As a chef and educator, I work with people to find solutions to some of their most difficult food issues. For many people it seems that the solution (or at least the beginning of the solution) is to make some quick fixes. Sometimes it's the smallest things that can damage our diets in the worst ways. And amazingly, the things that are the worst for our bodies are also terrible for the planet and your budget too!
Check out the list below for five ways to build a cleaner diet for your body and a greener diet for the planet!
1. Skip the whites!
The so-called white foods have been linked with many of the lifestyle diseases we face as a society. Our Standard American Diet is loaded with white flour, white rice, white potatoes, and white sugar. While some of these are naturally white (the potatoes), the others are all heavily processed and bleached before they make it into our foods. Alternatives are whole-grain breads, brown rice, and unrefined sugars like coconut sugar, dates and honey.
2. Ditch the soda!
Soda is just straight up bad. Regular soda is bad, diet soda is bad, even 'natural' sodas and sweetened beverages are bad. And they are all bad for the same reasons. Firstly, our body is not designed to digest the excessive amount of sugar in soda or drinks– but we're not designed to digest all the chemicals in diet soda either. There are many studies linking consumption of sugary beverages to weight gain and other lifestyle diseases. In addition, all those plastic bottles end up in the landfill (only a small percentage are actually recycled). Plastic can also leach chemicals into our bodies. And it costs so much money to buy all those beverages! Healthier options include homemade water kefir, soda water with some stevia (they even make soda pop flavored stevia!), or just water with lemon. Kombucha and iced teas are also good choices, but watch for added sugars in all of these products.
3. Buy everything UNSWEETENED
One of the big problems with the processed food industry is that the are hidden ingredients in everything. Most often, those hidden and necessary ingredients include salt, fats and SUGAR. Sugar can be found in pasta sauces, ketchup, almost all bottled beverages, and even health foods like whole-grain breads, granola bars and non-dairy milks. I was furious when I learned that my favorite 'original flavor' almond milk and soy milk contain sugar as the third ingredient! Learn to read the labels and try to choose products without any added sweetener. Your tastebuds will learn to appreciate the the natural, subtle sweetness found in foods.
4. Buy in bulk
The bulk section is my favorite place in my health food store! You can buy grains, beans, pasta, herbs and so much more in their most pristine form. No chemicals, no fillers, no BPA-lined cans! Yes, buying in bulk means you are cooking whole grains and beans at home, but I promise the results are worth it. You save money, save packaging, and save yourself all the crap that's found in pre-cooked and processed foods.
5. Skip the Starbucks!
I was a barista for many years, and so I have seen first-hand the crazy that coffee inspires! But, it's also super expensive, mega wasteful (hello, Starbucks recycling programs?!), and it's really not that good for you. All those caramel macchiatos and Chocolate Chunk Frappuccinos are loaded with conventional dairy products and loads of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Couple that with the acidic coffee and you have a very unhealthy beverage, my friend. I'm not going to suggest you give up your morning brew, but it would be good for you and our planet if you made your own coffee at home. Using a regular coffee maker or a French press (here's a great how-to for the French press method) you can make customizable brews at home for a fraction of the cost. Add honey, coconut sugar and organic dairy or coconut milk to further healthify your cup of joe. You can also make cold-brew coffee, which is super easy and not so energy intensive.