Does the idea of starting a clean diet plan totally overwhelm you? Do you feel as though you don’t know where in the world to start? If so, I totally understand.
It can be very difficult to radically overhaul your diet, especially while trying to balance everything else in life. For whatever reason though, when it comes to eating clean, I think a lot of people think in terms of “all or nothing”; if they can’t commit 100% then they just say forget the whole thing. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
You can still reap significant benefits if you consistently change just a few small things. They key is consistency.
The Power of Consistency
If you can adopt just four clean diet habits and maintain those four habits for the rest of your life, you will reap far greater overall health benefits than if you ate the “perfect” clean diet for a month or even a year.
Of course you have to come up with four things that will be doable. And if you are only going to change four things, then they should be four things that are really going to make a major impact on your overall health.
Eliminate the Stress Factor
Changing your diet can be incredibly stressful. Trust me, I know.
I started my clean food diet journey when I was just twenty two as a result of a major health scare. It was 1998 when I started and eating clean was not exactly the “in” thing to do like it is today. At first, all I could initially focus on was the endless list of foods I was no longer allowed to eat. No more ice cream (my absolute favorite!), pizza, French fries, soda, packaged snack foods, buttery movie popcorn— the list seemed to just go on and on. I actually carried the list with me and to be honest, it totally stressed me out every time I looked at it.
Looking back, I think putting all that attention on what NOT to eat started to make me develop an unhealthy preoccupation with clean eating. All I could think about was that I felt so deprived.
The Psychology of Restriction
Here’s the thing, if you remove or limit something from your food consumption, you will inevitably feel deprived.
I am not saying that you should keep eating French fries and ice cream just to avoid feelings of deprivation. However, if you are brand new to clean eating and trying to figure out how to adopt a stress-free clean diet plan, you might want to consider starting by adding healthy foods rather than subtracting unhealthy foods.
If You Feel Deprived, You Won’t Stick With It
One of the reasons why diets don’t work is because the psychology of eating is incredibly complex. Dynamic Eating Psychology shows us that restricting foods, especially those you particularly enjoy, will create a stress reaction in your body. Your new clean diet plan may be nutritionally “perfect,” but if you focus on eliminating all of your favorite foods, the enjoyment factor will be missing from your meal. What I am saying is that you could eat the most perfectly clean and nutritious meal in the world and still end up feeling deprived and empty. And this much I know….when it comes to food, feeling deprived and restricted is a recipe for disaster.
Think Addition, Not Subtraction
Instead of carrying around a list of “bad” foods you shouldn’t eat, start thinking of how to work in the super healthy foods you should eat. Not only will this approach be healthier psychologically, it has two additional major “side benefits”:
- Keep You Feeling Full. Your stomach can only hold so much food. The more healthy food you eat, the less room you will have for the unhealthy food.
- Eliminate Food Cravings. The nutrients in healthy food help fill nutritional gaps that could be contributing to food cravings.
How to Start a Clean Diet Plan
In putting together my “Top 4” list below of foods to add to your diet, I took into consideration the extensive research that went into developing the Blue Zones Food Guidelines.
What is a “BLUE ZONE”?
The Blue Zones consist of five regions in Europe, Latin America, Asia and the U.S. that researchers have identified as having the highest concentrations of centenarians in the world.
Blue Zone residents are considered to be the “world’s healthiest people.”
The centenarians living in Blue Zones live in very different parts of the world. Yet they have nine lifestyle habits that lead to happier, healthier, longer lives. Although not all of the their lifestyle habits are related to diet, I am happy to say that the diet-related habits are inline with the anti-inflammatory clean eating diet we promote here on Clean Cuisine and in our book.
Top 4 Clean Diet Additions
Aligning the recommendations in our own Clean Cuisine book with the findings from the 10-year long Blue Zone research project, I came up with what I believe to be the top 4 clean diet additions below:
- Significantly increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. Eat at least 9 to 12 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. The number one biggest diet mistake most people make is not eating anywhere near enough fruits and vegetables. It might sound crazy to eat 9 to 12 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, but simple things like adding vegetable soup, a green smoothie, a cup of fruit with breakfast, a salad with dinner, etc. all add up.
- Make 2 out of 3 meals a day plant-based. The research on centenarians living in the Blue Zones show the the majority of their calories come from unrefined plant-based “whole foods”. The longest lived people in the world only eat meat an average of five times per month. Although we are not vegan, we make it a point to eat more plants and less animals. We have found the easiest way to do this is to simply make 2 out of 3 meals a day plant-based.
- Eat a serving of beans or legumes every day. Did you know beans are the world’s #1 longevity food? The longest-lived people eat a full cup of beans every day!
- Eat a serving of nuts (or seeds) every day. One of the consistent Blue Zone diet habit findings by longevity expert Dan Buettner is that eating a handful of nuts each day was associated with disease prevention and 2 to 3 years of increased life expectancy.
If you are trying to adopt a clean eating lifestyle, obviously you will have to make some more changes. However, if you can make the commitment to change just these four things and stay consistent, you will most definitely start to feel (and see!) a real difference in your health, energy and overall wellness.
LOOKING TO CLEAN UP YOUR LIFESTYLE & ADOPT AN ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DIET?
Be sure to check out our Clean Cuisine book! The book outlines an 8-Week Anti-Inflammatory Diet and lifestyle plan, including fitness program, nutritional supplement regimen, recipes and more!