Clean eating is all the buzz lately. You may hear that a celebrity has lost their weight from eating clean, or your friend has shed her baby weight following this type of plan, but what does this really mean? There is no clinical definition of this in the nutrition industry, so like many trends, it can be construed in different ways depending on how you interpret it. I’ll let you in on how I define clean eating and maybe that will help you understand the concept a bit more.
In my opinion, eating clean is a lifestyle (not a diet) that means you are eating foods in their most natural state and with the least amount of processing or altering as possible. It means being more mindful of the path your food takes from its original state to your plate. Some take this to extremes by recommending an all raw food diet. I don’t go that far but I do recommend limiting most, if not all of the following from your daily meals (the best that you can).
• Artificial sweeteners
• Food dyes
• Trans and saturated fats (usually found in packaged cakes, cookies, muffins and the like, as well as fried foods)
• Ingredients on the food label you cannot pronounce (count on it being man made or high in chemicals)
• Produce highest in pesticides, i.e. the “dirty dozen” (celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, kale, cherries, potatoes, grapes)
• Foods with GMO’s (genetically modified organisms). Recently, more food labels are showing if their ingredients are GMO-free (mostly corn and soy are highly GMO’s).
• Highly processed foods, which usually have additions of any kind — everything from salt, sugar, and fat to aid flavor and mouthfeel, to preservatives that keep food from spoiling too quickly, to the vitamins enriching everything from beverages to breakfast cereal.
Trying instead to eat:
• Fresh fruits and vegetables
• Dried legumes
• Farm-fresh eggs
Minimally processed foods like:
• Unrefined grains, like whole wheat bread and pasta, popcorn, steel-cut oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice
• Frozen fruits and vegetables
• Unprocessed meat; wild over pastured, pastured over grain-fed
• Hormone-free dairy
Pesticide-free organic food is preferable to avoid consuming added hormones or chemicals, but it may not always be realistic for you and your family. Plus, depending on your budget and access to these foods, eating clean can be quite difficult to fully adopt. Do your best and try to strive for this as much as possible and hopefully one day our food industry will make it easier for ALL to eat clean by “cleaning” up the junk that’s out there. It’s also important to note that eating clean doesn’t give you free reign to eat endless quantities. They may be healthy, but they still have calories!