6 Simple Steps to Get You Started on the Path to Clean Living

Grocery shoppingA lifestyle change can be hard. If you try to change too much too soon, you’re likely to give up. Big, sudden changes, like restrictive fad diets, are usually doomed to failure. If you’ve been thinking about a switch to clean living, but feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, try making these small changes to your lifestyle. Take them one at a time, and go slowly. Remember that even the smallest step is a step toward better health.

1. Start reading labels

Instead of just tossing food into your shopping cart, take a look at the ingredients label. You’re likely to be surprised by what you see: dextrose (sugar) in cold cuts, high-fructose corn syrup in yogurt, or added salt in your “heart healthy” cereal. You may already compare different brands to get the best price. Now, try comparing brands to find which have the healthiest ingredients.

2. Buy fewer processed foods

You don’t have to bake bread from scratch, but there are probably at least a few processed items that you can replace with natural ones. Instead of fruit rolls or canned fruit in syrup, why not buy fresh fruit? Instead of processed, microwaveable oatmeal with added salt, sugar and artificial flavoring, buy a bag of plain oatmeal and add your own fruit or spices. You won’t just be healthier; you’ll save money, too.

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3. Wean yourself off sugar

Sugar, particularly high fructose corn syrup, can be found in so many processed foods that it can be very easy to get used to the taste, to the point where sweet becomes normal, and natural, unsweetened food tastes bland.

In fact, you can even become addicted to sugar. Food companies know this, and know that adding sugar to their foods will make you want to keep buying them.

Try adding less sugar to your coffee, and try drinking water instead of soda or sugary fruit drinks. Instead of fruit juice, eat fresh fruit. The sugar is less concentrated and the fiber in fruit will make you digest the sugar more slowly.

Avoid processed foods labeled sugar-free, as these often contain unhealthy artificial sweeteners and won’t help you get rid of your sweet tooth.

4. Try organic

It’s true that organic food can sometimes be harder to find and might cost a little more than non-organic. Nevertheless, because of their health benefits, organic foods can definitely be worth the extra trouble and expense.

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The USDA says that certified organic produce must be grown on soil without most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Organic meat must come from animals that were allowed to graze naturally, were given 100% organic feed and forage and never received hormones or antibiotics. Processed foods that are certified organic can’t have artificial preservatives, colors or flavors.

Try replacing one of your usual food items with an organic version. For example, buy organic, free range eggs instead of eggs from caged chickens. A small change like that will make you healthier without putting much of a strain on your wallet.

5. Change your home cleaning routine

Advertisements for cleaning products constantly tell you how important it is to have bacteria-destroying chemicals, like bleach and ammonia, in your cleaning products. Well, those chemicals aren’t just toxic to bacteria; they’re toxic to you.

Commercial cleaning products often contain other harmful chemicals too, like DEA, TEA, 2-butoxyethanol and 1,4-dioxane.

When you run out of your favorite cleaner, don’t replace it. Switch to a natural alternative like vinegar, baking soda or lavender essential oil.

Above all, try to avoid germ phobia. The overuse of disinfectants could be causing an increase in allergies and dangerous, antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

6. Move more

You probably don’t have to be told about the benefits of exercise. It can release toxins, help you lose weight, give you more energy and protect you from heart disease. If you try starting a very intense exercise program, however, you might be committing yourself to too much, too soon.

If you’ve never exercised before, a plan to spend two hours at the gym every day or to train for a half marathon can end up with you giving up, exhausted and on the couch before you’ve barely begun.

It’s much better to start slowly. Get used to moving just a little more than you usually do. Walk instead of taking the elevator. Instead of driving, walk to the shop. Get off at the bus stop before your usual one and walk the rest of the way. You’ll gradually build up strength and endurance so you can work your way up to a more vigorous exercise routine.

Additional sources:

The Dirty Truth About Allergies, New Scientist

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food, New York Times Magazine

Organic 101: What the USDA Organic Label Means, USDA

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