Clean eating is always a popular topic, and with a multitude of information available online, it’s easy to get confused between what’s good for you and what’s not. The biggest misconception around clean eating is that it’s boring, bland and difficult to start on, but that is not the case at all. Clean eating is a way to refresh your eating habits, going for the healthiest option in the food pyramid and cutting down on the not-so-healthy ones. That means having more of these:
That said, clean eating goes beyond just salads. Here are 10 helpful tips to get you started:
1) Eat the Rainbow
When choosing dishes at your mixed rice stall, go for the colours of the rainbow. Different colours of fruits and vegetables represent the different nutrients that it can deliver to your body.
For example, anthocyanin, which is found in blue, red or violet fruits is a powerful antioxidant. It may also help boost your immune system and maintain health. You can find this in blueberries, prunes, grapes and even eggplants.
The red you see in watermelon and tomatoes come from lycopene, another powerful antioxidant. Lycopene helps to prevent heart diseases and cancers, with a Mayo Clinic article suggesting a tomato-rich diet helps people with asthma.
Beta carotene creates the orange you see in carrots and sweet potatoes and helps to make your bones strong, keeps your eyes healthy and boosts your immune system.
2) Limit processed foods
It is not the easiest, but try to limit the amount of snacks and sweets you eat and cut down on processed canned food like meats and tuna. Always eat your food in its freshest state to benefit from the nutrients they offer.
Processed foods like instant noodles, keropok, and chips are high in trans-fat, sugars, high in sodium and high in fat, which if taken excessively causes health issues like hypertension, high blood pressure and gout.
3) Label Watch
Some food products that claim to be low-fat or fat-free may not be as healthy for you as it seems. Take the time to read the label to find out what’s really in them before you make the purchase.
Some fat-free food items are packed with added sugars, which may contain the same amount of calories as a full-fat version.
Check the nutritional label and ingredients for the calorie count to be sure of what you’re buying.
4) Mix & Match
If the thought of brown rice or quinoa does not whet your appetite, try it first as a half-half option. It will eventually help your palette to get acquainted with the new flavours.
Brown rice is known to reduce high cholesterol levels, and quinoa is an excellent source of protein, which is better than most grains. Brown rice and quinoa may taste slightly different from what you are used to, but rest assured that they’re better for you in the long run.
5) Salt it down, spice it up
Reduce the amount of salt in your meals by replacing it with spices or dried herbs. These can help improve the flavour of your food and limit the need for salt.
Cumin, for example, has great immune system boosting properties, warding off common colds and respiratory diseases. Lower your blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of heart diseases with a dash of cinnamon in your hot chocolate.
Pick and choose spices according to what you feel like having. Some can be used as a seasoning while others can be used in curries or drinks.
6) Fibre: Higher is Better
As a general rule: the more unprocessed the food, the higher the fibre content. Apart from filling you up for longer, fibre also aids quicker movement of fat in the digestive system, so less fat is absorbed by your body during digestion.
Besides fibre-rich fruits and vegetables, up your fibre intake by choosing bran flakes or porridge for breakfast, wholemeal bread instead of white bread, and baked potatoes with skins.
7) Cook at Home
Preparing your meals at home helps you control portion sizes and ensures you get maximum nutrition from your food.
If you are afraid your cooking skills are at a basic level, look up for simple recipes so you don’t overwhelm yourself. Five-ingredient meals, one pot meals or one dish meals are a good place to start.
8) Go Slow
According to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, chewing at a gentle pace helps you consume fewer calories over the course of a meal.
When you eat quickly, not only are you overeating, but your body doesn't have the time to go through its natural signalling process. That will result in you taking in too many calories without you knowing it.
It takes you 20 minutes from the time you start eating to realising your signals of fullness, so slow down and savour each bite.
9) Water, water everywhere
Choosing plain water or eating a diet higher in water-rich foods can help you trim your calorie intake according to Barbara Rolls, author of The Volumetrics Weight Control Plan.
Food with high water content usually tends to look bigger portioned, and its higher volume requires more chewing - making it slower to be absorbed by the body, which helps you feel full. Examples of water-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, broth-based soups, oatmeal, and beans.
To make sure your body works properly, water is essential to help flush waste from your body and allow it to stay at the right temperature.
10) Basic is Best
Lastly, keep your food fuss-free with minimum ingredients, including a source of whole grains, lean protein and healthy fat at each meal.
Eating easy and simple meals will also help you to eat on a regular schedule. Ideally, you should snack or eat every 4 hours to regulate your digestive system and blood sugar levels.
Choosing to eat healthy doesn’t have to cost much or be burdensome. Start small, be consistent and you will build the confidence to take on more. Happy eating!