With the New Year comes an opportunity for all of us to reflect and set goals for ourselves. This list should help inspire you to eat cleaner, and give you the information you need to make it simple.
1. Avoid Hydrogenated Oil
Hydrogenated oil was developed as a way to make liquid oils solid at room temperature, which helps baked goods stay good longer on a grocery shelf. Unfortunately, they are also a trans fat, and are linked to health issues including heart disease and elevated bad cholesterol. Watch out for “partially hydrogenated oils” as well- they are just as nasty.
Main culprits: Chips, boxed crackers, and cookies, shelf-stable cakes and pies, kinds of margarine, non-dairy creamers, fast foods.
2. Eliminate High Fructose Corn Syrup
Ugh. This one is a doozy because they put this in everything! HFCS is a heavily processed sweetener made from corn (usually GMO). Manufacturers use it a lot in place of sugar since it is cheaper due to corn subsidies. It is most definitely a processed food and just another way Americans are consuming too much sugar. HFCS is linked to obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Main culprits: Soda, salad dressings, canned fruits, yogurt, sweetened fruit beverages, ketchup, fast foods.
3. Eat Organic Produce (at least for the Dirty Dozen, or even the top few of the Dirty Dozen)
Choosing organic produce as much as you can, will greatly reduce the amount of chemicals in your diet. Some studies have shown over 140 chemicals on a single apple grown conventionally! I do realize that some organics are more expensive than conventional so it may be wise to select your organics according to the Dirty Dozen list, compiled each year by Environmental Working Group. Several produce items that make the top of the list every year include celery, apples, berries, and bell peppers, so I always buy those in organic. They also have a Clean 15 list, and those are the items you don’t need to watch out for as much, and that list includes avocados, pineapples, onions and asparagus.
4. Choose organic dairy products, if you choose to have dairy.
Conventionally raised dairy products are full of hormones and antibiotics that are not found in organic versions. Most grocery stores now have a natural section, so take advantage of this!
5. Drink more water
We all know this one, but it can never be said enough. Water is super-important, for well, everything in our body. A good rule is to try and drink half of your weight in ounces per day. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, try to drink 100 ounces of water each day. Another good tip is to start each morning with a glass of water.
6. Eat a salad every day
And a big salad at that! Try and get as many different colors in that salad, too. Each color fruit or vegetable represents a different phytochemical, or antioxidant that is important for our body. The one we all have heard is Beta-carotene, the antioxidant in carrots, and that it is good for our eyes. Lycopene, found in tomatoes and other red produce, is good for heart health. Every color is important, so try and get them all each day.
7. Skip the artificial food colorings
This is another really important one, especially for kiddos. Several artificial food colorings that are legal in the US are banned in Europe since they are linked to behavioral issues including ADD and ADHD. In fact, a lot of behavioral centers will recommend taking food colorings out of a child’s diet as part of a treatment plan for these types of disorders. Plus they are made from some questionable sources, including the petroleum industry. Yuck!
Main culprits: Cake icing, candies, fruit filling in things including cereal bars, cereal.
8. Watch out for artificial preservatives
Here’s another one made from weird sources. Some of the big ones are TBHQ (Tertiary Butylhydroquinone), a chemical preservative that is actually a form of butane, and BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene), a toluene-based ingredient used to preserve foods and body care products.
Main culprits: chewing gum, cereals, taco shells, chips, sausage and other breakfast meats, crackers, fast foods.
9. Try grass-grazed meats
Although grass-grazed meats can be a little more pricey than corn-fed meats, the benefits are worth the consideration. Cows natural eat grass, not corn, and are therefore the healthiest when they are grass-fed. Corn actually can harm a cow’s digestive tract, and, along with other factors like crowding and an unclean environment, the cow is then given routine antibiotics daily in the feed to prevent illness. There are several issues with this: these antibiotics are passed along through the cow’s waste, and in the meat to us, both contributing to the development of super-bugs and environmental pollution in our waterways. Another thing to consider is that meats from grass-grazed animals are lower in fat and have a healthier balance of Omega-3’s, the essential fatty acids that most of us could use more of for a healthier heart.
10. Eat out less and cook more
For some families, this will look like reducing fast food by one meal a week, and for others, it may look like trying more complicated recipes since you already cook at home often. No matter where you are in the spectrum, you can take a step in the right direction. Some easy tips to inspire you here:
- Choose one new vegetable to try each time you grocery shop. If that is too much, try just one a month.
- Track your spending on dining out. Limit the amount of money you allocate for restaurants each month, and your health will surely benefit!
- Meal plan and make a grocery list. Choose recipes that are simple and quick to prepare for evenings you are short on time.
Wherever you are in this journey to wellness, celebrate your wins! Every single mealtime presents the opportunity for a decision to either better your health, or to compromise it. If you fall off the wagon for a meal, or even a day, week, or month, it is ok! Just jump back on. You are worth it!