What we eat can have a powerful effect on how we feel, both physically and mentally. Athletes pay close attention to their meals because they want to perform to the best of their abilities on the field, but having a balanced diet is important for everyone who wants to feel their best.
Fatigue, decreased brain function, and bloat can manifest after an unhealthy meal, and that can immediately affect how you perform for the rest of the day. We all know that unhealthy food can cause sickness and weight gain in the long term, but it also affects the way our hair, nails, and skin look. Eating clean can reduce these symptoms and improve your health and mood.
Eat whole foods.
The basis of clean eating is to reduce stress on your body by eating foodsthat provide the most nutrients and don’t contain artificial ingredients. Whole, natural foods provide more nutrients than processed food and don’t contain additives or preservatives. The less processed a food is, the better it is for you.
That means that, when eating clean, you should choose a piece of fruit over fruit juice and whole grains over processed grains. Focus on incorporating more fruit, vegetables, meat, eggs, and nuts into your diet.
Stay away from convenient, packaged food. There are a few foods that break these rules. Low-fat dairy is more processed than whole-fat, but many people prefer it if they are watching their fat intake or counting calories. Just make sure the low-fat version doesn’t have too much added sugar.
Eat a variety of foods.
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of only cooking the same few meals, but you could be missing out on key nutrients when you repeatedly eat the same foods. Keep your meals colorful and try things that are new to you.
Bell peppers are great sources of Vitamin A and Vitamin C, but red and orange bell peppers are more nutrient-dense than green pepper. Likewise, dark greens like kale and swiss chard are more nutritious than iceberg lettuce, and red grapes contain moreantioxidants than green grapes.
Make healthy choices.
When you’re cooking, or in a situation with limited choices, try to choose foods that are healthier for you. Choose options that are low in sugar, saturated fat, and trans fat. Opt for fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables rather than canned, which may be packed with additional sugar and salt.
Cook with healthy oils like olive, coconut, or canola, and use a light hand when seasoning with salt or sugar. Avoid foods that are not nutritious, like potatoes, even if they are whole foods. When you eat processed foods, make the best choice based on the label and your personal preferences.
Treat it as a lifestyle.
It takes willpower to choose clean food while being bombarded by so many other choices. It is essential to remind ourselves that we are always making an active and conscious choice in what we eat. Denial is a visceral emotion, and it is one that causes many diets to fail because it triggers intense desire.
Don’t think about your food choices as you denying yourself, but as you making those decisions because you are committed to making healthy choices for your body. You are committed to eating nutrient-dense food, and you refuse to subject your digestive system to unnatural stressors.
Of course it’s okay to have your favorite dessert occasionally, or enjoy a meal out. By being aware of your choices, you are one step closer to making a lasting lifestyle change.
Try eating clean, you’ll see the benefits for yourself. For many students, college is the first time they are away from their parents and take on the responsibility of caring for themselves.
We are overwhelmed with new burdens and what we eat gets pushed way down on the totem pole, but it’s important to look and feel our best so that we can accomplish the things we came to college for.
It’s a great time to try new things that you may not have been exposed to at home, and to develop good habits that will make your adult life easier.