Spring Clean Your Diet
As spring cleaning season rounds the corner, everyone is looking to clear clutter from their lives and get a fresh start. One aspect of life people may not consider cleaning: their diets. With New Year’s resolutions seemingly a distant memory, spring is the perfect time to refresh your diet and look for healthier choices.
OSF HealthCare Registered Dietitian Ashley Simper explained the basics of clean eating. “Simply put, clean eating is a pure, unprocessed way of eating.” The diet consists of whole foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, unprocessed grains, beans and eggs.
The convenience of prepackaged and processed foods sometimes makes clean eating a challenge. Simper emphasized that clean eating does not have to be difficult or expensive. She offered five tips to help people eat clean while staying on budget.
Tip #1: Make sure half of your plate is fruits and vegetables. To save money and make food last longer, she recommended buying frozen fruits and vegetables, which are picked at their peak freshness and last a long time in the freezer.
The USDA provides an interactive chart for consumers to compare produce prices. The most affordable fruits include watermelon, bananas, apples, cantaloupe and pineapples. For vegetables, the cheapest options are potatoes, lentils, beans, cabbage and carrots.
Tip #2: Use store brands. Buying generic gives you the best quality for your money, especially for dairy products, unprocessed grains and eggs.
Tip #3: Watch the ads in the paper. Circle the weekly deals on unprocessed foods and go to the grocery store with a plan. Planning meals in advance and using the ads will keep you on track with your diet and your budget.
Tip #4: Meatless Monday. Meat is generally an expensive source of protein. Swap meat for less-expensive options like eggs or beans one day a week.
Tip #5: Cook from scratch. Processed foods have more added sugars, calories and fats. Cooking your meals gives you maximum control over what you put into your body.
While clean eating focuses on cutting out additives, Simper noted that preservatives in our food are not generally harmful. All preservatives come in quatities approved by the FDA and are no associated with adverse effects. The danger of processed food comes from added sugars, sodium and saturated fats.
"We know these increase our risk for obesity, heart disease, and diabetes," Simper said. These additives have low nutritional value, filling us up with empty calories that do not provide the nutrients we need.
Overall, Simper wants people to know that eating healthy on a budget is indeed possible. "I think there is this facade that healthy eating is expensive. But you really can fit it into your daily life and into your budget with just a bit of planning."