Summer is but a few weeks away, and with it, the farmers markets and the supermarkets are full of brightly colored seasonal foods that might make you rethink your winter eating habits. After all, this is the season when produce is at its most vibrant and varied, meaning that eating clean and healthy is much easier. So, what exactly constitutes ‘clean and healthy’ eating? It involved choosing produce that is as close to its natural state as possible. What could be better than walking out to a vegetable garden and pulling sun-kissed fruits from the vine, veggies from the ground, lettuce from the dirt, or biting into a stripped red onion (which tastes exactly like candy surprisingly). The closer to the source, the more our food retains the essential nutrients and flavor. I learned this when I created my own extensive organic ‘farm’ at my house in Nantucket. Clean eating will give you a jump start towards looking and feeling your best throughout the season and beyond.
EAT "GOOD" FATS
One of the best clean-eating categories to stock up on during summer are healthy fats. "Bad" fats—trans fats or saturated fats found in greasy, processed, and sugar-filled foods—cause inflammation in the body. Switch refined vegetable oils like sunflower, canola, and soybean with "real" fats like cold-pressed coconut, grape-seed, avocado oil and olive oil. Bad fats, heighten your risk of heart disease and stroke, while good fats help our bodies better absorb nutrients and aid in brain growth and development.
LOAD UP ON VEGGIES
A big part of any clean-eating plan is to stock up on vegetables—preferably organic when possible. Beware of veggies that are part of the "dirty dozen," which include spinach, cucumber, salads, peppers, potatoes, and celery, as they have the highest concentration of pesticides if you opt for non-organic. The vegetables and fruits that do not need to be organic – due to their cellular structure – are onions, avocados, pineapple, asparagus, grapefruit, mangoes, kiwi, mushrooms, papayas, sweet peas, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, eggplant, cabbage, watermelon, and cauliflower. (source: Livestrong).
OPT FOR HIGH-QUALITY MEATS
Eating clean doesn't have to mean being vegetarian or vegan (although, of course, there are plenty of protein-packed options if you do happen to follow an animal free protein diet.) Although a healthy diet consists of a generous portion of veggies, if you eat meat, always go for the highest quality organic and unprocessed. Also, try and buy animal protein (chickens, pork and eggs) that comes from animals that are really free range and eat the kind of foods that nature intended them too (grass-fed). Meat that comes from a cow or pig or chicken that is fed organic corn is not any healthier for you. Animals eat grass or hay – period. Stay clear of low-quality meats as much as possible, as they can contain antibiotics, pesticides, and hormones.
FOCUS ON WHOLE GRAINS
Choose sprouted grains whenever possible. They have high amounts of fiber necessary for a healthy gut, plus vitamins and minerals that boost energy levels. Incorporating ancient grains like barley, oats, and farro will help you stay satisfied throughout the day and avoid cravings. You can make these more nutritionally dense and easier on your digestive system by ‘sprouting’ the grains, especially for those with grain protein sensitivities. It’s easy to sprout a grain. Place your grain of choice in a bowl and cover with water by a few inches to soak. Rinse the grains and place in a covered jar for one to five days. Sprouted grains are often eaten raw, slightly cooked or ground into flour.
AVOID REFINED SUGAR
We have frequently written on the horrors of sugar (read about it here!). Sugar causes inflammation and ages your skin prematurely. Refined sugary foods are empty calories and offer zero nutritional value or health benefits. Since added sugar is hidden in even seemingly healthy products, make sure to read product labels at the supermarket and make home-cooked meals as much as possible. More often than not, packaged foods are loaded with sugar, so keep them to a minimum. Also, stay away from white pasta and white bread, as these are low in nutrition and metabolize into sugar. Lastly, stay clear of artificial ingredients and "fake" foods—that means anything that looks like it could last longer than summer!