Early in life, you’re basically given carte blanche when it comes to eating. You’re young, your metabolism is raging, and you can basically burn off anything and everything you eat. However, like all things in life, as the years go by, your metabolism starts to get a little slower and that extra helping of Thanksgiving dinner starts to have a much bigger impact on your waistline than it used to.
It’s sad to say, but the days of eating whatever you want are long gone. Now, you need to start watching what (and how much) you eat and exercise a whole lot more. Doesn’t sound all that appealing does it?
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Not to worry, we’ve got you covered with five simple steps you can take to clean up your diet and make mealtime a whole lot simpler than it currently is.
5 Tips to a Cleaner Diet
Tip #1 - Swap Juices for Whole Fruit
There’s no other way to say it - fruit juices are junk. They’re cleverly disguised sugar bombs that bring little in the way of nutrition to anyone. Your average 8 oz glass of orange juice is packing 26g of sugar. That’s as much sugar than you’d get with 8oz of your favorite soft drink.
If you’re craving something fruity, ditch the juice and eat the whole fruit. You’ll enjoy the same flavor and sweetness you get from the juice, but you also get all the other vitamins, minerals, and, most importantly, fiber as well. Juices are heavily processed and with that, a lot of the nutrition is removed too. Plus, the fiber you’ll get from eating the whole fruit will help temper the rise in blood sugar levels that come with eating fruit as well as help fill you up, meaning you’ll eat less overall.
Tip #2 - Smarter Snacking
Everyone loves snacking. It’s a great way to crush a hunger craving when it’s not quite dinner time, but you’re still in need of some food. Unfortunately, most of the foods marketed as “snacks” are full of refined, nutritionally void ingredients that pack as many (or more) calories than your meals do.
Sure, there are some decent snack options out there, but your best bet is to pack your own snacks at home and bring them with you if you’re going to be on the run all day long. Some great examples of smarter snacks are whole fruit, hard boiled eggs, nuts, protein shakes, or cheese.
If you do forget your snacks at home and in need of something while you’re out and about, make sure to check the ingredients label for whatever you buy and make sure there’s a minimal amount of ingredients included in your snack as well as a good amount of protein and fiber.
Tip #3 - DIY Salad Dressing
Store-bought salad dressings are laden with preservatives, artificial chemicals, and bad fats. Even the ridiculously expensive “healthy” ones still contain preservatives and ingredients that aren’t the best for you. On top of that, these bottled salad dressings are also chock full of calories that will contribute little in the way to your health and function.
When you make your own dressing, you control the ratio of oil to vinegar as well as what flavor it will be. Not in the mood for ranch tonight? That’s ok, because when you make your own salad dressing you can have what you want and not feel guilty for not eating what’s in the fridge. Feel free to whip up a quick balsamic vinaigrette or Italian dressing. There’s plenty of healthy (and tasty) salad dressing recipes available (for free). Make a big batch of one or two of these and stick it in the fridge for up to a week.
A super simple, and insanely delicious, salad dressing is:
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1 clove garlic (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼-½ tsp black pepper
Add all the ingredients to a jar or blender and combine. You’ll have a salad dressing that’s tastier, and lower calorie, than anything you’ll get at the store.
Tip #4 - Shop the Perimeter
Where most people go wrong when purchasing their groceries for the week is spending the majority of their time in the numerous aisles of the grocery store instead of on the outskirts of the store. There’s a reason the grocery store aisles can feel like a maze at times - it’s designed to keep you trapped in so you buy more food that you really don’t need.
The aisles of the grocery store of generally full of all the boxed, hyper-processed, nutritionally void foods that are best left on the shelf. When making your weekly grocery run, stick to the perimeter. That’s where the majority of the whole, natural foods.
The perimeter is where you’ll find the meat, dairy, eggs, and, most importantly, produce. Sure there are things in the aisles that are healthy such as whole grain oats, whole wheat pastas, nut butters, etc. but for the most part sticking to the outer regions of the store are your ticket to surviving the weekly grocery gauntlet.
Tip #5 - Learn to Cook
We live in the age of convenience. Everything you could want or need is available at the drop of a hat. This can be great when you’re short on time and in a bind, but this ultra convenience has resulted in living the drive-thru lifestyle for many adults. With this easy and unlimited access to food has come the sharpest rise in obesity mankind has ever seen.
Lost in all of this is the simplicity of the home cooked meal. At one time, meal time was a nightly tradition. One that gathered the whole family today. Nowadays, dinner time is most often a conglomeration of drive-thru value meals and leftover delivery pizza. This has got to come to an end if you’re truly serious about cleaning up your diet.
No matter how “healthy” a fast food restaurant may claim to be, nothing will replace the quality and nutrition of a home cooked meal. When you cook your own food, you are the boss about what goes into your food -- how much oil, salt, sugar, etc. goes into every single bite.
If you want to truly clean up your diet, it begins and ends with learning how to cook. Once you know how to cook, you are the one in control of your destiny and you hold the key to completely transforming mealtime from fat storing to fat shredding.
If you don’t know how to cook, pull up any one of the millions of cookbooks, cooking blogs, or YouTube videos out there and start simple. ANYONE can cook, all it takes is a willingness.
Eating right doesn’t have to be complicated, stressful, or time consuming. Use the tips above to help spruce up a diet that may have gotten a little messy over the years. Afterwards, you’ll realize just how rewarding food can really be and how it serves to enhance all aspects of your life.