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Spring Clean Your Diet

Spring is Coming…I think!

There are technically 16 days until Spring is officially here on our calendars. However, March is a fickle month and depending on where you are, it may not look like spring will ever arrive. That said, the idea of warmer weather, open windows and fresh air brings with it the urge to do some spring cleaning for many people. Add to it the recent popularity of Marie Kondo and her approach to decluttering and reorganizing your life by only keeping what brings you joy, and everyone is on the cleaning up caravan. For me, spring cleaning also means cleaning up your diet. Coming out of a comfort-food coma in the winter months, it is the PERFECT time for a Spring checkup of your diet. Plus, March is National Nutrition Month so there are plenty of resources out there on healthy eating!

What we eat (and how much of it) is the biggest hurdle in losing weight and feeling healthy. Cleaning up our plate, pantry and fridge is the first step in leveling out the yo-yo effect of dieting and providing sustained results.

Getting Started with Clean Eating

Clean eating sounds good, right? But what is it and how does someone get started? To put it simply – clean eating is having an apple vs. apple sauce, eating steamed broccoli vs. frozen broccoli with cheese sauce added. Whole grains vs. white/refined grains. Organic, grass fed beef vs. pre-packaged, seasoned ground beef for tacos. It’s sometimes a little bit more work over convenience. Most importantly, it’s about reading labels, being informed and making better choices. Clean eating doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. It just takes planning.

Some critics will say that “clean eating” implies that some foods are dirty and that we shouldn’t be categorizing food that way. My response is…well, there are dirty foods – meaning foods that don’t provide a lot of nutritional value. And, that’s ok. They can still be a part of a balanced diet, but they can’t take center stage.  I’m suggesting that 80-90% of your diet be clean and leave a little wiggle room for occasional indulgences. Where the challenge lies, is in helping people understand that some of what they think is clean or healthy isn’t.

In looking at months and months of food diaries for my clients, I can confidently say the biggest problem when it comes to eating isn’t the quantity of calories but rather the quality of those calories. A calorie isn’t just a calorie despite what you’ve been told in the past. Some calories are better than others and will help you lose weight, have more energy and build lean muscle. And some calories will spike your blood sugar, make you sluggish and inhibit your fitness goals.

The human body is a sophisticated machine and requires fuel that is high quality.

Spring Cleaning Your Diet – 4 Tips for Success

So, this week, I’m challenging you to take a good look at what you’re eating and clean it up where needed. Try these few tips to clean up your plate, pantry and fridge:

  • Track your Food. You cannot improve upon what you are unaware of. Everyone has access to MyFitnessPal. Track everything for three days and look for patterns of non-clean eating like getting take out, eating pre-packaged convenience foods, etc. Identify where you can swap for healthier choices.  
  • Read Labels. My favorite app for food shopping is Fooducate. Scan a barcode; get a grade for that food. And, an explanation of that grade, definition of ingredients and healthy alternatives. If you cannot pronounce or you don’t recognize the first 2-3 ingredients (which are listed in order of their quantity) then you might want to toss it out.  Look for sneaky sugars (dextrose, maltodextrin, corn syrup). Note: not all preservatives are bad – some are needed to keep your food safe. Things like steric acid, sorbic acid and ascorbic acid are preservatives that can occur naturally in some foods and help prevent mold, and spoilage. Scan the label and Fooducate will tell you why those ingredients are in your food.
  • Don’t Believe (all) The Hype. Natural, organic and Heart Healthy are some of the most common “healthy marketing” terms used. Understand what these designations truly mean and the requirements for obtaining those labels. Research what it takes to get that claim put on a package and who’s behind it. Sometimes it is a food company donating to a non-profit in exchange for the label.
  • Stop Obsessing Over Organic. You don’t have to buy EVERYTHING organic. Some things are worth the investment while others are not. Check out “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” food lists for the top foods to buy organic. For me, it’s more important to buy local and fresh when possible (and they are usually organic as well). The closer the food is to you, the fresher it is and less processed it’s likely to be.

My last piece of advice is to make small changes. A complete overhaul can be overwhelming. All packaged food isn’t the enemy. We have lives to lead and families to raise – sometimes ordering take out is what we need to get it all done! Remember the 80/20 rule and indulge occasionally. Everything can be incorporated into your diet in the right way to allow you to enjoy eating while doing what’s best for your body. Besides – life is too short to give up Oreos.

Working with a health coach to provide recommendations and keep you accountable gives you the support you need to make positive changes. Message me to chat, and if you haven’t picked up my free Meal Planning & Prep Guide, get it here! It will get you started on the clean eating path and help you plan your meals each week.

Happy Nutrition Month and let’s get to cleaning up our plates, pantries and fridges!

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