If I could give only one piece of nutritional advice to everyone, it would be “Eat Clean.”According to Diane Welland, MS, RD, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Clean”, clean eating is described as choosing foods that are natural and wholesome—particularly foods that are free of chemicals, additives and preservatives and refined, processed ingredients. In delivering my own message regarding clean eating, I tell patients to focus on the foods that Mother Nature gives us and consume less of the foods that come from a factory/plant. It’s amazing how different one feels when they cut out processed foods from their diet. The benefits that are associated with eating clean can include increased energy levels, improved sleeping habits, weight loss/weight management, improved nutritional intake and healthier bowel movements.
Eating clean is especially important for individuals desiring to lower their sodium intake. Only 5-10% of our sodium intake actually comes from using the salt shaker. The majority of one’s salt intake comes from the consumption of processed foods with some of the biggest culprits being: yeast breads, chicken nuggets, chicken-mixed dishes, pizza, pasta and pasta dishes, cold cuts, condiments, Mexican mixed dishes, sausages, hot dogs, bacon, ribs, regular cheese, pastry desserts, soups and beef and beef-mixed dishes. Eating clean helps naturally reduce one’s sodium intake since fruits and vegetables are all very low in sodium or sodium-free food choices.
Stick to the perimeter at the grocery store. This is a message that many are familiar with; however, it is not put into practice as often as it should. You won’t find the most nutritious foods in the grocery store in the canned soup aisle or next to the boxed potatoes. The most nutritious foods are the ones that often do not come in a box or package. Along the perimeter of most grocery stores, you will find the fresh produce, fresh/unseasoned meats, eggs and dairy products. Stock up with all these items first and then use the aisles of the grocery store as needed for items such as whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Maximize your wholesale shopping trip. It makes me very sad when I see individuals not taking advantage of the wonderfully fresh foods offered at wholesale shopping stores such as Sam’s Club and Costco. This is where I often find the best prices on items like cut broccoli, bananas, spinach, mushrooms, chicken and butternut squash. It’s far too common that you see shopping carts stocked full of frozen pizzas, fruit roll-ups, giant muffins, hot pockets and pop tarts. Sometimes buying produce in bulk can be overwhelming; but if you plan ahead and utilize your produce in multiple ways, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your family can go through it.
Focus on “wet snacks”. This is a recommendation that I give to both children and adults. Think of snacks as a mini-meal that will provide your body with energy and nutrients. “Wet snacks” are foods with a natural moisture content to them such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, peanut butter, cheese sticks and yogurt. Choose “dry snacks” less often since these items typically are refined carbohydrate items like crackers, pretzels, chips and granola bars.
It’s plain and simple—drink water. Make this beverage your first choice and try to get at least six-eight 8-oz glasses per day. While diet soda also contains no calories, it is still composed of unnatural products such as chemicals, coloring and artificial sweeteners.
Clean eating is a simple lifestyle approach to eating well. It’s a basic method of “choose this more often and consume this less often.” Sometimes, nutrition by the numbers isn’t always the best approach. The moment one has to count calories or carbs, they may feel trapped by the word “diet.” Yes, in order for some people to get on track with healthier eating, a more accountable method such as counting calories is needed. However, it may be better for lifelong success to focus on dietary patterns, whole foods, fresh ingredients, fat quality instead of quantity, cooking food rather than re-heating frozen foods and consuming fewer processed foods.