When I first decided that I wanted to change my eating habits, I wasn't quite sure where to start. Historically, I would do a "diet" for a few weeks prior to an event so I could lose weight quickly. (My diet of choice was the low-carb, because I could see weight drop so quickly). But this time, I wasn't trying to just get right for a graduation, a beach trip, or a wedding. I wasn't interested in a diet. I wanted to make a significant, lasting, and sustainable change. A lifestyle change. But I had no idea where to start. There's so much misinformation, contradictory information, and pure lies about health, food, and nutrition. After years of research, reading several books, watching tons of documentaries, and earning my MPH from Yale here are the three eating rules that I have adopted.
I. Eat Real Food
The basis of a clean diet is eating real food. Real food isn't created in a lab, isn't genetically modified, and rarely comes in a box or bag. Real food grows out of the ground or on a tree. It is food that is harvested, farmed, or picked. Not developed, modified, or created. I want to eat an apple instead of apple sauce. A potato instead of a french fry. An orange instead of orange juice. I think you get the point. Eat real food: Vegetables, fruits, high quality meats, legumes (beans), nuts, and whole grains. This just makes sense, eat real food.
II. Avoid Processed Foods
The counter of eating real food, is avoiding processed food. There is a lot of debate and confusion on what is or isn't considered a processed food. Honestly, I don't think it's that complicated. I think a lot of the "confusion" is actually driven by the food industry, but that's another topic for another post. The processed foods we are trying to avoid are generally things that come in a box, bag, or can. Things that are made in a lab and manipulated to taste a certain way. If something does come packaged, it shouldn't have more than 5 ingredients and you should recognize (and know how to pronounce) all of the words. You should know the "real food" that something packaged came from. I simply won't eat anything that was totally created in a lab. What is an Oreo? Or a pop tart? Or a fruit roll-up? They are chemicals, mixed with sugar, and color dye. They have zero nutritional value, it's simply not food. But technically pre-washed and chopped lettuce might be considered "processed", and of course, this would be totally fine!!
III. Reduce Dairy Intake
I went back and forth on my feelings towards dairy. Here are the facts: 1) We are the only mammals that continue to drink milk after we are adults, 2) Cows milk was naturally designed to help fatten a baby calves, so it is high in fat as well as other vitamins and minerals, but, 3) the FDA and CDC suggest that raw milk is dangerous so we pasteurize it. Pasteurization destroys a substantial portion of the vitamin C, manganese, copper, and iron. In other words, you zap the nutrients and leave the fat.
Even knowing the above, I wasn't totally convinced to cut out diary. I hate milk, but I loved milk products like cheese and ice cream. Research has shown that dairy can lead to acne, bloating, and gas so I decided to cut out dairy for 21 days just to see what happens and how I felt. Holy Moly. I felt great. I wasn't bloated or gassy and my skin cleared up. I felt more energized. Occasionally, I will still get some home-made ice cream from my favorite ice cream shop, and like clock work my stomach will feel upset and I'll get a pimple. Now, maybe I'm slightly lactose intolerant, but my body felt happier without the diary. I love ice cream too much to give up dairy completely, but I have totally cut out cheese, sour cream, and yogurt and I've replaced milk with almond milk. Cut it out for 21 days and see how you feel!
We need water, and lots of it. Our bodies rely on water to function properly, yet a lot of us walk around dehydrated. Luckily, I have always liked water so this isn't a hard one for me. Water is the only that I drink regularly. For starters, I do not want to drink my calories, so sugary drinks (soda and juice) were some of the first things that I cut out of my diet. If I am not feeling well, I will make some hot tea and if I am out with friends I might have a glass of red wine. But 90% of the time, I'm sipping on ice cold water. (I don't like room temperature). Some say the rule of thumb is to drink 64 oz of water per day and others say drink half of your body weight in oz of water (So if you are 150 lbs drink 75oz of water). I live by the pee check rule - I want to pee often and I want it to be clear. That is how I measure if I had enough water. Again, I like to listen to my body. But, on average, I know that I drink about 100 oz of water today thanks to my Nalgene water bottle. Not that everything is about weight loss, but if you changed nothing else in your diet or fitness routine, but tripled your water intake, you will drop several pounds quickly!
I hope that these tips are helpful. Let me know if you have any questions!!