A million and one things happen every single day, and we’re often so busy that healthy eating doesn’t always make it to the top of our priority list. It’s perfectly natural to reach for the most convenient thing to eat when we’re stressed out, but if we let processed foods take up too much of our diet, our health may suffer. Fortunately, it doesn’t take a whole lot of time and effort to eat well. It only requires a few modifications to our daily habits to ensure we’re giving our body all the nourishment it deserves.
When we talk about “clean eating,” what we mean is food that’s as close to its natural state as possible. It’s best to steer clear of processed, packaged goods that are full of artificial ingredients, because these are the foods that can make you feel sluggish. When we keep our food clean and simple, we feel better in the long run, and we’ve got more energy to actually make it through that seemingly endless Monday.
Here are seven easy, foolproof tips to eat clean on the regular.
1Read all the nutrition labels
When you’re doing your weekly grocery shopping, any time you’re buying something that has more than one ingredient, take a second to look at the nutrition labels. Studies show that up to 70 percent of foods at the grocery store has added sugar in it. Sugar can be disguised as anything from “evaporated cane juice” to “flo-malt.” The average American eats 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, and most of it comes from that sneaky added sugar.
By reading the nutrition labels, you’ll know exactly what it is that you’re buying, and exactly what it is you’re putting into your body. Like nutritionist and author Michael Pollan says, don’t buy something with five or more ingredients, or with ingredients you can’t pronounce. Also, stay away from anything hydrogenated. For example, try to reach for the peanut butter that’s made with just peanuts and salt, rather than with hydrogenated fats and sugar.
2Cook and bake in bulk on the weekend
Sometimes you’re too busy being a boss during the week to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and hey. We get it. But that doesn’t mean you have to resort to takeout every weeknight. If you set aside a few hours on Sunday afternoon, for instance, you can make a big batch of food, like a veggie lasagna or a sweet potato stew, and the leftovers will carry you through the week.
You can also use this time to make snacks to carry with you on your busy work days. Bake up some oat bars (they’re ridiculously easy to make) or protein cookies. In the morning, toss a few in your purse, and you won’t have to reach for a fast food snack later in the afternoon.
3Make breakfast for yourself the night before
When you start your day off with a full meal, you’ll concentrate better, solve problems more easily, and snack less throughout the day. If you’re not a morning person and you feel like there just isn’t enough time to make breakfast for yourself in the morning, try making breakfast the night before.
Overnight oats are one of the most convenient things ever invented. All you have to do is toss a bunch of ingredients into a bowl before you go to bed, and when you wake up you have a full meal waiting for you. Or try making a smoothie the night before and just stick it in the fridge overnight. Easy!
4Don’t deprive yourself of the treats you love most
There’s never any reason to deny yourself the opportunity to enjoy what you eat. Eating clean is not synonymous with eating bland, boring food. Instead of making strict rules about what you can or can’t eat, tune into your cravings and see what you’re hankering for the most.
Are you dying for some ice cream? Take a few frozen bananas, and whiz them up into creamy frozen yogurt in the food processor. Lusting after brownies? Make some homemade dark chocolate treats with all-natural ingredients. Find a way to satisfy your cravings in a healthy way, rather than suppress them, because you always deserve dessert.
5Shop at farmers markets as much as you can
Not only will you have first pick at all the seasonal produce, but shopping at farmer’s markets gives you the chance to ask about where the food comes from and what kind of chemicals were used to grow it. This will allow you to play a more hands-on role in getting food from the farm to your table.
Don’t be afraid to ask the farmers questions about their produce. That’s what they’re there for after all, to help you make sound decisions in your grocery shopping. Bonus: Make friends with the farmers and find out firsthand what kind of produce is coming next week. You can plan your meals around it.
6Follow a few food blogs for inspiration
There are so many quality food blogs out there that will motivate you to cook some healthy meals for yourself. Look at websites like Smitten Kitchen, Naturally Ella, and Jessica In the Kitchen. You’ll find tons of delectable recipes that will save you time and money, and ensure that you’re getting all the nutrition you need. The more you look through these sites, the more you’ll be inspired to venture off on your own and make your own unique meals.