If you’re interested in clean eating, keep in mind that clean eating isn’t a diet; it’s a lifestyle! In Clean Eating Tips for Moms 1 , we looked at the relationship between the foods we eat and our health over time.
Making wise food choices that minimize your exposure to harmful chemicals and contaminants that can impact health is a main goal of clean eating. Meals and snacks can be as simple or complicated as you like, so no matter how busy you are, it’s possible to make cleaner eating work for you and your family.
Optimizing your health with clean eating prior to and during pregnancy provides a safer environment for your developing baby and cleaner breastmilk for your growing infant. Benefits for families include lower risk of obesity, lower risks for acute and chronic illnesses, and the potential for a lifetime of better health.
Buy fresh whole fruits and vegetables whenever possible, rather than canned foods or juices. Last week I mentioned the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen food lists at EWG.org. Buy organic when you can, to help minimize chemical exposure. If you purchase non-organic, careful washing of fruits and vegetables with mild dish detergent can remove much of the chemical residue. Soaking in a mild vinegar solution is a good way to remove residue from greens. Rinse well before eating. Cooking can also neutralize the effects of some chemical compounds. Many fruits and vegetables are waxed to improve appearance and shelf life. Since wax does not wash off easily, you may want to peel anything that appears to have been waxed, such as apples, oranges, eggplants, winter squashes and tomatoes.
Vegetables and fruits are the staples of clean healthy eating. The fiber, vitamins, minerals, and naturally occurring nutrients in vegetables and fruits are more varied and are utilized more easily and thoroughly than the added nutrients in processed foods. Limit prepackaged foods, especially ones that contain additives and preservatives. The more ingredients contained in a prepackaged food, the more likely it is to contain things you want to avoid.
Many snack foods are filled with additives, preservatives and sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners (no calories) are a popular alternative to nutritive sweeteners (calories). Natural sweeteners in moderation are a healthier choice than artificial sweeteners. Sweetened drinks like sodas contain no nutrients, so consider healthy alternatives like water with a splash of fruit juice, low-fat milk and green tea.
High quality protein can be plant protein, dairy or meat. Meats often contain antibiotics, hormones, and flavor additives. Look for antibiotic and hormone-free poultry, eggs, meats, and milk. Fish and seafood are generally safe so long as they are well cooked. Do avoid large species of fish that are likely to contain mercury, and foods that could contain lead, especially while pregnant. Smoked meats, cold cuts and lunch meats are often highly processed and may contain unsafe levels of bacteria, so consider home-prepared options like baked turkey breast.
Whole grains are best. White breads are made from highly processed and bleached flour, are low in fiber and lower in naturally occurring nutrients than whole grain varieties. Whole foods that are not white (except dairy) generally have more fiber and are better choices than their white counterparts. Healthy examples are sweet potatoes and brown rice.
Several small meals each day that are low in saturated fats, salt and sugar can help prevent overeating and impulse eating. Include protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy unsaturated fat in each meal to satisfy hunger, help you feel full longer, and boost your energy.
These basic tips can help you make healthier food choices for you and your family. Keep in mind that any food you grow yourself is the freshest and best. Some vegetables and fruits are quite easy to grow in containers with very limited space, especially greens, lettuce, tomatoes, and strawberries.
Next time we’ll look at recommendations about plastics. You may be surprised at what you’ll learn!