It’s hard to read anything about nutrition lately without hearing the phrase “clean eating” over and over. My Netflix queue is full of documentaries touting the benefits of eating a diet free of artificial colors, sweeteners, flavors and preservatives. For many of us, however, the prospect of eating clean can be overwhelming at first! Clean eating doesn’t have to be scary! Think of it as a lifestyle change, not a diet. Like all lifestyle changes, clean eating can be much easier to accomplish if you start with baby steps and adjust along the way. Here are 5 baby steps towards eating cleaner that you can start today!
1. Drink More Water!
The prospect of cutting out soda and other sugary drinks in favor of water can seem scary but slowly implementing the change can be your key to success. Try replacing one soda a day with water and working your way up to only water as you adjust. For those that aren’t big fans of plain water, try adding fruit or unsweetened tea as alternatives! Here is a great strawberry tea recipe that has a ton of flavor!
2. Eat More Colorfully
Eating your daily dose of fruits and veggies doesn’t have to mean bowl after bowl of boring iceberg lettuce-in fact that’s not really all that good for you! Eat a wide variety of colorful fruits and veggies! Experiment with new items from your produce section-you may find a new favorite. Add different combinations to your salads for variety and exciting new tastes. My new favorite salad is one I picked up from Panera Bread recently-the Strawberry Poppyseed & Chicken Salad. It’s full of amazing fruit, protein packed chicken and a delicious preservative free poppyseed dressing. Panera has already started eliminating all those artificial preservatives and flavors we talked about earlier from their US bakery-cafe menus and is committed to removing all by the end of 2016, which brings me to my next baby step:
3. Choose clean versions of your favorite foods
If you’re a meat and potatoes person, focus on choosing organic grass-fed beef and organically grown potatoes as your priority. If you are a salad lover like me, opt for preservative free dressings and cleanly grown produce. If you’re not a fan of whole grains start adding them slowly to your diet until your tastes acclimate-I have gone so far as to mix together brown and white rice for my whole-grains averse husband to get him used to the flavors!
4. Plan and prepare your own food when you can
Planning your meals ahead of time and prepare them at home is a HUGE help when you first start eating clean. Think of your favorite meals and then do a quick internet search to find clean (or cleaner) versions you can make at home. There may be some trial and error but planning ahead helps you make wiser decisions and have cleaner food options available when you need them. (And while we’re at it-take the time to taste and enjoy your food-I make a point to step away from the hustle and bustle of my three crazy kiddos to enjoy my lunch on my back patio when I can-it’s relaxing and lets me enjoy the flavors of my food rather than mindlessly eating while distracted.)
5. Know your clean options away from home
The #1 thing that has derailed my own clean eating habits is eating out. It’s important to know good options for eating clean when you’re hungry outside of the house. If you’re looking for a clean snack opt for fruit or raw almonds which can usually be found even in convenience stores. I always look for a Panera when I need to pick up a quick meal out of the house because I know their commitment to providing clean, whole foods. (Like this picture I took grabbing a Panera Power Kale Caesar Salad with Chicken on our drive to compete in our first mini triathlon two weeks ago!) In fact, their new tagline is Panera Bread. Food as it should be. Works for me!!
Bonus Tip: Give Yourself Grace!
Making the change from the preservative-laden processed foods we’ve been raised on to cleaner, more wholesome options is not a change most of us can make overnight. Take baby steps and give yourself grace when you have setbacks. Each good decision you make to eat clean brings you closer to your goals of a long-term life change!
Panera strives to make good food. Not only food you crave, but food that’s good for you. Food that will make the rest of you feel as good as your taste buds. It comes from a good place, and is made with seasonal, clean ingredients. Panera wants their guests to revel in the joy of good eating and to share the experience of good food.