The biggest inroad for lasting change on the food front is to set yourself up for success at home so that you can enjoy a little more flexibility out on the town. The easiest way to set yourself up for success is to give your kitchen a makeover, beginning with the fridge. No doubt yours contains many jars that have been developing their own special patina over the years. If it would make Marie Kondo gasp in horror, toss it. For the rest, see my tips below for removing the items that will not bring your body much joy and replacing them with ingredients that will fuel your health for the year to come.
Toss or give away:
Some of the biggest hotbeds of added sugar are the store-bought condiments lining the inside of your refrigerator wall. Ketchup and seasoned marinades are among the biggest violators. Salad dressings also contain many preservatives, binders, and thickeners, including gluten. As the first step of your fridge detox, look at the back of all your packaged goods and toss anything with significant sugar content or a bunch of chemicals on the ingredient list that you can't pronounce.
Yogurt is a great source of protein and probiotic bacteria for your gut. But single-serve cups with fruit mixed in—even organic varieties—often have large amounts of sugar and very little fiber to justify the addition. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Choosing a low-sugar, high-fiber option will keep you fuller for longer and set you up for fewer cravings.
Conventional cow's milk
Eliminating unwanted hormones and antibiotics from the animal products you eat should be top of your list of healthy eating goals for 2017. Switch your milk to organic, or find another option below.
"Low-fat" anything, particularly cheese and dairy
Studies have shown that full-fat dairy has better effects on insulin than low fat versions. During the low-fat trend of the '90s and early '00s, many food manufacturers replaced the fat they removed from foods with sugar and carbohydrates, both of which increases the risk of diabetes. In general, try not to buy any "altered" foods. Whole milk, full-fat yogurt, non-processed cheese (the block, versus shredded bags) are going to better control your appetite and have fewer stabilizers and additives.
Per the above, it's high time we all left egg-white omelets behind with the passing years. Those runny yolks, in addition to being an Instagram gold mine, are also the best source of choline, an essential nutrient for women during childbearing years. Just one egg gets you to the halfway point of the daily recommended intake—the equivalent of a whole head of cauliflower. Don't artificially remove the most nutritious part!
Processed meat products like sausage, salami, and sliced ham or turkey have been classified by the World Health Organization as carcinogens. If you must have your Sunday bacon fix—and trust me, I get it—make sure you choose a brand that contains no nitrates or sugar.
Soda and fruit juices
So much of our sugar intake comes in liquid form. Even "healthy" drinks like coconut water, organic sweetened teas, and many packaged juices often take up the majority of our daily quota. Get these out of the house pronto and focus on drinking half your body weight in ounces of water every day.
You can extend this to all empty carbs. Without any fiber, bleached, processed carbohydrates wreak just as much havoc on your blood sugar levels as straight sugar. Also, you may be thinking: Why the heck would I store bread in the fridge? It helps it stay fresh longer, especially once you switch to alternative grains.
Stock your fridge with:
Raw honey and maple syrup
My favorite natural sweetener is raw honey. It was used in ancient remedies for its anti-inflammatory and antifungal qualities. If you're craving something sweet, try using Manuka honey, which is native to New Zealand and minimally processed, in place of refined sugars. It's criminally expensive, but that's even more reason to use it sparingly. Just remember not to heat it if you want to retain the honey's medicinal qualities. I use it primarily stirred into my tea once it's cooled slightly and as a little extra sweetness in overnight oats, smoothies, and on yogurt. Keep a cheaper bottle of honey or maple syrup around for more indulgent baking.
Plain full-fat Greek yogurt
If you're new to the flavor of plain yogurt, the tang may take some getting used to. But by starting with unflavored Greek yogurt, you have full control over how much sweetness to add and can slowly wean yourself off of sugar. Stir in a little raw honey and top your morning bowl with homemade granola.
There is a whole new world of packaged nut and seeds milks on the market to take the place of your usual splash of cow's milk in your morning coffee. Almond, hemp, and oat milk add their own unique flavor and are also wonderful for baking.
Sheep and goat's milk cheeses
Cutting down on dairy is an ideal progression on the clean-eating front. But if you must have that melty cheesy goodness in your life, goat and sheep's milk tend to have less lactose, meaning they're easier to digest. Aging also reduces lactose content, so when I'm going for broke at the cheese counter I try to stick with a hard, sharp pecorino or Manchego. For the soft cheeses, opt for goat or a Greek feta (usually made with a mixture of cow and goat).
Fresh farmers market eggs are worth their price in their gold color alone. The amber yolks that spill out over your plate are so different from store-bought eggs that usually are a few weeks old when they reach your fridge. If you can't shop at a local farmers market, make sure to look for free range on the cartons at the supermarket. If the eggs are a range of colors and textures, even better.
Organic rotisserie chicken and frozen veggie burgers
If you need quick-fix lunch options, swap your usual deli meats for prepared organic veggie burgers, or, even better, a homemade version like these cauliflower sweet potato patties. Rotisserie chickens are way less processed than anything sliced at the counter, and they give you a lot more freedom to get creative with your lunch. If your local store doesn't roast organic chickens, it's very easy to slow-roast one of your own in the oven at home, like in this recipe.
Removing soda and sweetened drinks from your life might leave you wanting a little flavor in your daily H20. Fresh lemon juice is one of nature's secret weapons. The antiseptic nature can actually act as a solvent for toxins, and though it makes zero sense on paper, when added to water, what should be an acidic substance instead becomes alkaline.
For more of that soda feel, this bubbly probiotic tea is your best bet. It has a subtle sweetness without having a high sugar content. And you get the added bonus of lots of good bacteria for your gut.
Whole grain or super-seedy bread
Going fully carb-free may be a big leap, and depending on your dietary needs, not one that's entirely necessary. The key is to choose bread that has lots of fiber and no added junk like vital wheat gluten, which is often added to conventional whole wheat bread to make the dough more elastic. Authentic sourdough bread, like the type you buy at the farmers market, uses starter cultures that actually digest the gluten content of wheat for you. For a fully gluten-free bread, there are a lot of whole grain varieties. Just make sure to read the ingredient label and choose the simplest option possible.