Be an Avid Label Reader: The Nutrition Facts Panel is your friend! Understand how many servings you are eating first and number of calories on the label. The general USDA guide is based on a 2,000 calorie diet (more or less based on your individual needs). Pay attention to labels like “reduced fat,” “non fat,” or “diet.” Often these products with sneak in other fake ingredients like fruit juice concentrate, high-fructose corn syrup and artificial flavorings to reduce costs or to keep the flavor sweet.
Cut Down on Highly-Processed Foods: Why would you want to eat food that’s designed to never rot in your cupboard? Eating highly-processed foods that strip the natural state of the food (like white bread) are actually empty calories. Processed foods contain all sorts of chemicals that may be harmful to the body. When the label says, “artificial flavoring,” this may mean a proprietary blend of undisclosed chemical flavors on top of that. Processed foods tend to be highly rewarding and even addicting due to the release of dopamine that occurs in the brain when eating these foods. Bottom line, if you can’t pronounce the ingredients on the label, just avoid it!
Eat your Veggies: The USDA recommends filling at least half of your plate with fruits and veggies. You don’t have to completely forgo meat, but if you do, plant-based foods especially high in protein include chia seeds, pea protein, lentils, hemp seeds, and several types of beans.
Go Whole Grain: Be sure to look for whole grain as the first ingredient, no added sugars in the first three ingredients and a stamp reading, “whole grain”. Whole grains have a carbohydrate-to-fiber ratio of less than 10:1. Don’t be fooled by buzzwords like, “multigrain,” “100-percent wheat” and “stone ground,” that may not actually be whole grain. The USDA recommends devoting a quarter of your plate to whole grains. Whole grains are known to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer.
Meat you in the Middle: You don’t have to be vegetarian to eat clean. Meat in moderation can be a healthy source of vitamins, fatty acids and antioxidants. Choose higher-quality meats like pasture-raised and grass-fed or at the very least free of hormones and antibiotics. Grass-fed beef has been proven to have less cholesterol-elevating saturated fats and is higher in vitamin A, E and omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed beef. Also consider organic meat – pesticides in cows, chicken, turkey and other animals comes from their feed which may have synthetic fertilizers and herbicides in it. Avoid overly-processed meats like bacon and sausage and watch your intake of red meats.
Shop Organic: Not only is it good for the environment, but significantly safer to consume and higher in nutrient content. Organic food is considered to be free of synthetic chemicals, genetically engineered materials, sewage, pesticides and irradiation. Studies have also shown that organic fruits even have a longer shelf life! But because organic typically costs more than commercial, not everyone can afford to go organic all of the time. Some foods have thick skins or are not typically sprayed with pesticides and are safe to consume conventional like kiwi, mangoes, grapefruit, avocados, papayas, mushrooms, watermelon and sweet peas. Other foods (especially leafy greens) are 100% worth the investment to buy organic because they offer more surface area for pesticides to stick and can be tough to rinse off.
Drink Plenty of Water: The USDA recommends drinking six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day. An easy way to stay hydrated is by consuming fruits and vegetables with a high percentage of water like celery, tomatoes, oranges, cucumbers and melons.
Sugar is Not the Enemy: Sugar has been an enigma of the food industry for decades. Our fascination with cutting sugar has caused fads like artificial sweeteners, Splenda, Sweet ‘n Low, Truvia and other sugar substitutes to be all the rage. Consuming sugar in its most natural form like raw honey, agave nectar or maple syrup is best; it is rich in antioxidants and has antimicrobial properties. At Real Food Bars, we use only Organic Clover Honey. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar intake to 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons for men.
Embrace Healthy Fats: Fats are essential for life. Healthy fats come from foods like nuts, avocados and olive oil. They help to keep us feeling satisfied longer, stabilize blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol. Don’t mistake “low-fat” for healthy. “Low-fat” labels can be misleading. In fact, a 2006 study in the Journal of Marketing Research found that low-fat labels caused people to actually eat more because people were lured into feeling good about their food decision and encouraged to eat more.
Tomorrow’s A New Day: Got a birthday party or tailgate coming up? Worried you won’t be able to eat clean at that next party? Don’t sweat it. Eating clean, while a lifestyle choice, doesn’t have to feel like torture. We all know how hard it is to resist the temptations (who doesn’t love butter cream frosted cupcakes?)That’s why we created Real Food Bar. Not only is it easy to throw in a bag on the way out the door, but it is sweet AND intensely satisfying.