As the clock struck midnight, quite a few of us clinked a glass of champagne and vowed to make a few changes for the new year. And for many, this meant changing how we eat and drink, maybe even shedding some of those unwanted pounds. Among the endless fad diets and apps out there, more and more folks are choosing to just live a healthier life rather than commit to a certain plan. And the ‘clean eating’ trend seems to be catching on.

The commitment to eating and preparing whole foods is focused on delivering healthier bodies and minds. It really is amazing how all the systems in the body are connected. After years of prepping foods for clients, I picked up a few easy-to-follow concepts that can help you keep those clean eating habits:

  • The ‘ingredient list’ test. Let’s put it this way, if you can’t pronounce it, then you probably shouldn’t eat it. As few ingredients as possible is definitely something to look for. As more and more companies start to use the clean label tag line, be sure to check out what you are eating. It isn’t necessarily about going organic but just buying real food.
  • Keeping it local. As you might have noticed, the area’s farmers’ markets are getting busier and busier with new farmers and ranchers popping up each season. Local farmers mean less processing. While it isn’t always easy to get your hands on local produce during the winter, local farmers like Sample Farm, Smith Family Farms and Mahaffey Farms are bringing our area incredible pork, beef, lamb and chicken options year-round. A few years ago, locally raised meat used to give us all sticker shock. But we can all be happy with the affordable and sustainable options places like these and others are now bringing to the table.
  • Produce means progress. One thing you have to love about fruits and veggies in your new, clean eating lifestyle is simplicity. No need for an ingredient label on nature’s bounty. Produce is an integral part of the fibers and vitamins that we need.
  • Whole grains for whole nutrition. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional pasta, bread or dessert. And as a big part of the American diet, grains are hard to cut out cold turkey. But it is always a great idea to work some whole grain options into that routine. The bran and germ of a wheat kernel are packed with fiber and nutrients.
  • Balance, balance, balance. If location is the key to business, a balanced diet is the key to health. I always loved the saying ‘eat the rainbow,’ encouraging us to have all sorts of colors and dishes on a plate. Carbs, proteins, fibers — they all play a crucial role.