Cleaning it Up for the New Year
Kelley Gilbert of Modernly Healthy shares tips on Eating Clean in the New Year.
It's almost that time of year when the world begins to make declarations and promises for the the upcoming year – the dreaded yet hopeful New Years Resolution. This year, rather than choosing some unrealistic, unachievable goal like running a marathon that will die after mile five or trying some new fad diet that will end as soon as you discover it involves eating baby food, why not make it something more realistic and meaningful? Why not make a resolution that involves eliminating toxins from the body, losing weight, gaining more mental clarity, better sleep, more energy, and helps eliminate and prevent diseases? I know what you thinking- that sounds ridiculously unachievable and a lot more work than I bargained for. What if it wasn't that hard or complicated? What if I told you it was possible to achieve all of those things just by eating clean?
What it Means to Eat Clean: I am sure you have heard the phrase "clean eating" tossed around before but what does it really entail? Washing your food thoroughly? Not quite. Eating clean is the practice of avoiding processed and refined foods and basing your diet on whole foods. Sounds simple enough, right? Once you get started, eating clean can be quite simple and the benefits it can have on your quality of life can be significant.
How to Eat Clean: The easiest way to ensure you are eating clean is to ask yourself, "Could I physically go find this food myself in nature?" So a sweet potato would be part of a clean eating diet where a loaf of bread, even whole wheat, would not be found in nature. From there, your clean eating diet can vary from person to person as you decide what variation is right for you. For example, I eat a primarily vegan diet whereas my sister-in-law eats more of a paleo-inspired diet. Both are clean, we just choose different "clean foods" to consume. For dinner we may both be eating spaghetti squash pasta with herbs but I may decide to add some northern beans to mine where she would add chicken. Both of these meals are "clean" as all of the ingredients in each can be found in their whole form in nature.
The Benefits of Clean Eating:
Fight Fatigue: Eating clean helps regulate your blood sugar and avoid fatigue-induced blood sugar spikes which can occur after you eat processed carbohydrates such as sweets or refined grains.
Fight Disease: Eating a diet rich in fruits and veggies helps lower your risk of cardiovascular disease as they are packed with vitamin C which maintains blood vessel strength. The healthy fats found in clean foods like nuts, avocados, and olive oil help lower blood pressure and fight cardiovascular disease. Increasing your consumption of fruits and veggies also provides your body with more phtytonutrients and antioxidants which fight cancer growth.
Get More Mental Clarity: Eating whole foods instead of processed foods ensures you get the nutrients you need for optimal brain function. Vitamin B-6 found in pistachio nuts will increase dopamine levels which is a chemical that provides pleasure. Diets full of processed food are nutritionally void of omega-3 and high in omega-6's which creates moodiness and inflammation. A clean diet with foods like wild-caught salmon and flax will provide you with a more optimal proportion of omegas.
Lose Weight: Your body is able to break down processed food faster than whole food which spikes insulin levels and in turn cause weight gain. Additionally, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and chemicals have been linked to inflammation and weight gain.
Sleep Better: Eating refined sugars can spike blood sugar levels and make it difficult to stay asleep while eating clean foods with healthy fats such a coconut oil and avocado provide your body with the necessary building blocks for the production of sleep hormones.
Get Energy: Processed foods can help you in the short term with energy but don't leave you feeling full and can cause you to experience a crash shorty after. As a clean alternative, munch on some almonds or cashews which are high in magnesium as it plays a key role in converting sugar into energy.
Beginners Guide to Eating Clean:
Start Small: Trying to revamp your entire diet overnight can be overwhelming. I recommend tackling it step by step. Start by making sure your breakfasts are clean. After you feel comfortable with that first step, then conquer lunch, dinner and then snacks.
Choose Your Oils Wisely: This is where it gets tricky for some people. Soybeans and sunflowers seeds can be found in nature so the oil from them must be OK to consume, right? Not quite, and actually quite the contrary. Avoid soybean, sunflower, saffron, canola, cottonseed, and corn oil. These oils are highly processed and have free radicals in them which can be detrimental to your health. Instead stick to olive, coconut, avocado oil and ghee.
Be Inspired: Not sure where to start? Try buying a clean eating cookbook or order from a food delivery service that provides clean meals like my favorite modPALEO. You can try different meals and get inspired to recreate them in your own kitchen.
Below is one of my favorite clean eating recipes for inspiration.
Happy and Healthy Eating!
Rainbow Kale Salad with Peanut Dijon Dressing
For the salad:
1 large bunch kale, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1½ cups julienned carrots
½ head purple cabbage, sliced
2 cups finely chopped broccoli florets
1 can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
¾ cup peanuts
For the dressing:
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ lime, juiced
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon maple syrup
¾ teaspoon garlic
salt and pepper to taste
Salad: Toss kale, red bell pepper, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, and chickpeas together in a large bowl. Set aside.
Dressing: In a small blender, prepare the dressing.
When ready to serve, add desired dressing over the salad and toss. Top with chopped peanuts.
*Can be made ahead and stored in the fridge. Just wait to add dressing until ready to serve.