5 Easy Steps to Clean-Up Your Diet

I have yet to meet a person who goes to bed thinking "I wish I ate less healthy today."
It just doesn't happen.

Most everyone in these over-processed times can use a kick in the butt when it comes to the food choices we make. Unless you have an abundance of funds laying around, a complete diet overhaul is most likely out of the question, though there are several small steps you can take to better your body and help positively influence the next generation (your kids learn eating habits from you!) These five simple changes are easy to incorporate into your everyday life, give them a try and feel better today!

1. Read Product Labels!
  I cannot stress how important this one is. Get in the habit of checking the nutrition label of each and every item you buy at the store. The more natural an item is, the fewer ingredients it will have. Simple as that! I was surprised to find that a large number of people I know do not know important food knowledge, such as the difference between whole wheat bread and "wheat" bread. A few things that I try to avoid are: High fructose corn syrup, enriched wheat/white flour, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and any artificial colors or flavorings.

2. Shop the Perimeter of Your Supermarket
  In most all supermarkets (and even super stores like Wal-Mart), fresh items can be found all around the outer perimeter of the store. Dairy, raw meats, and fresh fruits and veggies will seldom be found among the processed, boxed foods in the center isles. I know that there are a few staples for my cupboard that lurk within those rows, but I try to avoid venturing into the center if possible during each shopping trip. Fresh is always better!

3. Retrain Your Taste Buds
  If you're used to eating foods that are overly sweet, fatty, or salty (me!), you will need to retrain your taste buds to become accustomed to the more simple tastes of life. No one is predisposed at birth to prefer french fries over carrot sticks, and vice-versa. It will take time for you to kick the urge to splurge on your taste bud's comfort foods. Try adding a fresh option at every meal, a new choice or a current favorite, without added salt/sugar/flavors. Increase your fresh intake little by little with each passing week. It gets easier!

4. Swap-out Processed Foods One at a Time
  In the same way that you add fresh into your diet, processed foods should be excluded from your shopping list one by one. Some are easier than others, as they can be swapped for healthier versions without much change in taste. Whole wheat pasta and brown rice can be swapped out for their "enriched" white counterparts, which increases their nutritional value greatly. If you use boxed dinners, try kicking the habit and plan some one-pot "freezer" meals from scratch ahead of time so you'll save time during the work week.

5. Eat the Rainbow
  It should come as no surprise that each vegetable and fruit contains a variety of different nutrients. Naturally-colored foods contain nutrients called phytochemicals, which work together to fight disease and illness and also give fruits and veggies their vibrant hues. It's pretty much what makes 'em good for you...so eat them! Instead of cookies or greasy chips, opt for buying fresh veggies with hummus or ranch dressing as a snack. Hungry family members will eat what they have available! 

Do you have any tips for keeping your family's food intake clean? Please share them in the comments below!