Are You Really Eating As Clean As You Think?

are you eating healthyWhen losing weight, it’s good to eat 80 – 90% or so of healthy choices and leave a little room for some fun stuff should cravings arise. This gives you the best of both worlds – lots of vitamins, nutrients and good stuff that your body needs to feel good and run best along with some tasty treats that your brain needs to feel good and run best. By following an eating plan that uses macronutrients (protein, fats, and carbs) along with total calories, you can easily fit any food into your numbers and get results.

Even with this advantage over your typical meal plan, your goal should be to learn to enjoy healthy foods so that it becomes just the way you eat and isn’t a diet that you do until you reach goal. Learning to like them also helps you look forward to eating them instead of dreading each meal as a punishment. It doesn’t mean you don’t or can’t enjoy cupcakes, ice cream, pizza and stuff but it means you prefer eating other choices for the most part. It also means that when you do have treats, you are happier and more satisfied with less.

What exactly is a healthy food though? You’ll hear people talk about eating clean, so healthy = clean? What is clean and what isn’t? Pretty confusing if you ask me. There actually isn’t an official definition of clean eating so it means different things depending on who you ask.

So let’s talk about healthy food choices. You want to pick foods that give you the most vitamins and nutrients possible in a wide variety. More bang for your buck. You also want as few preservatives and chemicals as possible. Less toxic waste is a good thing, LOL.

The more processed a food is (ie, the more it has changed from its original state) the fewer nutrients remain. There are different levels of processing so keep this in mind. Brown rice is processed but slightly less than white rice for example, but rice krispy cereal is even more processed than both. I’m not bashing processing here but pointing out the differences in levels among similar ingredients.

In some cases, companies add nutrients back in to make up for the processing removal. That’s not a totally bad thing as something is better than nothing, but it’s really better if your nutrients were there from the get go and not added back in. Your body tends to absorb them better if they aren’t manmade. They also tend to add sodium to bump up the flavors and make them more tasty to eat. More bang for their wallet if you like eating them.

I know it can get confusing with all kinds of label reading, figuring out what to eat and finding a way to fit it into your protein, fat and carb goals. Now on top of that, you’ve got to figure out what is healthy and what isn’t. This can be really tough especially if you have years of bad eating habits under your belt like I did and are bombarded with food marketers everywhere you turn. They can get pretty creative in their advertising to convince you that their stuff is the healthiest.

Let’s make it simple. One of the easiest ways to ensure you’re making mostly minimally processed food choices is to track your sodium and fiber intake along with protein, fats, and carbs.

  • Aim to eat a minimum of 25 – 35 grams of fiber.
  • Keep your sodium between 2000 mg – 2500 mg.

If you are doing this most days, you’ve probably got a nice assortment of food that hasn’t been hugely processed in your eating. You’ll also still have room for fun stuff in there as well. Now like anything, there are plenty of ways around this if you try. Manufacturers have figured this out as well. They now process the crap out of foods and then fortify it with fiber. How kind of them. 😉

This isn’t a license to eat cupcakes and ice cream all day and then toss in a few fiber bars to hit that 25 grams. If you’re doing that, you’re defeating the purpose. Again, something is better than nothing but you want more than just something in your results don’t you? So when I say eat 25 – 35 grams of fiber, try to not throw in a bunch of fortified things like fiber bars or those bars with a ton of oligosaccharides that are popular. Those are good in moderation, but real fiber is better.

Most of the food diary apps give you the ability to track sodium and fiber along with your protein, fats, and carbs so take a peek at your numbers and see where you fall. If you’re coming short most days on fiber or over on sodium, it may be worthwhile to make a few swaps and find some new foods that you enjoy.

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