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Last Updated on May 9, 2018

9 Ways a Clean Eating Diet Can Help You Feel Better

9 Ways a Clean Eating Diet Can Help You Feel Better

A poor diet can leave you feeling sluggish, groggy, and lethargic.

You may even find your cravings for junk food are actually stronger, rather than satisfied, after indulging in salty or sweet snacks; unfortunately, your health and your waistline will pay the price.

With all the diet fads out there, it can be difficult to weed through the hype and find concrete information on what you should be eating, what you should be avoiding, and most importantly, why to do either.

Outlined below are 9 ways a clean eating diet can help increase your energy, reduce bloat, improve your health, and maybe even slim your figure– all while making you feel stronger, more focused, and in-tune with your body’s needs.

Clean Up Your Eating Habits

There are many different opinions out there on what constitutes a “clean” diet.

In general, and broadly speaking, clean eating means to focus on nutrient-rich, whole foods. It suggests you minimize pre-packaged, overly processed foods, and it encourages you to make your food from fresh, natural ingredients whenever possible.

It is imperative to note that however you would like to interpret those guidelines is entirely up to you.

Some people choose a paleo strategy, some prefer a vegan diet, and some find their body responds best when they limit dairy.

Either way you need to choose a path that fits your lifestyle, and give yourself permission to be flexible. Once you start to weed out the processed, high-sodium, -fat, and -sugar foods, you will find it easier to pinpoint which options agree and disagree with your unique tastes.

1. Protein = Satisfaction

Some examples of lean protein include chicken, turkey, white fish, beans, lentils, and low- or no-fat dairy. Proteins are the building blocks of your muscles and help make up other structures within your body such as skin and cell membranes.

Protein is slow to digest in the stomach, which helps you to feel fuller longer, and will keep hunger at bay between meals.

Because lean proteins have a low fat content, they are subsequently lower in calories, making them easy to incorporate into any meal. For example, throw some hard-boiled eggs and chopped chicken breast into a salad and it goes from rabbit food to a filling meal.

2. Scrub Your Intestines

Fiber, or roughage, is important for keeping your digestive tract moving smoothly; it is like a scrub brush for your intestines.

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While that may sound a bit harsh, both literally and figuratively, it is exactly what people are looking for in popular cleanses and fasts, but without the drastic measures and high costs.

Older adults especially, can get deposits of build-up in their intestines which cannot only lead to major discomfort, but is also been known to cause colon cancer and other significant health problems.

Fiber also naturally helps regulate your blood sugar levels. Without the spikes and dips that accompany a processed diet, your cravings for sweets will remain regulated and on an even keel. This can not only help your metabolism stay humming throughout the day, but it can be a huge emotional and mental relief as well.

A healthy portion of fruits, vegetables, peas, whole-grain foods, and beans are all great sources of fiber. These foods have also been linked to a decrease in the risk of cancer and heart disease, due to their fiber content specifically.

3. Skip Added Sugar

One way to clean up your diet is to start limiting the amount of added sugars you consume throughout the day.

Fruit naturally contains the sugar fructose; when you are looking for a sweet treat around the house, reach for a fresh piece of fruit for a satisfying snack instead of a candy bar or sugary, baked confection.

The sugar-type fructose is a form of carbohydrate. It will give you that boost of energy you may be looking for during your mid-afternoon slump, but without the blood sugar hike, and subsequent crash, of sugary candies.

It is important to note that sugar hides in many foods parading around as “healthy.”

Many popular brands of yogurt or granola bars, for example, can have an astronomical amount of added refined sugar. Be sure to read food labels and steer clear of any foods with a sugar content in the double-digits.

4. Cut Back on Saturated Fat

Less than 10% of your total daily calories consumed should come from saturated fatty acids. Total fat intake, of all types, should be between 20 and 35% of all calories. That means that if you are following a 2,000 calories per day diet, no more than 700 of those calories should be from fats; this equates to an absolute maximum of about 77 grams of fat per day.

Please read food labels; many people will find a heavy portion of those 77 grams in their “healthy” salad dressing alone!

One helpful fact is that most saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Think about the white fat on bacon and other meats versus the healthier oils (also fats), such as olive oil, that are liquid at room temperature. This is an easy way to keep yourself in check with how much saturated fat you are consuming; you can often literally see the fat in many popular foods.

5. High Salt Means High Blood Pressure

The recommendation by the AHA (American Heart Association) is no more than 2,300mgs (about 1 teaspoon) of salt for adults, but they set an “ideal” limit of no more than 1,500mgs.

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Far too many people reach this limit in a single meal alone, especially if they are eating out at restaurants often.

Salt enters the blood stream and disrupts the balance of electrolytes in the body, making it difficult for the kidneys to do their job. To be fair, a low potassium intake is just as likely to cause high blood pressure as an excess in salt might. However, so many people consume prepackaged foods as part of their everyday diet and still have no idea how much salt they are really consuming.

Salt is used a preservative in many foods; years ago, meats were even packed in salt to extend their shelf life.

Now, so much natural flavor is cooked out of foods during the manufacturing process, that salt is added to heighten the flavor that is left. This is why the spaghetti sauce you make at home can have drastically less salt and yet loads more flavor than the same sauce bought pre-cooked in a jar or can from the store.

Lastly, high salt intake causes your body to hold onto water as a way to dilute the sodium absorbed into your body and its tissues.

This is the reason behind that post-meal bloat you may feel up to two days after a salt-heavy meal, such as a dinner of a burger and fries from a popular chain restaurant.

6. Indulge in Complex Carbohydrates

One of the most popular diet misconceptions you will find these days is that the answer to weight loss is to eat less carbohydrates.

This is totally true if what you are eating is highly-processed, sugar-laden foods made in a factory. It is not true, however, if you are consuming nutritious, fiber-dense, complex carbohydrates that provide your body with fuel and energy.

Carbohydrates are the go-to fuel for organ activity; this includes the heart, skeletal muscles, and in particular, the brain.

White bread, bleached flour, and other processed carbohydrates are the ones to avoid when you are looking to clean up your diet.

These have little-to-no fiber and turn into sugar and then fat when not used as energy; they also likely contain many added sugars. However, fresh vegetables, 100% whole grain breads, lentils, beans, and whole potatoes are excellent sources, of energy and fuel for your body and mind.

7. Hold Out for Homemade

Here is a fact that will both astonish and astound you: legally, food labels and calorie counts on packaged foods and in restaurants only have to be accurate within 30%.

This means that if you choose to indulge in an entrée listed as a whopping 1,000 calories, it may actually contain as many as 1,300 calories, and this does not always account for the butter and oils used to grease pans during cooking.

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At home, you can create the same dishes with far less of an impact on your health.

There are endless healthy-food swaps you can make to decrease calories and increase your intake of vital nutrients.

Some examples would be using condensed milk in the place of heavy cream in recipes, cauliflower in place of rice for a low-carb alternative (if you are into that sort of thing), or a quick spray of olive oil to prep a pan instead of a pat of butter.

Quite possibly the best parts of cooking at home is that you have the ability to alter recipes to meet your liking, and you can save hundreds of dollars each month with proper planning.

Some things to keep in mind if you are trying to save money on groceries is to shop farmer’s markets for fresh produce, buy foods that are in-season for peak freshness and the best value, and when necessary, opt for frozen foods over canned; frozen vegetables tend to be flash-frozen at the peak of ripeness, increasing their nutrient content when compared to their canned counterparts.

8. Boost Your Antioxidant Intake

If eating a diet low in saturated fat is cleansing for your arteries and heart, and eating a fiber-rich diet is cleansing for your gut, then antioxidant-rich foods promote the same type of health benefits for your body’s cells.

The long and short of it is this: oxidants are radicals found in the environment through some unavoidable circumstances such as air pollution, but also from lifestyle choices such as alcohol, cigarette smoke.

These oxidants have been know to cause damage to our cells, possibly leading to diseases and certain cancers. Antioxidants, however, perform just as their name implies; they help balance the oxidants to a healthy level that the body can handle.

A popular tactic of modern food manufacturers is to boast the health benefits of their food on labels. Buzz words like “anti-aging” and “cancer-fighting” appear on packages as a way to draw you in. The truth is, none of these foods compare to the health benefits of whole foods in their natural state.

Grapes, blueberries, nuts, and yes, even chocolate (cocoa) contain nutrient-rich antioxidants that can help keep your cells healthy and your body operating with efficiency.

9. A Clean Kitchen Leads to a Clean Diet

Have you ever cleaned out your closet of all your old, unworn clothes?

After doing so, the next time you go to pick an outfit you open your closet doors you feel relief at the organization; suddenly you find yourself at ease in your own wardrobe! Now, imagine if opening your refrigerator or pantry made you feel the same way.

Many advocates of a clean eating diet are also fans of meal prepping.

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To meal prep means to cook a batch of meals at once and save portions of them to eat throughout the week. This is ideal for people on-the-go or who often struggle with what to eat. You can cook once or twice a week and not have to worry about what to do for your next meal.

This works particularly well if you work during the day and want to be able to grab your breakfast or lunch on your way out the door.

While this strategy for weekday eating will definitely save you money and calories, the biggest benefit is the peace of mind and mental relief you may feel from taking the uncertainty out of the equation.

Many people find going out to eat stressful when they are trying to follow a clean diet. Others feel overwhelmed at the options at the grocery store and what to buy and cook at home. By preparing batches of food you can experiment with recipes, shop according to grocery store discounts and sales, and you will always have a healthy meal ready when in a pinch.

Clean Eating Can Clean Up Your Life

Clean eating can mean a number of different things to different people. Although, experts and nutritionists urge against cutting out any entire food group, such as fats or carbohydrates, from your diet.

At its core, clean eating is really about balance and fueling your body with nutrient-dense food that keeps your metabolism, muscles, and brain in peak performance.

Your body was designed as a well-oiled machine; it comes equipped with everything it needs to keep itself in gentle homeostasis, and the better quality fuel you feed it, the better you will feel.

Many people find that just by adopting a cleaner diet, they shed unwanted, excess pounds, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and eventually find themselves being taken off diet-related medications.

As you delve deeper into what foods you choose to cut out and what foods you may want to add in to your diet, your tastes will change also.

You will eventually find your body craving the healthy stuff as much as you might have once craved the junk food you thought you could never live without. This transition may take time, however, so be patient with yourself.

Finally, a clean eating diet does not mean that you never get to indulge.

Food is about satisfying your body and its needs, even if that sometimes means a treat or guilty pleasure.

When you take care of your body every day, these instances will become that much more enjoyable–especially when they don’t leave you feeling sluggish and tired afterward. So, next time you get a craving… be sure you’re reaching for foods that are “clean”!

More by this author

Lisa Patten

ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Professional Fitness Writer

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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