Many processed foods are full of excess sodium, sugar and fat. An easy way to clean up your diet is to look at the ingredient list on packaged foods. If the list is long or includes lots of ingredients that you can’t pronounce, try to stay away from it. Instead, make healthy homemade versions of your favorites, like macaroni and cheese, tomato sauce or granola bars. And remember that not everything that comes out of a box, bag or can is bad for you. For example, whole-wheat pasta, baby spinach and chickpeas are all “clean” packaged foods. They are minimally processed and provide good-for-you nutrients like fiber and vitamins.
2. Bump Up Your Veggies:
Vegetables are full of vitamins, with many boasting vitamin A, which is essential for healthy vision and immune function, and vitamin K, which can help keep your bones healthy. Vegetables are also high in heart-healthy fiber, which helps you feel full. Plus, veggies are low in calories, so you can eat lots of them without damaging your waistline. Fresh vegetables are as clean as they come since they are unprocessed and come straight from the farm (just don’t forget to wash them before you eat them!). The recommended daily amount for most adults is 2½ to 3 cups. To make sure you get your fill, try carrots and hummus for a snack, start your meal with a salad, or begin your day with vegetables by adding peppers and onions to an omelet.
3. Cut Down on Saturated Fat:
You don’t have to cut out fats when you’re eating clean; instead just focus on healthy fats. It’s as simple as swapping out saturated fats (like those in butter, cheese and meat) in favor of healthy fats like olive oil, canola oil and the kind found in nuts and fatty fish. These fats are good for your heart and can help raise your good HDL cholesterol, while saturated fats are associated with increased risk of heart disease and should be limited. Need help identifying fats? Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature. To cut back on saturated fat in your diet, try these simple swaps: top your salad with nuts instead of cheese, use peanut butter instead of cream cheese and replace mayonnaise with avocado on a sandwich.
Having a cleaner diet also includes cleaning up what you drink. You can still have alcohol, but stay within the recommended limit—one drink per day for women and two for men (one drink equals 5 ounces wine, 1½ ounces liquor or 12 ounces beer). Alcohol in moderate amounts may be good for your heart, but too much alcohol dehydrates you and adds excess calories to your diet. Steer clear of mixed drinks with lots of added sugar; it’s probably safe to assume that if your drink is neon-colored or came out of a frozen machine, it’s not all that clean.
5. Un-Sweeten Your Diet:
Most people eat too many added sugars. The American Heart Association recommends no more than about 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men. To clean up your diet, cut down on added sugars in your diet by limiting sweets like soda, candy and baked goods. Also keep an eye on sugars added to healthier foods like yogurt (choose plain varieties with no added sugar), tomato sauce and cereal. Look for foods without sugar as an ingredient, or make sure it’s listed towards the bottom, which means less of it is used in the food.
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