We’ve all heard the old saying, “You are what you eat.”  We all know that certain foods are good for our bodies, and certain foods are not.  Yet most of us, me included, still hear the calling of the junk food…”Eat me!”  And junk food is so persuasive with its sugar, fat, and salt. Not to mention the chemicals that leave our bodies addicted for more.

It’s a hard habit to break, but one that has great benefits.  Besides feeling better and having more energy, it’s been shown to increase our lives.  A study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that half of the annual deaths were premature and could have been postponed by modifying behaviors including diet.

So the power of clean, healthy foods is huge.  Clean foods are as direct from nature as possible, with little to no processing.  They’re usually free of additives, colorings, flavorings, sweeteners, and hormones.  Don’t you love those packages with a one-word ingredient list?  “Spinach”  You know what’s in there, and what’s not.

You don’t have to become a vegan or raw-foodie to eat clean.  It’s all about the choices.  Did you know that the closer to nature you eat, the fewer calories it will take for you to feel full?  Clean foods have higher fiber than their processed counterparts.

So how do we start?  Wipeout our kitchen pantries (and I don’t mean by going on one last binge!)? No.  Start simply and take baby steps.

  1. Toss: Do you drink soda? Don’t buy it anymore.  Do you cook with corn oil? Switch to a heart-healthy oil like olive or canola instead. Slowly replace your foods with the good stuff.
  2. Assess: Look closely at your diet. If most of your calories come from processed grain, replace it with whole grain pasta.
  3. Shop: Next time you go grocery shopping, try this.  Walk the perimeter of the store first and fill your cart.  Why? Because the most natural foods are on the edges of the store…veggies, fruit, dairy, meat.  Don’t even think about walking down those processed food aisles.
  4. Read: Look at the food label. Does it only have a few ingredients (and ones that you recognize?) or does it have dozens?  Try to choose foods with a shortlist, or at least try to avoid hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors and colors, preservatives, and high fat, sugar, and salt.
  5. Think: Think about the amount of nutrients per serving rather than price. More bang for your buck. Check the calories, protein, fiber, minerals, and vitamin content against the fat, sodium, sugar, and chemicals.
  6. Cook: Not only will this save you money, but all those hidden calories in packaged meals and restaurant food will disappear. Use tricks like a crockpot or cooking extra to save on time.
  7. Adjust:  Learn to enjoy what you eat.  It may take a bit of time, but once you learn to enjoy the taste of natural foods instead of salt, sugar, and fat, you’ll appreciate the bounty that’s available.  If you need to do it in stages, that’s ok.  Mix white and brown rice, or white pasta with the whole grain until you get used to it.
  8. Follow: No one’s perfect, and you shouldn’t expect to be either. Try to eat 80% natural foods and 20% other foods, and you’ll be way ahead of the game already.
  9. Love: Be mindful. Love the food you eat, the person that cooks it, the taste in your mouth, and the company you’re with.  Slow down and simplify.