These clean-eating strategies will boost your intake of nutrient-rich whole foods and cut your intake of unhealthy ingredients such as refined sugar, white flour and artificial additives.
Ditch highly processed foods
Not only are ultraprocessed foods full of sugar, sodium, fat and synthetic additives, they're also stripped of nutrients. If the ingredient list is long and/or includes items you can't recognize or pronounce, put the product back on the shelf. Trade processed deli meats for tuna, salmon or cooked chicken breast (grill, bake or steam in advance for the week). Instead of popping a bag of microwave popcorn – which harbours chemicals in the buttery flavour and the lining of the bag – invest in a hot-air popper.
Cut refined starches
Whether made from wheat, rice or spelt flour, refined carbohydrates offer significantly fewer vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protective plant chemicals and fibre. Refined grains also spike blood glucose and insulin levels, which can trigger hunger and overeating. Buy breads and breakfast cereals that contain only whole grains. Look for "100-per-cent whole grains" on the label to be sure that's all you're getting.
To clean up your diet, cut your daily intake of added sugars to no more than six teaspoons (24 g) for women and nine teaspoons (36 g) for men. Switch to plain, unflavoured yogurt and sweeten it naturally with fruit. Instead of sugary granola bars, snack on unsalted nuts and dried fruit. If you add sugar (or honey) to coffee or tea or drizzle maple syrup over oatmeal or yogurt, cut back incrementally to acclimate your taste buds. When you're used to the new level of sweetness, cut back again.
Eat more vegetables
Vegetables are low in calories and loaded with vitamins and heart-healthy fibre. If you buy them frozen, look for products that are 100-per-cent vegetables (e.g., no salt, butter or cheese sauce). Eat at least five servings – a good 2.5 cups – each day by including them at all meals. Add red pepper and baby greens to omelettes, blend kale into smoothies, pack raw vegetables or green salad with brown-bag lunches and add frozen or fresh chopped vegetables to chili, stew, soups and casseroles.
Make it from scratch
Instead of relying on salty commercial salad dressings, make your own using a healthy oil, vinegar or lemon juice and herbs. Make chicken and vegetable pizzas on whole-grain tortillas rather than buying a frozen pizza. If you're too pressed to cook during the week, set aside time on Sunday to batch cook. Marinara sauce, for example, freezes well and is great for busy weeknights.