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On the Coast Magazine

Clean It Up

03/02/2015 09:55AM ● Published by Crystal Tingle

By Crystal Tingle

When I finally realized what it would take to transform from frumpy mom to fit mom, I discovered that the answer didn’t simply start and stop at the gym. No ma’am! It went well into my neighborhood, down my driveway, through the front door and into my pantry and involved terms I had been reading about more and more, terms like “clean eating” and “whole foods.”

Being a Louisiana girl, I could tell you what a roux was and how to make it. I could tell you how to make the best southern fried okra using cornmeal and a deep fryer. But “clean eating”? No idea! And what about “whole foods”? Well I ate a whole lot of food but that was not quite what the health article authors meant. But it was obviously something I needed to learn about, a lot about, if I wanted to see change. And that is exactly what happened.

The more I learned, the more I changed and not just on the outside - which was my initial goal - but on the inside as well. I felt better. I slept better. I had more energy. I rarely got sick even with three kids in the house. There was more to this than I thought! I learned that clean eating is not a new concept but the term is relatively recent in describing a way of eating as a lifestyle.

In its simplest form, clean eating is eating foods as close to their natural state as possible, “whole foods” such as fruits and vegetables, grass-fed beef and poultry and wild-caught fish.

It is eating foods that have not been altered in a lab, food free of a bunch of additives, hormones and pesticides. Clean eating could even mean eating only organic or non-GMO to avoid some of these potentially harmful chemicals in food. Regardless, it is a lifestyle or a way of eating that goes well beyond the threshold of weight loss and into a place of optimal health and wellness. Who doesn’t want that?

For me, the decision to make this a permanent way of eating was a no- brainer once I saw AND felt the difference in my body. Now, almost four years later, I have no regrets. Am I 100% all of the time? Absolutely not! But I do “eat clean” about 85-90% of the time. Life happens and things come up, but I wake up every morning and purpose to make the cleanest choices possible at every meal because I know when I do, I look and feel so much better.

If you purpose to do the same, just remember: it took me several months to break old habits and form new ones. So give yourself permission to take small steps toward permanent change. Decide and define what “clean eating” will look like for you and your family and work towards that goal. Never compare your definition with another’s, but do your research and be informed about the foods you put into your body. Here are a few other suggestions to help you sort through it all.

What to eat?

1. Eat several small meals a day to keep your blood sugar level stabilized. This keeps you satiated and less likely to run for a drive- thru somewhere. I usually combine a protein, carb and healthy fat at every meal.

2. Eat lean proteins that are pasture-raised and fed or wild-caught if possible, and minimally processed.

3. Eat “whole” carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, fruit, beans and whole grains such as oatmeal and quinoa. Veggies are carbs but very low in calories so you can eat larger portions of these.

4. Eat healthy fats. Fat does not make you fat. Excess does. I often include almonds, olive/coconut oil, and avocado or egg yolk in
my meals but I consider organic grass-fed butter and cheese in moderation to be “clean” as well.

5. Eat organic as much as possible to avoid genetically-modified food products. There is much debate over the safety of even “whole” foods that are considered GMO such as corn, soybeans and sugar beets. Organic can be expensive and not work into everyone’s budget, but there are certain foods such as the “dirty dozen” that I recommend buying organic. The “dirty dozen” is a list of foods that has been shown to contain the greatest amount of pesticides such as apples, celery, lettuce, spinach, and strawberries.

6. Drink lots of water and stay away from sugary drinks. Water helps to flush out toxins and keeps the skin hydrated which helps to maintain a youthful appearance.

7. Learn to season your foods with natural herbs and spices rather than marinades and condiments loaded with artificial ingredients and additives. This is true for salad dressing as well. Stick with a cleaner version such as an olive oil and balsamic combination or even fresh lemon juice.

Small consistent steps will lend to greater success. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get it right every day. Instead, rejoice and applaud yourself every time that you do. Take it from this Louisiana girl - you don’t need a deep fryer to capture the flavor of the South. You just need fresh meats, fruits and vegetables that are the closest to their natural state as possible and you will begin to recognize what wonderful flavor real “whole” food actually has. 

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