9 smart ways to clean up your diet

9 smart ways to clean up your diet

By Caralishious

Healthy balanced eating really doesn’t have to be complicated. What makes nutrition complex is that we have far too much food, or rather products that resemble food to choose from.

Take your eating habits back to basics this spring, by keeping it simple, cutting out the fancy packaged stuff and sticking to whole foods. Here are some my key tips to help you spring clean your eating:

#1: Stick to whole foods

I’m talking single ingredient foods, not the stuff that comes pre-packaged.

Fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats should form the foundation of your everyday eating.

By simply swapping from quick-fix meals to real, nourishing whole foods, you will feel lighter, more energised and your body will transform!

Think sweet potatoes, topped with chicken pieces and feta; lettuce leaves packed with avo and tomatoes; or cottage cheese drizzled with tahini and almonds, as examples. There’s an entire world of easy and delicious combinations out there. It’s all about minimal adulteration and maximum flavour and nutrition.

#2: Cut the sugar

Sugar is addictive. It also spikes your blood glucose levels, which leaves you feeling sluggish. There are hidden sugars in so many foods, so be sure to read your ingredient labels when doing your grocery shopping.

Better yet, stick to whole foods – that way you won’t have to worry about hidden sugars.

If you must have something sweet opt for small amounts of stevia, xylitol, coconut sugar or raw organic honey in baking, tea of coffee.

#3: Limit your carbohydrate intake

When did low-carb eating become no-carb eating? You don’t need exclude carbs altogether to have a healthy diet. It simply means acquiring your carbohydrates from vegetables, legumes and small portions of fruit.

So what you are doing is shifting your carb intake away from processed, refined grains, towards unprocessed, plant-based carbohydrates. To maximise fat loss, avoid eating complex carbohydrates after 4pm.

Once you have reached your fat-loss goals, you can start enjoying small portions of healthy carbs at night, such as sweet potato, quinoa and brown rice.

#4: Order smart

When eating out or ordering in, it’s easy to opt for the most delicious (and sometimes least healthy) thing on the menu.

While I’m all for treating yourself, I’m also all for tactics that help keep your nutrition goals on track. If you don’t know the restaurant you’re dining at, check out the menu online to see what the best options are.

If ordering online, choose at least one item that’s veggie-based and comes with a lean protein that is preferably cooked in olive oil.

And don’t be afraid to ask how your food is prepared – often sauces and cooking preparation at restaurants lean towards the unhealthier varieties, so it’s always best to ask first. In doing so you can always request an alternative preparation method that is in line with your nutrition and health goals.

#5: Work with your body

When you eat, stop consuming your meal when you feel comfortably satiated, not full. It takes approximately 20 minutes for our brains to register that we’ve eaten sufficient food, which is why we often eat more than we should and only begin to feel overfull some 10 minutes or so after eating.

Learn when enough is enough. Be mindful of your body and try to come to understand the difference between that point just before satiation and being too full. Over time, your body will learn what portion sizes to expect and will adjust accordingly.

#6: Hydrate

Make sure that you drink sufficient water – 8 glasses or 2 litres per day. You can create delicious chilled herbal teas and detox waters by adding mint leaves and strawberries, or blueberries and lemon to your water. Keep this by your desk and drink throughout the day. Green tea is incredible for detoxing your system, assisting your body to flush out toxins and boosting your metabolism.

#7: Add veggies to everything

Spinach in smoothies is a pretty common addition, but what about sweet potato brownies, or cauliflower scrambled eggs? Whether baking dessert, looking to beef up morning muffins or giving a healthy makeover to pancakes, sneaking these nutrient-dense foods into otherwise ordinary eats is a delicious (and smart) way to multitask.

#8: Eat mindfully

With deadlines rearing their ugly heads, we often end up scoffing down meals in front of our computer screens, forgetting to breathe, let alone be mindful of how our bodies feel. No matter how stressed you are, slow down, breathe between bites, and take note when you’re satiated. Odds are you’ll end up eating much less and will feel much better!

#9: Love your greens

Their cancer-preventing carotenoids won’t help shrink your waistline, but their low calorie count definitely will.

One cup of spinach contains about 40 calories, while a cup of broccoli has 55 calories and satisfies 20 per cent of your daily fibre requirement. Most leafy greens are also a good source of calcium, an essential ingredient for muscle contraction and healthy bones. In other words, these nutrient powerhouses help fuel your workouts and help keep you healthy.

Aim for three servings daily. Keep a bag of pre-washed baby spinach in your fridge and toss a handful into soups, salads, stir-fries, and sandwiches. When you get sick of spinach, reach for a bunch of rocket, broccoli, kale or broccolini.

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

When he's not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He's worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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