Eating Cleaner

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downloadIn trying to live a healthier lifestyle and not get caught up in a fad or craze that will only lump me with those who abandon the gym after the first month of the year as my resolution wanes, I want to implement healthier habits. I'm trying to eat better in general, which can be difficult since it's such a vague goal. I have quickly become the difficult one when trying to pick restaurants to visit, and I'm trying to work that out. I don't want my health goals to become a hindrance to spending time with others over a meal, but I don't want to compromise my health, either.

Instead of carrying around a lengthy list of things I want to avoid, I'm choosing to focus on things that I want to consume more of and center my meals around. With a more positive mindset, my goals don't seem like negative limits, but allow me to feel good about my choices. They really all come down to choosing foods that are closer to their raw, natural form, and they really define what clean eating means for me.

  1. Produce-- mainly vegetables. If I have a serving with lunch and dinner, I'm off to a pretty good start.
  2. Whole grains. I want to get the full benefits of every part of the grain, not the stripped-down versions that have been more processed.
  3. Lean protein. I need energy and nutrients to build muscle strength, found in foods like lean chicken and turkey, beans, lentils, and dairy.
  4. Healthy fats-- in moderation. Our bodies need some fats, and there are good sources like avocado, nuts, olive oil, dairy, and lean meats.

Beyond that, I am aware of certain things I want to avoid when ordering food. This list includes heavily processed food, unhealthy fats --which are largely manmade, excessive added sugar and salt, and greasy foods that will make me feel sick later. When I focus more on what my body does need, though, it becomes less of a list of ingredients to avoid and more about properly filling up with the right kinds of foods. If I fill my plate with vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains, I won't have as much of an appetite for unhealthy options because I will have had my fill of more nourishing choices.

Cooking my own meals has helped me take several steps toward establishing a healthy lifestyle, as I can control what I eat. I don't have to worry about questionable ingredients when I have the ability to search for my own recipes and substitute ingredients I'm uncomfortable with.

When it comes to choosing what products I buy, it becomes even easier. I have the ability to look at the labels on the products I select and consume. I can choose to buy responsibly-raised meats, local, fresh produce, and foods that are free of harmful chemicals and preservatives. This, too, supports my aim to eat food that's not too far removed from its natural state.

I am not by any means great at sticking to these goals; I slip up far more often that I would ever like to admit. But I'm working on it. That being said, these are guidelines that I aim for because they work for me-- when I follow them, I feel good. I have more energy, feel less sluggish, don't feel weighed down, and can perform at my best. It's taken me a while to narrow down a concept of what clean, healthy eating means for me, and I encourage you to discover what that means for you.

What about you? What kinds of parameters do you put around "healthy" food? What helps you make good choices?