5 Quick Ways to Clean Up Your Diet Now
As a chef and educator, I work with people to find solutions to some of their most difficult food issues. For many people it seems that the solution (or at least the beginning of the solution) is not to overhaul their entire lifestyle overnight, but rather to make smaller changes that add up to a big difference. These 5 quick ways to clean up your diet will set you on the path to a cleaner, greener life. And these you can do overnight!
As you might suspect, sometimes it’s the smallest things that can damage our diets in the worst ways. But that also means that they are some of the easiest to fix. The bonus is that most of the habits that are the bad for our bodies are also terrible for the planet, so these five tips to cleaning up your diet will have the added benefit of reducing your planetary footprint.
Check out the list below for five ways to build a cleaner diet for your body and a greener diet for the planet!
1. Skip the whites!
The so-called white foods have been linked with many of the lifestyle diseases we face as a society. Our Standard American Diet is loaded with white flour, white rice, white potatoes, and white sugar. While some of these are naturally white (the potatoes), the others are all heavily processed and bleached before they make it into the wide array of processed foods available to us everyday. Alternatives are whole-grain breads, brown rice, and unrefined sugars like coconut sugar, dates and honey. If you do have high blood sugar, here are some foods that can help reduce blood sugar.
2. Ditch the soda!
Soda is just straight up bad. Regular soda is bad, diet soda is bad, even ‘natural’ sodas and sweetened beverages are bad. And they are all bad for the same reasons. Firstly, our body is not designed to digest the excessive amount of sugar in soda or drinks– but we’re not designed to digest all the chemicals in diet soda either. There are many studies linking consumption of sugary beverages to weight gain and other lifestyle diseases.
In addition, all those plastic bottles and aluminum cans end up in the landfill (only a small percentage are actually recycled). Plastic can also leach chemicals into our bodies. And it costs so much money to buy all those beverages! Healthier options include homemade water kefir, soda water with some stevia (they even make soda pop flavored stevia!), or just water with lemon. Kombucha and iced teas are also good choices, but watch for added sugars in all of these products.
3. Buy everything UNSWEETENED
One of the big problems with the processed food industry is that the are hidden ingredients in everything. Most often, those hidden and necessary ingredients include salt, fats and SUGAR. Sugar can be found in pasta sauces, ketchup, almost all bottled beverages, and even health foods like whole-grain breads, granola bars and non-dairy milks. I was furious when I learned that my favorite ‘original flavor’ almond milk and soy milk contain sugar as the third ingredient! Learn to read the labels and try to choose products without any added sweetener. Your tastebuds will learn to appreciate the the natural, subtle sweetness found in foods. Read more about why we should try to ditch sugar.
4. Buy in bulk
The bulk section is my favorite place in my health food store! You can buy grains, beans, pasta, herbs and so much more in their most pristine form. No chemicals, no fillers, no BPA-lined cans! Yes, buying in bulk means you are cooking whole grains and beans at home, but I promise the results are worth it. You save money, save packaging, and save yourself all the crap that’s found in pre-cooked and processed foods. Buying in bulk saves you money, helps reduce food waste, and helps improve your diet as it gives you the opportunity to try a bunch of new products on a budget.
5. Skip the Cafe
I was a barista for many years, and so I have seen first-hand the crazy love that coffee inspires. But buying a coffee everyday at your local cafe is not only expensive, very wasteful (hello, Starbucks recycling programs?!), and it’s really not that good for you.
All those caramel macchiatos and Chocolate Chunk Frappuccinos are loaded with conventional dairy products and loads of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Couple that with the acidic coffee and you have a very unhealthy beverage, my friend.
But this doesn’t mean you have to give up on your morning brew. There are lots of ways to get your buzz on at home or on the go in a more sustainable way. You can make your own coffee at home using a regular coffee maker or a French press (here’s a great how-to for the French press method), and you can make customizable brews at home for a fraction of the cost. You can also make cold-brew coffee, which is super easy and saves your time and money in the kitchen. so energy intensive. Add honey, coconut sugar and organic dairy or plant-based milk to make your cup of joe sweet and creamy without all the excess sugar and dairy offered at your local cafe.