When most people start thinking about healthier eating and cleaning up their diet, they easily get overwhelmed. And how can you not with all of the information out there? Do you go paleo? Vegetarian? Gluten-free? Dairy-free? All you wanted to do was clean up your diet a bit in order to help naturally balance those hormones and now you’re stressed out and don’t know what to eat.
Everything in your kitchen looks toxic and you have no idea where to start. Or the idea of buying expensive organic and grass-fed products seems out of reach, so why bother make any changes at all?
I can help! Over the last ten years we’ve seen massive changes in our health with our dietary changes, and then got stuck in survival mode when “life” happened, only to have to work through making those changes again. The following diet changes will get you headed in the right direction without going broke.
10 Simple ways to clean up your diet
1. Make Your Own Seasonings
All too often those convenient little seasoning packets you find in the supermarket have added fillers, sugars, and flavor enhancers (like MSG). Making your own at home can help you avoid unnecessary and unwanted ingredients while also saving you money and allowing you to personalize the seasonings to your own taste. I have found most seasoning recipes are easily found online and most can be made with spices and herbs you already have at home.
Making it even easier, you can mix your seasonings in bulk which saves you time in the kitchen. The three homemade seasoning mixes I always have ready to go are:
- Taco Seasoning
- Pizza/Spaghetti Seasoning (I use the same ingredients for both, mixing dry ingredients only)
- Italian Dressing (great for salad dressing, marinades, and slow cooker chicken)
2. Make Homemade Broth
Not only is homemade broth a much tastier option than store-bought, it also provides many more nutrients while also lacking in any added flavor enhancers. You can easily make broth out of leftover chicken or beef bones, meaning it will only cost you pennies when you factor in the few vegetables you’ll also use. I usually buy one whole chicken every week and make a pot of broth in my Instant Pot or slow cooker for making rice or soup later in the week.
Other than the cost of running the pot it’s free since most people just throw the bones away!
3. Skip the Cereal
More often than not, cereal is one of the worst ways to start your day. It’s full of sugar and refined flours, no matter what brand you buy, and even if its gluten-free or organic. What you have for breakfast will often dictate how the rest of your meals will go! When you start off with a high sugar meal, you’re more apt to grab more sugar and you’ll continue on the blood sugar roller coaster.
Start it off right with protein, fats, vegetables/greens, and a small number of slow carbs or energy vegetables (like sweet potato). Fried egg on sprouted toast with avocado spread, omelets with spinach and sweet potato, scrambled eggs, bacon, and sautéed onions, peppers, and kale.
I find that breakfast options lower in carbs, or one that meets more of a paleo/primal outlook on eating serves me best. But even if you start your day out with more of a carbohydrate-rich meal, do it real food style! Make sure to add some protein and keep it to whole grains with very limited added sugars. Oatmeal with chopped nuts or almond butter, a small amount of homemade granola sprinkled on yogurt, or baked oatmeal are better choices in the long run and provide your body the fuel it needs.
4. Use Healthy Fats
Ditch the margarine and vegetable oils for real butter (preferably organic if you can afford it), extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and even lard. These unprocessed fats are easily used by the body, help your foods taste better, and promote better cooking.
5. Ditch the Cans
In order to reduce your exposure to chemicals like BPA (in the can lining) and increase nutrient quality always buy fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned. When making tomato sauces, sometimes during harvest season it’s cheaper (and much tastier) to buy whole tomatoes in bulk from a farmer and make your own at home. Buying dried beans and cooking them yourself is always cheaper than buying canned. You can also try making your own cream-of soup to substitute in your favorite recipes.
I find that I now buy very few cans, though it does take up a lot more freezer space!
6. Avoid the Dirty Dozen
Most families I know cannot afford, or source, all organic produce all year round. I know I can’t! The Environmental Working Groups Dirty Dozen list is a big help, informing you of the most chemical-laden produce so that you can either search out organic options for those on the list or buy the cleaner conventional items for the produce items that are sprayed less often (or with safer chemicals).
7. Shop the perimeter
If you haven’t noticed yet, the outside aisles of the supermarket are where the fresh foods are! The inside aisles and end-caps are most often processed and packaged foods. So start your shopping by walking the perimeter and going down only the aisles you need to for certain pantry staples. This
8. Check the labels
When you do buy boxed, bagged, or canned foods, turn them around and check out the labels first. If you find words you can’t read on the ingredient list, put it back. Of course, not every food or substance in its scientific form is dangerous, and some foods DO require preservatives in order to be sold safely (no one wants to die from tainted food!), but it’s one thing to think about as you shop. If you’re unsure of an ingredient, look it up.
If you also find ingredients like MSG, corn syrup, or any type of artificial sweetener (aspartame is one example), it should also stay out of your cart.
9. Eat something raw every day
Much of our foods nowadays are preserved for long-term storage and we can easily forget to include raw foods in our daily meals. I know that when Todd and I first got married I bought very little from the produce section at the store! And unless I’m very attentive to our meals, sometimes we begin to revert back to only cooked foods.
When cooked, we start to lose beneficial enzymes and many times it even lowers the vitamin and mineral content of the food as well. So choose to eat fresh fruits and vegetables each day; preferably at each meal. Cooked fruits and veggies are great for you too, but as with all things, moderation. Keep mixing it up to make sure your body gets nutrients from both fresh and cooked produce.
10. Lower Your Sugar Intake
One of the absolute best ways to clean up your diet is to cut out all refined sugars from your diet! Sugar contributes to a variety of health problems including; infertility, lowered immune function, weight gain, insulin resistance, and adrenal fatigue. (If you’re dealing with sugar cravings and can’t get a handle on your sugar consumption, try something like The Sugar Detox Challenge.) Even if you only use natural sweeteners, you need to aware of your intake and not overdo it.
You don’t have to run out and change every aspect of your diet to begin seeing health benefits! Simply begin making small changes and in no time at all, you’ll have made big changes in your health. And the best part is, most of these will save you money!