What is “Clean Eating” & What To Really Know.
The “clean-eating” craze — which can attribute a lot of its popularity to food photos on social-media is one that’s been bugging us more and more lately, so we feel like it’s time to clarify a few things. Namely: What does “clean eating” really mean, and what should it mean for the majority of people?
First, the phrase “Clean Eating” began with good intentions: It simply used to imply eating lots of whole, real foods — veggies and fruit, whole-grains, animal and plant-based protein, nuts, seeds, and oils.
Clean eating also means that what you eat should be as close to nature as possible — minimally processed, not packaged, or originating from a factory. Cooking at home and finding good ingredients are considered the fundamentals of ‘clean eating’
Examples of ‘Clean’ Foods:
The original concept of clean eating is basically good, and it’s all about getting to know what we put into our bodies. So, if clean eating as a mindset reminds you to read labels, check sources, and understand what’s what about the food you eat, that’s great!
But these days the phrase has taken on a new, misguided meaning. The implication is that if you’re not “eating clean,” what you eat otherwise is dirty or unhygienic, and that’s simply not true.
It has also been attached to a health and lifestyle claim. That is, if you’re not “eating clean,” the reverse is true: You’re probably sloppy, lazy, and making yourself sick.
It’s morphed from a sense of awareness about food into a diet-driven class system. Not only does the phrase establish a hierarchical model for eating well, it’s yet another medium for “food-shaming”.
The piece of this (#clean, #vegan, #glutenfree) clean eating movement is that it totally disregards the lack of access— including a lack of time or money — that many of us face when it comes to finding perfect, farmer’s market fresh food.
Frankly, the clean eating movement has become somewhat elitist. Instead of educating ourselves about food, we’re simply buying into the attempt to be thin (above all else), green-juice loving, yoga-practicing, perfect pictures of health.
The other frustrating thing about “clean eating” is that the phrase misrepresents scientific evidence on food ingredients. More and more marketers refer to their food products as “clean” or having “clean ingredient labels.”
But if your product is 90% full of a trendy version of oil or sugar, it’s still not providing consumers with healthful, educated choices.
For example: Agave syrup is no better for you than any other version of sugar; and cold-pressed juice can still be a concentrated source of sugar (and not very nutritious); and that vegan chocolate pudding is still dessert — not breakfast.
The bottom line is this: There are far too many things that already make many of us feel bad about ourselves. Nobody needs to take on the extra baggage of clean-eating, too.
But in a world with countless claims on products — especially food — it’s hard to know how to make the best choices.
Our Simple Rules For Easier, ‘Cleaner’ Eating:
1. Veg out big time…
Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables! When you can figure out how to make eating more veggies work for you, the obsessing about “clean vs. dirty” becomes irrelevant.
Just find a way that works for you and your family to eat more veggies, and do that. It doesn’t mean “eat veggies only” or “all the time.” It means make more of your meals veggie-based, and the other components of a truly balanced diet will tend to fall into place.
14 of the top nutrient-rich vegetables.
2. Think “transparent” over “clean.”
What’s great about candy is it may not be ideologically aligned with #cleaneating, but it accurately represents itself (no one bought a candy bar thinking it was anything other than a treat!), basically you know what you get when you buy it.
Transparent food labeling essentially means being what it claims to be. Is your candy bar a candy bar, or is it pretending to be an energy bar?! If it’s the latter, put it back and go for the real thing.
The bottom line is to not be sold on crazy claims or the glitz from big brands, know what you are buying and know that some of it comes with longer-term health consequences.
3. Know How To Read Food Labels Better.
We’re not opposed to all processed foods. Technically when we chop, mix and cook at home we are processing foods. The trouble is that so much of processed food at the grocery store is processed beyond the point of recognition.
Nature certainly didn’t color those chips that neon color of orange or make blue candy-colored cereal. Keep an eye out for anything with lots of sugar and refined grains, super-long ingredient lists with foods you don’t recognize and anything with partially hydrogenated oils.
Clean processed foods do exist like plain yogurt, cheese, whole-wheat pasta, and packaged whole-grain breads. And while you can make salad dressings, pasta sauce, mayo, hummus and broth at home you can also find pretty clean versions at the store.
Start understanding how to read the nutrition panels better so you can determine if what you are buying is a good, or not-so-good choice.
A Quick Glance At How To Read Food Labels
4. Stop thinking of all processed food as the enemy.
There definitely are some processed foods to limit consumption of. According to a recent poll, top nutritionists and dietitians were asked what they considered to be the worst processed foods to consume for health, wellness and inflammation management.
But in our busy world, that does not mean all processed foods are horrible or without any nutritional value. The best example: 100% whole-grain bread that is stuffed with – very good for you – 100% whole-grains.
And there are some truly exceptional packaged foods that are doing their part to make it easier and simpler to eat well. Sometimes, we need to eat fish out of a can, take some dried beans or peas on-the-go, or grab a handful of salted, roasted almonds.
When it comes to produce: This also means frozen and conventionally grown veggies are more good for you then not.
5. But Sugar Is Still The Devil!
Most people eat too many added sugars. The American Heart Association recommends no more than about 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men.
The average American gets almost 4 times that amount—22+ teaspoons of added sugar per day. Sugar does so many destructive things in the body, it’s important to always try and limit them when possible.
And it’s more than just desserts—keep an eye on sugars added to healthier foods like yogurt (choose plain), tomato sauce and cereal which have a lot of hidden sugars.
As well, you don’t have to worry as much about naturally occurring sugars in fruit and dairy. They come packaged with fiber, protein or fat to help blunt the effect of sugar on insulin levels. They also deliver nutrients so you’re not just getting empty, sugary calories.
6. Finally If You Want Fries or a Chocolate – Have It!
Sounds counterintuitive to this article, but just remember that indulging is a part of a happy lifestyle. Obsessing about ingredients, reading about eating a “cleaner life,” and checking food labels constantly is not.
It’s basically about balance, eat cleaner most days, the one some days rock out on some indulgent foods a few days, be happy and at peace with your food.
Because really, what is life without a good ole’ burger, a piece of cake, or French Fry once in awhile? The key is balance, and getting smarter overall about what you’re puting in your mouth.