If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight, or just to eat “better” you might want to consider looking into the concept of “clean eating”.
Although eating clean works to lose weight, it’s not really a “diet” in the usual sense of the word. Clean eating is a lifestyle and way of eating that is medically very sound. It’s getting rid of the junk food, eating often enough to maintain your energy and “shopping the periphery” of the grocery store. (Think about it – the food being sold on the periphery of the grocery store is mostly non-processed.)
Everyone has had the (horrible) experience during a call day of not eating anything all day, having a big meal in the evening (often McDonald’s or an equivalent) and then being brain-dead from lethargy for 2-3 hours. In addition to helping you control your weight (and preventing weight gain during medical school and residency), “eating clean” will prevent the on-call lethargy you get from eating junk food and can give you sustained energy during long work days.
How to Eat Clean
1. Eat 5-6 small meals a day: breakfast, lunch, dinner and 2-3 snacks – and don’t skip meals! This means taking a cooler with you to work and/or having choices like meal replacement bars in your pocket. It’s important to eat every 3-4 hours to keep your insulin levels (and energy levels) from waxing and waning too much. It’s really important to never skip breakfast!
3. Minimize or (preferably) completely eliminate processed food, soft drinks and alcohol.
4. Eat fruits and/or vegetables at every meal.
5. Eat a serving (about the size of your palm) of lean meat, chicken or fish at (almost) every meal. Vegetarian options are fine, too (beans, tofu, etc).
6. Read labels. Try to avoid foods with white flour, sugar and sugar substitutes, saturated fats and trans-fats.
7. Take good snacks (like premeasured servings of nuts) with you to work so you don’t get tempted by vending machines and breakroom junk food.
8. Don’t beat yourself up if you cheat – in fact, you’ll probably need to have a cheat day (on purpose) every once in a while. But recognize it’s a cheat day and not a permanent change from your new way of eating.
9. Keep things interesting by checking out recipes and cooking for yourself. You can subscribe to Clean Eating Magazine or at least pick up an issue to check it out. The Diet Rebels Cookbook: Eating Clean and Green, Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source with More Than 200 Recipes for a Healthy and Sustainable You and Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean Cookbook: Delicious Recipes That Will Burn Fat and Re-Shape Your Body! are cookbooks with good recipes for clean eating. Here’s some websites with recipes, too: cleaneatingonline, cleaneatingclub, eatcleandiet, cleaneatingmag