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Healthy Tips from Toni Ann

Toni Ann DiSantis

We've started a walking challenge to encourage a healthier lifestyle. Now, try incorporating these simple steps for a cleaner diet. 

 

10 Ways to "Clean Up" Your Diet

1. Limit Processed 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. 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 and 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. 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. Need help identifying fats? Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature.

4. Reduce Alcohol Intake:

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). 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:

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.

6. Watch the Salt:

Eating too much salt can increase your blood pressure. Cutting back on processed foods will help you reduce your salt intake, as most packaged foods contain more sodium than homemade versions. To help minimize salt while you cook, flavor your food with herbs and spices, citrus and vinegar.

7. Choose Whole Grains:

Whole grains include more nutrients than refined grains because the bran and germ are not removed. Look for the word “whole” with the first ingredient in breads and pastas—for example, make sure it says “whole wheat,” not just “wheat.” Outside of whole wheat, choose whole grains like quinoa, oats and brown rice. 

8. Eat Less Meat:

Eating clean doesn’t mean giving up on meat entirely, but eating less meat can help eliminate extra saturated fat from your diet. A serving of meat is just 3 ounces (the size of a deck of cards). Try serving vegetarian proteins like beans or tofu on some nights and bulking up smaller portions of meat by serving it in veggie-packed soups or stir-fries.

9. Up Your Fruit Intake:

Fruit is naturally sweet and delicious, but also rich in potassium and other important vitamins. Just like vegetables, fresh fruits are whole, unprocessed foods. Frozen, canned and dried fruit is minimally processed and can be a great clean-eating choice as well. Just double-check the ingredient list to be sure that there is no sugar added, and look for fruit canned in its own juice. 

10. Nix Refined Grains:

Refined grains—unlike whole grains—are more processed and often stripped of beneficial nutrients like magnesium, selenium and fiber. Plus, they’re typically found in unhealthy packaged foods. Skip the packaged refined carbs like cookies, crackers and cakes altogether, and also swap white rice, white bread and white pasta for brown rice and whole wheat bread and pasta.