Are you trading food convenience for needed nutrition? If so, it's time to understand the damage you are creating within your body.

Clean eating, although a simple, straight forward concept, is one of the keys to stellar health. However, it can be challenging to actually put "clean eating" into practice if you have not first put a plan in place to implement it and follow through.

After all, when hunger strikes, it's way too easy to grab that box of prepared processed foods that can be on the table in minutes as opposed to creating a healthy, nutrient dense meal that takes time and love to prepare.

Prepackaged, processed food items may be a convenience in the "moment" but they are full of sodium, calories, fat and sugar along with a multitude of nasty chemicals that eventually disrupt the body's hormone balance and cause overweight conditions.

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Is it really worth damaging your hormones (that regulate all systems within the body) to save a bit of time? Is trading your health really worth that momentary convenience?

The reality is, clean eating cannot be accomplished unless you begin cooking your own meals at home or have someone else doing this for you. While cooking meals from scratch may take a little more of your time in the kitchen planning and cooking healthy meals, the trade-off is that your body gets more vitamins, enzymes and nutrients from the food you eat. In other words, the money spent has been put to good use.

When you cook with fresh, whole foods and high quality ingredients, you'll need less to satisfy you and therefore you'll consume fewer calories. Getty Images
When you cook with fresh, whole foods and high quality ingredients, you'll need less to satisfy you and therefore you'll consume fewer calories. Getty Images

On the other hand, spending your hard-earned money on convenience foods is like throwing it away. These foods may fill you up in the moment but your body received little if any of the nutrients it requires to stay healthy and will likely be sending you a "hunger" notice very soon after, causing you to eat again. In truth, your body is actually begging for nutrients – not more food.

Eating processed foods that do not fulfil your nutrient requirements causes you to be hungrier sooner. Unfortunately, you'll find yourself reaching for more of the same type of "nutrient void" foods. A very damaging cycle to find yourself in.

On the other hand, when you cook with fresh, whole foods and high quality ingredients, you'll need less to satisfy you and therefore you'll consume fewer calories. This helps you lose weight, not gain it, a sweet bonus.

When you plan your meals ahead of time, you can cook up a big pot of your favorite stew or soup and split it up into individual meal portions. Simply freeze the extra and on days that you cannot or don't feel up to cooking you'll have the option of taking one of these portions from the freezer to the table in minutes.

You'll have a healthy meal that required little to no preparation and the power to steer clear of quick prepackaged convenience foods.

Processed, convenience foods are laced with unnatural chemicals designed to tickle your taste buds – never mind the fact that they cause heart disease, diabetes or overweight conditions. Honestly, it's downright dangerous to put your health in other people's hands. They are not concerned about your health. Their only concern is the bottom dollar so it must taste good to keep you buying it.

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Although it is an adjustment, don't believe for a second that "clean eating" translates to boring eating. Creative cooks use fresh and dried herbs and spices, marinades and other natural flavours to make their meals more interesting and tasty to the palate.

Once you give it a go, you'll likely be pleasantly surprised at the healthy, good tasting choices you can create with healthy ingredients and a little imagination. Like most things, the more you do it, the better you will become.

Initially as you make the switch to healthy "clean eating" your taste buds will go through a withdrawal of sorts as nothing will seem to provide you the same type flavours those pretty prepackaged, unnaturally flavoured, chemically laden foods do.

They have tickled your taste buds for a long time but if you persevere and keep trying healthy choices, your taste buds will adapt and adjust and start to appreciate the natural flavours of whole foods as opposed to chemical additives.

Once you've adapted and have a taste for natural, fresh flavours, your body will beg you for them.

Creating nutritional rules and boundaries does not mean you are creating more rules to break. The rules of clean eating must be kept simple. They are based on a combination of structure and flexibility so you can live with the concept long term.

Healthy "clean eating" is not only good for the health of your body, it's equally good for the mind. Knowing that you are eating healthier makes you feel good about yourself and feeling good about yourself breeds confidence and self-esteem.

This is the cycle you want to find yourself in.

■ Carolyn Hansen is co-owner of Anytime Fitness