Clean eating can feel like a dramatic change in lifestyle. While walking around the grocery store yesterday I couldn’t help but notice how many options that are placed on the endcaps (those shelves at the end of each aisle) are easy to make but just plain awful for you. Compared to the ingredient lists on those items, full of sodium, saturated fats, and preservatives, clean eating is less complicated.
As posted about here and here, clean eating is not a diet. It’s just the way you choose to eat. Clean eating means more fresh food in the fridge and fewer packaged products in the cupboard. (If you’re looking for clean eating meal plans or recipe ideas, check out my post “Meal Plan, One Week of Eating Clean.”) Below are five foods that I cut almost entirely from my diet and how I replaced them. I say almost entirely because sometimes a girl just wants french fries! Will cutting these foods out make you look like Tyra Banks? Probably not unless you already bear a striking resemblance to Tyra. These are just a few easy swaps to make on your path to cleaner food choices. Side note: I am happy to welcome Reebok to the family of Simply Fit & Clean Affiliates! Through November 11th they are offering the Reebok Friends & Family Sale – Save 30% Until 11/11 with code FRIENDS.
SKIP – Sour Cream
Maybe this isn’t too much of an issue for you, but in our house we eat a lot of Mexican food like nachos, burritos, and tacos, all of which I loved to smother in sour cream. As far as clean eating is concerned, sour cream isn’t the worst thing for you, but it is definitely better avoided with high saturated fat and calorie content.
SWAP – Plain Greek Yogurt
Someone suggested to me (probably Pinterest) that I try replacing sour cream scoop for scoop with plain Greek Yogurt. As a yogurt, I don’t really love the texture, but as sour cream I find it a perfect replacement that gives me a boost of protein in an unexpected place. I’ve even used it in my mom’s stroganoff sauce.
SKIP – French Fries
I know, I know. I might get my American citizenship revoked over this. Let’s be honest, though, plain potatoes (which are definitely a “clean” food straight from the ground,) don’t taste that great, and when julienned and fried to delicious perfection they are definitely not clean anymore. The exact calorie and fat content vary widely with the type and amount of oil used, but there are better options. If you eat out a lot with work or travel (or just because you prefer it,) don’t add potato fries to your meal, especially if they fries are in limitless baskets.
SWAP – Baked Sweet Potato Fries
I understand that when baked something technically can’t be a “fry,” but what else can they be called? Sweet potatoes are better for your body than regular starchy potatoes because they are high in beta carotene, vitamin C, calcium, potassium and can even help reduce LDL (the bad cholesterol.) No matter how much I love a good french fry, I can’t argue against the value of adding more superfoods to my diet. My friend Heather has a good recipe for sweet potato fries I’ve made approximately 3,000 times.
SKIP – White Rice
Rice itself is not bad, really. Large portions of the world’s population compose huge parts of their diet with rice. White rice, however, is pretty much just a filler food that adds calories without adding a lot of nutritional value, and in an increasingly sedentary society this can be a dangerous thing. White rice consumption has also recently been found to show some level of correlation with Type 2 diabetes risk.
SWAP – Quinoa
If a meal or recipe would be improved with rice, try directly swapping for quinoa. Rather than the empty simple starch of white rice, use a complex carbohydrate that is gluten free, full of riboflavin, and a powerful source of good quality protein (especially useful for vegetarians who want to build muscle.) I find it accepts seasoning well and works in a burrito as well as a Buddha bowl.
SKIP – Sugary Drinks
“Don’t drink your calories” is as true a mantra as ever. Unless I’m visiting a place where there is literally no other option, I don’t drink full-sugar drinks. To be fair this has been an easy choice for me as I’ve gotten older and lost a taste for it, but outside of soda I used to drink buckets of hot chocolate and sugary apple cider all winter long then be surprised at how quickly I was packing on inches. I still love hot cocoa and will indulge now and then, but to keep myself from drinking it to the point of having cocoa flavored blood, I just don’t buy it to keep in the house. It’s just too easy to consume a ton of calories, a ton of sugar, and a ton of chemicals in a very short amount of time.
SWAP – Water
If you’re reading an article about clean eating, you probably already know you should drink more water. I posted about water intake way back here. Of course you don’t ONLY have to drink water, but the chances are pretty good you aren’t getting enough anyway. Sometimes I really struggle to get through all the water I’m supposed to drink in a day, so I opt for Crystal Light or Mio for low or no calorie flavoring.
SKIP – White Sandwich Bread
One of the first things I gave up when I spent a month religiously tracking calories was white sandwich bread. Nutritionally it doesn’t offer a lot of value, and it was packed with more calories than I realized. My best friend recently relocated to the US and commented that she couldn’t believe how much sugar we had in our bread. Before she said anything I hadn’t even thought twice about it. If I’m going to be eating sugary bread, I’d rather be celebrating something with a cupcake.
SWAP – Whole Grain Bread
Some diets rant against bread altogether, but I don’t like to demonize an entire food group so long as it is eaten in moderation. Whole grain bread offers a lot in terms of vitamins and minerals preserved in the grains that are not present when processed into white flour and baked into sandwich bread. (This is also true of white pastas.) Swap white for whole grain, and start looking at the ingredients of your bread to see how many calories per slice and how much sugar is hiding inside. If you REALLY want to be in the know on what you’re eating, you can always try making your own!