After my last post about clean eating, several of you commented that you would like help in starting the journey – hence this post. I’m going to attempt to give you some basic ways to get started on a healthier way of eating. This is what I have learned, both from living it and reading it, so please just take my advice with a grain of salt, okay?
1. Cut out refined sugars whenever possible.
This is one of the single-most important things an American can do, because sugar. is. in.EVERYTHING. If you don’t believe me, go look in your pantry and start reading the boxes. Remember that sugar hides under a whole bunch of names, like high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, glucose, barley malt, malt syrup, and the list goes on and on and on again. You will find it in your bread, your crackers, your relish, your ketchup, your cereal (even “healthy” ones), and nearly every snack sold.
Then when you think about the fact that milk and fruit also contain sugars in their *natural* state, you get a feel for how much sugar we actually consume on a daily basis.
Did you know that white sugar is actually an anti-nutrient? As in, not only does it not provide your body with any nutrients, it actually leeches nutrients from your organs? Yikes.
You may be thinking, “But I LIKE sugar. How can I just cut it out? Won’t I get headaches and cravings and won’t I just go crazy?” Well……maybe, at first. :) I can promise you though that if you cut out sugar (or even greatly reduce), your tastebuds will change. Things that you once enjoyed will become waaaaay too sweet for you after a while, and that’s a good thing.
As a bonus, you might not even realize how sluggish and bloated you felt until you change your diet and then eat sugar again one day. I never realized how bad I felt on sugar until I went off it for a while and then had it again one day in a normal quantity. Ugh. Personally, I feel my best when I’m not eating any refined sugar.
2. Take it slow.
If you make your kids chocolate chip cookies once a week, (as a special treat because you’re no longer eating sugar every day ;) and suddenly decide to start making them with all whole-wheat flour, your kids will probably rebel, because compared to soft, fluffy white flour, the cookies will feel like bricks.
So you start with half-white (always unbleached, though) and half-whole-wheat flour for a few weeks before switching to whole-wheat pastry flour or all-whole wheat. (P.S. King Arthur makes a white-whole wheat flour that I have used many times with success.)
If you are used to drinking non-organic milk and hate the taste of organic (I certainly did!), try using it your cereal for a while before going cold-turkey and drinking it plain (personally, it took me about 2 weeks to warm up to organic milk).
Do you see what I’m saying? For your sanity and for the sanity of your family, ease yourself into the transition.
3. Figure out what foods you eat the most of, and replace those foods first.
If you eat white pasta several times a week, but serve white rice only rarely, don’t stress so much about switching to brown rice as switching to whole-wheat pasta. (And again, keep #2 in mind.)
I eat spinach anywhere from 1-3 times a day, which is why it’s one of the few foods I routinely buy organic. The three of us eat so much of it (plus I’ve read that it’s one of the highest-sprayed foods), that the switch was worth it to me.
If your husband or kids down peaches like they’re going out of style but rarely eat bananas (and peaches often rank #1 on the pesticide list), commit to buying only organic peaches when you can and don’t stress out so much about the bananas.
The most important thing I think you can remember about this whole process is that anything is better than nothing.
Maybe you can only afford to buy one organic veggie right now. It’s a start! It’s one less pesticide-laden thing you’re feeding yourself and those you love. Maybe you start making homemade granola bars instead of buying regular ones as snacks – that’s one less thing you’re eating that’s full of preservatives and chemicals.
This is not all or nothing. Take baby steps, and you won’t be overwhelmed. Remember that the end goal is SO worth it!
This got so long, and I have so much more to say, that I’ll have to come back with Part 2 next week! Stay tuned! :)
Oh, and if you have a question, feel free to ask in the comments. Normally I try to e-mail back responses now, but today I will answer them in the comments.