined sugar. Consuming multiple drinks containing high levels of sugar over the course of an evening is probably more to blame for your terrible hangovers than the alcohol itself. Try drinking your tequila directly on the rocks. You’ll consume less sugar, and be forced to pace yourself as sipping it straight won’t be as easy.
3. Carry A Reusable Water Bottle Everywhere You Go
This is an amazing habit to get into. It’s really remarkable how much of an effect adequate hydration can have on your body’s energy levels, the look of your skin, and your digestion. Of all the health tips outlined on this list, carrying a water bottle with you is by far the easiest and least expensive. Regular hydration can help energize the muscles, maintain normal bowel movements, regulate kidney health, improve the look and feel of your skin, and so much more.
2. Keep Pre-Washed Raw Veggies In Your Fridge for At-Home Snacking
This might take some getting used to before you actually enjoy it, but it’s honestly one of the least work-intensive meals you can prepare for yourself. When you are at home doing work, watching a movie, or reading a book in bed, it’s important to have healthy snacking foods readily available without having to prepare a full-fledged meal. Instead of going for a bag of chips, keep a pre-sliced assortment of raw red/yellow peppers, cauliflower, and broccoli in some tupperware in your fridge. It only takes a few minutes to prepare, and one container will last you all week.
According to Livestrong, raw veggies supply the body with higher levels of vitamins A and C compared to cooked ones. Additionally, raw broccoli is known to have cancer-fighting properties such as myrosinase, and may also help lower the risk of bladder cancer.
1. Prepare Colorful Meals
Growing up, my mother regularly reminded me that every meal should be a visual array of different colors. It was an easy observation to make before each meal – simply look at the array of foods on your plate and determine if multiple color groups are represented. I now understand that this is actually an incredibly useful way to ensure that you are incorporating healthy servings of nutrients and proteins into each meal. Dark greens generally supply the body with major sources of iron and vitamin A. Red foods like bell peppers contain an abundance of vitamin C and other antioxidants. Dark grains like quinoa or brown rice offer high levels of protein and fiber. A great method for both grocery shopping and meal-prepping.