10 Simple Ways to Clean Up Your Diet

Written by contributor Donielle Baker of Naturally Knocked Up.

When most people start thinking about healthier eating and cleaning up their diet, they easily get overwhelmed. And how can you not with all of the information out there? All of a sudden everything in your kitchen looks toxic and you have no idea where to start. Or the idea of buying expensive organic and grass-fed products seem out of reach. These simple changes will get you headed in the right direction.

Simple Ways to Clean Up Your Diet

1. Make Your Own Seasonings

All to often those convenient little seasoning packets you find in the supermarket have added fillers, sugars, and flavor enhancers. Making your own at home can help you avoid unnecessary and unwanted ingredients while also saving you money and allowing you to personalize the seasonings to your own taste. I have found most seasoning recipes are easily found online and most can be made with spices and herbs you already have at home.

Making it even easier, you can mix your seasonings in bulk which saves you time in the kitchen. The three I always have ready to go are:

2. Make Homemade Broth

Not only is homemade broth a much tastier option than store-bought, it’s also provides many more nutrients while also lacking in any added flavor enhancers. You can easily make broth out of leftover chicken or beef bones, meaning it will only cost you pennies when you factor in the few vegetables you’ll also use.

3. Skip the Cereal

More often than not, cereal is one of the worst ways to start your day. It’s full of sugar and refined flours, no matter what brand you buy, and even if it’s gluten free or organic. Eggs, oatmeal, homemade granola and yogurt, or baked oatmeal are better choices in the long run and provide your body the fuel it needs.

4. Use Healthy Fats

Ditch the margarine and vegetable oils for real butter (preferably organic if you can afford it) extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and even lard. These unprocessed fats are easily used by the body, help your foods taste better, and promote better cooking.

5. Ditch the Cans

In order to reduce your exposure to chemicals like BPA (in the can lining) and increase nutrient quality always buy fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned. When making tomato sauces, many times it’s cheaper (and much tastier) to buy whole tomatoes and make your own at home. And buying dry beans and cooking them yourself is much cheaper than buying canned. You can also try making your own cream-of soup to substitute in your favorite recipes.

6. Avoid the Dirty Dozen

Most families I know can not afford, or find, all organic produce all year round. The Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list is a big help, informing you of the most chemical-laden produce so that you can either search out organic options or buy the cleaner conventional items.

Photo by bcmom

7. Shop the Perimeter

If you haven’t noticed yet, the outside aisles of the supermarket are where the fresh foods are! The inside aisles and end-caps are most often processed and packaged foods. So start your shopping by walking the perimeter and going down only the aisles you need to for certain pantry staples.

8. Check the Labels

When you do buy boxed, bagged, or canned foods, turn them around and check out the labels first. If you find words you can’t read on the ingredient list, put it back. If you also find ingredients like MSG, corn syrup, or a type of artificial sweetener, it should also stay out of your cart.

9. Eat Something Raw Everyday

Much of our foods now-a-days are preserved for long term storage and we forget to include raw foods in our daily meals. When cooked, we start to lose beneficial enzymes and many times it even lowers the vitamin and mineral content of the food as well. So choose to eat fresh fruits and vegetables each day; preferably at each meal.

10. Lower Your Sugar Intake

One of the absolute best ways to clean up your diet is to cut out all refined sugars from your diet! Sugar contributes to a variety of health problems including; infertility, lowered immune function, weight gain, insulin resistance, and adrenal fatigue. (If you’re dealing with sugar cravings and can’t get a handle on your sugar consumption, try something like “The Sugar Detox Challenge”.) Even if you only use natural sweeteners, you need to aware of your intake and not over do it.

In no time at all, you’ll have made big changes in your health just by making these simple changes. And the best part is, most of these will save you money!

What simple changes have you made to your diet?

About Donielle

Donielle is an amateur herbalist and natural momma to two littles. She has a passion for nourishing nutrition, natural living, and spreading the word on how food truly affects our health. Her blog Naturally Knocked Up focuses on natural fertility and reproductive health, and her book on natural fertility will be available in June 2012.

Comments

  1. Great tips! We have been trying to clean up our diet over the past several years. I never realized it would take so many baby steps to get to where we want to be!
    Heather´s latest post: deciding to get chickens

  2. Great tips! It can get so overwhelming when starting out on the “foodie” journey. Those wonderful tips simplify the process, making it seem doable. I will be sure to share these – great post!!

  3. This is a great list! I am struggling right now with one issue…because we are trying really hard to eat in season, what are your thoughts on eating say a fresh tomato off season. I totally agree with the BPA concerns and limit this by canning various forms of tomatoes at the end of the summer harvest. However, I struggle with buying fresh tomatoes in the middle of winter. I’d really love to hear your thoughts:)
    Andrea @ Frugally Sustainable´s latest post: Day 18: How to Stick to a Budget

    • Andrea,
      I struggle with the same thing. It makes it really difficult when you live in an area that only has a 5-6 month growing season for most foods! For us it makes it tough financially as well since I try to buy most of our food in the summer months and preserve it.

      I think it all comes down to what our goals are as a family. Is it more important for me to buy only local foods? Or is it more important to stay non-toxic? Or could you buy jarred tomato sauce instead of canned to forgo the fresh? (also an option – but I have yet to find plain sauce in jars at a local store)

      For me it’s been a balancing act: I buy and preserve as many tomatoes as I can during the summer and then when we run out I don’t make as many dishes that contain tomato. But since homemade pizza is an almost weekly treat at our house on movie night, I do buy either fresh or jarred sauces when needed, canned if it’s my only choice. My goal this next summer is to grow enough tomatoes so that I can preserve all we need.

      My husband and I have also been talking a bit about trying to eat ONLY local and in season foods. But again, it’s the winter that gets me! I have yet to figure out how to eat only the foods available to me, or that would be available normally (we have a few winter CSAs that grow food in greenhouses) or to preserve enough food. I think that this summer we’ll at least do a month long “buy local” challenge to see how we do – and hopefully continue on with it through the year.
      Donielle @ Naturally Knocked Up´s latest post: Menu Plan {1.23.12}

      • I just noticed today that Hunt’s “no sodium added” diced tomatoes are sold in a can that is not lined with white. The lid has white on it, but it’s not touching most of the tomatoes. So if you need a tomato option in the winter, you could try that. (Maybe Hunt’s other cans are the same way? Not sure.) I agree, though, fresh tomatoes are definitely the way to go when possible!
        Diana´s latest post: Garden Edging Ideas

  4. We have gone from a highly processed diet to a minimally processed diet. I am not yet buying organic, but most of our meals do come from fresh or frozen produce, with an occasional can thrown in. We did much better during last summer of buying local and look forward to that again this year. We may actually join a CSA this time around. We are greatly limiting our grain intake at this point, mainly for weight reasons, but will be staying away from the white pasta and bread when we do start eating it in moderation.
    Bernice
    Living the Balanced Life´s latest post: Do your actions match your values?

  5. I’ve been cleaning up my kitchen for awhile now, just through my change to eating real food :) :) I really like the idea of making my own seasoning mixes. Thanks for the links ;) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)
    Heather :) :) :)´s latest post: HEATHER’S BLOG DESIGN ADVENTURE UPDATE

  6. This is a great list, and it makes me feel good because I do all of them! :) I guess I hadn’t realized how much I have changed in the kitchen, I just still think of all of the things I DON’T do yet – like all organic dairy (not even to mention raw), or soaking grains. It’s nice to be able to give myself a little pat on the back, although I do need to do better about eating raw foods, especially this time of year, and lowering my sugar intake. Thanks for the gentle reminder!
    Emily @ Live Renewed´s latest post: Green Your Weekend – 1.21.12

  7. Thanks for the ideas. Since I have to eat gluten free anyway, the homemade seasonings and broth are super helpful since it can be difficult to find gluten free versions of those in the store. We’ve majorly cut down on how much cereal we’ve been eating lately which is not only healthier but also better on the budget. I have high hopes of starting a garden this year (at least for tomatoes and peppers) which hopefully will move us away from using so many canned goods.
    Steph´s latest post: A Story on Transitioning to Motherhood

  8. This is a great list! In fact, I have been practicing some these, especially the part that calls for homemade broth. It is more tasty compared to store bought ones, and will keep for a time if properly stored.

    I also eat oatmeal, raw veggies (as salads) to boost my health. So far, it made me feel and look better that before when I was unmindful of my diet.
    Robin´s latest post: learn and master dance review

  9. Great list! I am feeling encouraged because we are doing most of these things 100% and all of them to some extent. My hubby still loves his cereal, but we have switched over to a better organic version with less sugar. We also still have some canned foods, but I intend to grow and can plenty of veggies this year when the time comes.
    Holly @ Faithful Womanhood´s latest post: "10 Minute Stew" aka How To Make Amazing Soup Without A Recipe

  10. I’m loving these tips. I’m currently trying to avoid eating cereal in the mornings, but it’s tough. Thanks for reminding me to stay away from it.
    Rebecca´s latest post: Enjoying Time Alone

  11. What a great post! I love these simple, yet so practical tips. These are the kind of things I recommend to my clients all the time. I will have to share this with them.

    Thanks!
    Becky @ Pure Vitality´s latest post: How to Have a Happy, Healthy Baby

  12. It’s funny that you should post this today. Just yesterday I was tempted to buy premade lemon pepper seasoning at our local grocery store (knowing I was out at home). I happened to glance at the label and was shocked to find it contained MSG, dextrose, corn starch, and food dyes! I’m so glad I didn’t waste $6 to buy it, only to find out later I was eating useless garbage.

    We normally buy all of our spices from a bulk spice store that’s not too far away and I make my own blends. It never really occurred to me until yesterday that the spices in regular grocery stores include fillers and dyes.

  13. Question: when it comes to salmon, is it better to eat none at all if all you can afford is atlantic or pacific salmon? Or would a little in moderation be better than none?
    Holly @ Faithful Womanhood´s latest post: Homemade Shampoo & Body Wash For Men

    • Holly,
      I hope Donielle doesn’t mind if I hop in here…I wouldn’t eat Atlantic salmon, no matter how cheap. It’s really easy to find canned Alaskan salmon, usually less than $3 a can. I grabbed some at Walgreen’s and Aldi just this week. I’d rather have the omega 3s and look the other way on the can lining on that one, but I wouldn’t bother with Atlantic farmed salmon for lots of reasons! :) Katie
      Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship´s latest post: A Water Filter that Could Get White Off Rice

  14. I love, love, love this post!!! Thank you so much for sharing. I am one that really needed to read this. I am making some changes to my diet, and yes, I feel very overwhelmed. I have already made some of the changes that are listed here, so I’m heading in the right direction.
    Angie Walker´s latest post: STOP EVERYTHING!! Look What I Found!

  15. Lovely post! My two big goals right now are to enjoy more hot cereals in the morning, either fresh oatmeal or a soaked and baked oatmeal treat. I also got a dehydrator for Christmas so I’ve been making dried fruit snacks for the family and trying to learn more about making and preserving dehydrated foods.
    Emily @ Random Recycling´s latest post: How to Make Your Own Yogurt

  16. I was really excited to see that I’m already doing most of the things on your list! One thing I do that you advise against is to start my day off with a bowl of cereal. I have 2 cups of a whole wheat & corn based cereal with skim or 1% milk. It’s a low calorie breakfast, and it’s simple. I’ll have to check into some of the options you suggested to see how they compare calorie-wise to my old standard.

    I’m also going to check out your seasoning recipes. We already make our own cajun and southwest seasonings, and we make our own enchilada sauce, but we haven’t tried to make taco seasoning or pizza seasoning (and we love both). Thanks for those links!
    Tara´s latest post: How to Decorate Around Radiators

    • Tara, I’m actually not very concerned about the calories or fat in food. I eat lots of butter and only use whole milk. I’m a huge believer in whole foods. And from the research I’ve done, fat doesn’t actually make you fat. :-) I’ve found that to be very true as well for myself – I used to eat a low to no fat diet, now I eat plenty of it and when I switched my diet I actually lost weight. And eating fats and protein in the morning is great for both energy and brain function. :-)
      Donielle @ Naturally Knocked Up´s latest post: Homemade Vanilla Extract {recipe}

      • I understand completely where you’re coming from. I’m a huge believer in whole, unprocessed foods myself.

        My personal issue is that I weight 345 pounds. I can’t afford to keep my head in the sand forever, pretending that the pounds don’t matter. I’ve spent a lifetime pretending that I could eat whatever I wanted – a little dessert won’t hurt anything, a dish of ice cream at bedtime should be fine, I made it myself from healthy ingredients so it can’t be bad for me, etc. and it’s led to a lifetime of morbid obesity.

        I have to learn to eat properly, like a normal person. Setting a calorie limit (that’s healthy and based on the USDA guidelines and my body’s need for fuel) and sticking to it has helped me tremendously. I do avoid processed foods for the most part. I use regular butter rather than margarine or some such fake product. I eat mostly whole fruits and vegetables, avoid the center of the grocery store, read labels judiciously, etc. At the same time, I’m okay with reducing the fat in my milk since there’s nothing extra added in to compensate (as with fat free products like cheeses and stuff).

        Having said all that, I am going to look at my day’s calorie distribution. I get very, very tired in the morning, and you’ve got me thinking about whether I could prevent that by changing what I eat for breakfast.
        Tara´s latest post: How to Decorate Around Radiators

        • Tara – I completely understand! And good for you, for taking your health in your own hands! Everybody has to do what’s best for their bodies, and sometimes we need to re-train ourselves to eat after a lifetime of ignoring it.

          Keep up the good work!!
          Donielle @ Naturally Knocked Up´s latest post: What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Say to Someone Who has Lost a Baby

        • Hi Tara,

          It sounds like you’re doing lots of great things to take control of your health. One thing I would watch out for, though, in regards to low fat milk, is that they DO in fact put stuff in them to compensate for the low fat content. In order to make the milk look appetizing to consumers (since it’s basically just murky water they’re trying to sell) they add powdered milk to it, which contains trans-fats because of the processing it undergoes, and trans-fats do greatly contribute to weight gain. Just something to keep in mind! I wish you well on your journey to good health!

  17. I use A LOT of broth in soups, etc. I really want to start making my own, but I love the convenience of canned broth! Is there a way to can broth myself? If so how difficult is it? Has anyone tried it?

    • If you make your own will will be AMAZED at how much better your soups taste!

      You can can your own broth, though I think you need to pressure can it to make sure it’s “safe”. Otherwise you can always freeze it which is what I normally do. Slightly less convenient, but it thaws fairly quickly. :-)
      Donielle @ Naturally Knocked Up´s latest post: Heading to Blissdom

  18. Great list of simple tips, it is the little things that count everyday! I have been living an organic lifestyle for almost 5 years and I can definitely tell when I have to sacrifice and eat unhealthy. I will definitely pass this along to all of my clients.

  19. I completely agree about cereal! I used to eat it every morning and when I stopped, I noticed that I lost weight! I still have a box around for emergencies, but usually we cook steel cut oats on the weekdays and pancakes on Saturdays.
    Sleeping Mama´s latest post: How to get your chores done in double the time

  20. Thanks for putting together a straighforward, informative list. As our family moves toward better eating, I’ve been surprised at how food I used to adore (fast food burgers and fries come to mind) now taste either bland or just plain gross. I am another proponent of homemade broths. They are super-easy and blow canned broths out of the water!
    Rocky´s latest post: Lessons in Lent…A Mom’s Journey (Day 5)

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