With spring in full swing, many of us are cleaning out our closets and getting rid of clutter. Don’t forget to also  “spring clean” your health and get back on track with eating healthier and getting your body ready for summer vacations!

When I think of clean eating, I immediately think of the Paleo diet. There is a lot of talk about this popular diet, but is it just another food fad? In case you haven’t heard, the Paleo diet focuses on eating what our pre-agricultural and hunter-gatherer ancestors primarily ate – meats, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats that you can get from nuts, seeds and oils like coconut and olive oil.  People who eat paleo are not allowed to eat processed foods like refined grains (even whole grains) sugar, dairy or starchy vegetables like potatoes. The Paleo diet is high in protein, potassium, fiber and vitamins and minerals.

While the Paleo diet has many health benefits including weight loss, lowering your blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, I am not saying that this diet is for everyone. After working as a physical therapist and owning various culinary businesses, I know that everyone’s bodies respond differently to food and they need different diets. However, we all need the same basic nutrients, we just might have to get them in different forms. Even if you don’t strictly follow the Paleo diet, here are some ways you can eat clean using Paleo principles:

Limit Your Carbs – The Paleo diet restricts grains, and while this might be a little extreme, it wouldn’t hurt to eat less refined grains. After all, refined grains spike our blood sugar and lead to weight gain since they’re high in calories.

Eat More Vegetables – This is kind of a no brainer, but do you make it a priority to include vegetables in each of your meals? If not, it’s time to visit the farmer’s market!

Eat Low-Glycemic Fruits – We all tend to assume that if we’re eating fruit, we’re eating healthy. While fruit is certainly healthier than making a stop at the doughnut sugar is sugar no matter what form you get it in. Some low glycemic fruits you can have include cherries, grapefruit, pears, apples, oranges, plums, strawberries, peaches and grapes.

Limit Processed Food – A lot of the chronic disease and health problems we experience as Americans, is a result of eating processed foods. While eating meat is allowed on the Paleo diet, eating highly-processed meats like spam or hot dogs is highly discouraged. If you see that your grocery list contains mostly boxed and packaged food, you probably need to spend more time in the produce aisle and take it back to the basics.

Consume Healthier Fats – Toss out all of your refined vegetable oils and try cooking with olive oil or making baked goods with coconut oil.

Snack on Nuts – In small quantities, nuts can be a great clean eating option, but be mindful of how much you are consuming. Some nuts, like cashews are higher in fat and the key here is               moderation. If you do snack on nuts, make sure they are unsalted or lightly salted. It is best to eat them raw in their natural form.

The Paleo diet certainly isn’t THE diet, but it teaches us to eat more produce and stay away from the processed foods that are all too often in our fridges and pantries. The key to eating clean is eating simple and going back to the basics and what Mother Nature has freely given us.

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