We are all busy! My new clients all seem to feel like there is no time to “cook”, they eat on the run, and the end result is a poor diet that will eventually impact health and weight. Through my four decades of counseling clients, I have seen the American diet deteriorate to new lows. This blog is for you! Here are 7 tips to clean up your dirty eating right now. They are simple and anyone can start these steps immediately. It’s never to late to clean up your dirty eating habits.
Eat breakfast to begin the clean up your dirty eating fast
By starting the day with healthy fuel, you are more likely to get all your required nutrients for the day. If trying to lose weight, you will use these morning calories more efficiently, and be less likely to store them as fat. You can keep it super simple-a serving of fruit, slice of toast, along with juice or milk. Try a smoothie for a change of pace. There is also the psychology of starting out the day in a positive way. It often snowballs to continuing on a positive trend as the day continues. Starting out the day poorly has the opposite effect as one does not usually improve their diet as the day continues.
Add fruits and vegetables to your day every day and ALL day
Most Americans eat far less than the minimum recommended 5 servings a day. By adding fruits and veggies to your diet, you are adding compounds to your diet that decrease inflammation. Decreasing inflammation can decrease your risk of disease.
Specific compounds called phytochemicals are found primarily in plant based foods. These phytochemicals protect the plant as it grows. When we eat those same plants, the phytochemicals serve to protect our health as well. There are many phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables and they have varying roles on our health.
Tackle this step by making sure you eat a serving of fruit and vegetable with every meal and then as snacks and voila, mission accomplished!
Drastically decrease animal protein consumption to really clean up dirty eating
Why? Animal protein is not just protein; it is also a significant amount of saturated fat. By eating less animal protein, you will decrease your intake of fat, particularly saturated fat which is artery clogging and increases inflammation. Additionally, decreasing your overall consumption of red meats such as pork, beef, and lamb will decrease our risk of certain cancers such as colorectal cancer. The American Institute of Cancer Research urges us to limit our consumption of red meat to NO more than 12-18 oz. per week.
Don’t care or not convinced? Meat products have larger carbon footprints per calorie than grain or vegetable products. Growing plants is just easier on the health of our planet.
Avoid the fast food-restaurant trap
Dining out constantly is a sure-fire way to ruin your diet unless you constantly order salads with low fat dressing and fruit platters. Sounds boring, right? Most restaurant food is much higher in sodium, calories, and fat than the counterpart made or assembled at home. When you eat at home and pay attention to how food is shopped for, prepared, and portioned, you are completely in the driver’s seat. When you go to a full service restaurant, the chef in the kitchen is in the driver’s seat.
Don’t be afraid of some convenience foods in the grocery store
I can almost guarantee that if you eat some brands of frozen dinner such as Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine, you will be better off than going to the local fast food chain or diner. Why? The meals are portion controlled; you know what you are eating because you can see a Nutrition Fact Label. We have been brainwashed to think that these meals have too many chemicals, etc. There are many nutritional advantages to these items as a back up to a chaotic schedule that necessitates relying on dining out to get your meals consumed. And, it is cheaper.
Meals can be large snacks that do not require cooking
Throughout the years, clients have told me that they would eat cereal for dinner because they are too tired to cook. I think those same clients expect me to say “how awful”, when I actually tell them this is not a problem. A bowl of cereal along with skim milk or milk alternative and a nice serving of fruit is actually a nice low-calorie and low-fat meal providing protein and carbohydrates in reasonable quantities. You can also just serve yourself a smoothie made with frozen fruit and throw in some yogurt or cottage cheese to bump up the protein content.
Track your food to really clean up your dirty eating
Better yet, track your diet with a really good app like MyFitnessPal. It will allow you instant analysis of what you are eating, and more importantly, makes you face the music. ALL my clients that have been tracking their food with this app are eating better and losing weight if that was the objective. Even if you are seeing a nutrition counselor, tracking your food forces you to be accountable to yourself between appointments. This app is free and my favorite, but there are many options available.
Bottom line to clean up your dirty diet
Start the day with a healthy breakfast .Don’t delude yourself into thinking it is too time consuming. Eat less meat (sorry keto people) and a lot more fruits and vegetables. Be in control of your diet by eating out less, and doing your own meals at home. Consider packing a lunch and snacks to bring to work. You do not need to cook as you can capitalize on all the foods available in grocery stores. Consider using already cooked foods and healthier versions of frozen dinners which provide ease and portion control.
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Do you have other easy and practical tips on how you cleaned up your diet?