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What It Means To Eat Clean


By +Carolyn Richardson on Aug 15, 2012 10:00 AM in Healthy Eating

"Eating clean" is one of the newest buzz phrases in the nutrition industry. You may have heard about it from a celebrity interview, or a friend trying to lose weight, but you may still be a bit confused about what exactly it means to eat clean. It's not a fad diet, but more a way of eating healthier in the face of the typical American diet with its excessive amount of processed foods, added sugars, sodium and saturated fats. Like locavores, those who eat clean are focused on the food itself as opposed to how much they eat. While locavores focus on how far away their food comes from, those who eat clean generally stick to minimizing their intake of processed foods and lower or eliminate foods with added sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats.

Clean Food

Fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, nuts, eggs, dairy, and whole grains are all a go on a clean diet, but keep in mind that keeping these clean is hard these days. With sweetened fruit, processed meat, margarine, and tortillas made with refined grains it's not as easy to eat clean as you may think. Some stick to organic fruits and vegetables and grass-fed beef, but it's not required. If you go beyond the produce section, staying within an eating clean plan means avoiding chemical based-preservatives, food coloring, trans fats, and artificial sweeteners. It also means skipping the sweetened nuts container for the bag of raw nuts. Because solid fats and added sugar make up 35% of the average American's daily caloric intake, making this switch could help you lose pounds.

Dirty Food

Eating clean does not restrict specific foods per se, but making the switch means exchanging some pantry staples for their healthier cousins. Refined grains such as white bread, white rice, and white pasta are considered "dirty" foods. Their eat-clean equivalents are 100% whole grain bread, brown rice, and 100% whole grain pasta. The increase in fiber that will result from skipping refined grains could help you reach the 25-38 grams of fiber you should be getting in your diet every day. Processed foods are obviously on the dirty list for a number of reasons including unnatural preservatives, added sugar, excessive sodium, and saturated or trans fat content. To go clean with processed foods like cookies, pancakes, and other desserts, the use of natural sweeteners, such as brown rice syrup is exchanged for regular sugar, and whole grain flour such as white whole wheat flour is exchanged for regular flour.

Eating Out

Eating clean while eating out may be a bit more difficult, but it's mostly the same game you'd play in the grocery store. Stick to salsa on meat dishes, as opposed to the special sauces you may never find an ingredient list for. Also skip soups to avoid the added salt and sweetened beverages to steer clear of the added sugar. Mix and match the side orders the restaurant offers if a certain dish has a processed option you'd rather not have. If that means exchanging the ranch salad dressing on a specific salad for a basic vinaigrette, or nixing the candied pecans for slivered almonds so be it. Of course fried foods should be left off the table.

A Break from Clean

Eating clean can feel like a strict diet if you don't allow yourself some leeway every once in a while. Some clean eaters allow a little wiggle room for processed foods that have five ingredients or less. Others apply the 80/20 rule, sticking to a mostly clean plate 5 to 6 days a week but allowing a few meals to enjoy that little something something that's solely for your eating pleasure.

Check out a sample Clean Eating Meal Plan. Also, here's a set of shopping lists from Clean Eating magazine.

 

Your thoughts...

How "clean" is your diet? What "dirty" foods are hard to give up?



Comments


"Clean eating" is one of the most vague concepts out there.  Some people take it to mean organic, grass fed, free range, etc.. and don't allow any processed food in their diet.   Clean eating is old news and a great way to become obsessive compulsive about food.  It's an eating disorder waiting to happen.



I have been eating clean for the past 2 years.  This along with exercise has helped to lose and maintain a 100 lb weight loss.  My basic rule is to eat healthy foods 6-7 times per day.  Here's a typical day for me:

Breakfast: 2 eggs fried in a table spoon of olive oil, 1 piece of Ezekiel Toast, 6 cherry tomatoes, black coffee

Snack: 1/4 cup of raw almonds and water

Lunch: Chicken Stir Fry and Brown Rice, 1 apple, and water

Snack: Greek Yogurt

Dinner: Grilled Salmon, green beans, whole wheat pasta and marinara, and water

Snack: Chocolate and banana Shakeology smoothie

One the keys I have found is observe how you feel after you have eaten something,  if you feel sluggish or without energy then it was probably not the right fuel for your body.



This program has been really working for me. Of course, I'm adapting it to my needs but this is what I'm doing: 

1) The 80/20 rule: This means about 6 days a month I eat indulge in treats or dinners out. I try to never have two days in a row -- hard on vacations! 

2) The timing: I eat 5-6 smaller meals of 200-300 calories each. I was worried that a small dinner would be a problem but when I've eaten a 200 calorie snack before and I can eat later if I'm hungry, a smaller dinner has been easy. I'm following standard portion sizes and trying to eat slower. 

3) Food combinations: I eat protein, fat, and complex carbs with each meal/snack. 

4) Exercise: Getting at least half and hour a day with weight training 3x a week.

5) No processed food:  I don't agree with the number of ingredients rule because it totally depends on what the ingredients are. But generally I'm only eating whole foods and the least processed option of the food I want. I'm not giving up ketchup or peanut butter yet but I'm finding I need these less and less. 

 

Results? Eating this way is very satisfying. I have been using calorie count for a long time and usually had a hard time staying under 2000 calories to hit all the targets but with this plan I get enough protein with about 1500 calories a day. I haven't craved junk food. Eating fat, protein, and carbs with each meal is the key to not immediately feeling hungry an hour later. The biggest challenge is staying prepared with lots of food options to toss into the lunch bag.

I've read the book and my advice is stick to the basic principles and adapt to your needs. 



This is definitely not new! I first read about it in Bob Anderson"s book STRETCHING, published in 1975, but I'm sure it wasn't new then either.

Can't wait for the "nutrition industry" to embrace "eat less, exercise more."


I have been effortlessly (well most of the time) eating this way for 1 year now. Lost 35 pounds and am watching my body shape continue to lean out almost weekly!  I am so happy I chose this path as opposed to the chemical laden "diet" foods out there. 



Oh and btw, I don't eat less, just differently.  Read the ingredients and make a choice.



According to the following link about food additives (colorings, flavoring and preservatives), there are over 300 of them.

http://www.sustainabletable.org/issues/additives/ 

I never paid much attention to them until I ate to much of a food that had maltitol (a sugar alcohol) in it and ended up in the emergency room with severe stomach pains.

A friend of mine also has to be careful what she eats because some additives cause migraines for her.

 I try to eat clean.  I don’t feel I’m obsessive about it ( I do eat out now and then and don’t worry about it), but I’m not sure eating all those chemicals are so good for you.   

Take a look at a box of stuffing mix.  The ingredients cover the entire side of the box.  And most of them I can’t even pronounce.  The last box I saw had a must use date 3 years off.  Real food does not last that long.  Something is wrong with that picture.



this was a terrific art


**


To me, "eating clean" is what I have always done - I do most of my cooking from scratch.  I've also started sacrificing other areas of spending to be able to afford more local meats and organic produce, and I have started doing some canning and freezing of the produce I buy at the farmer's market. I've also been growing a garden the last few years, and I don't need to buy a lot of my vegetables in the summer.

We have to know where our food comes from and how it's treated. It's going to bite us back eventually if we don't.



Have followed "clean eating" principals for years including whole grain breads, pastas etc.  Here is the KICKER:  I just finished reading a book by a cardiologist by the name of William Davis,  the book name is WHEAT BELLY.  Quite frankly the book scared the ---- out of me.  His theory is that wheat today is not what wheat was 20 years ago and large agriculture has cultivated a "wheat" strain that is causing massive health problems including heart disease, insulin resistance, seizures and on and on.  Is there a nutritionist or doctor out there that could comment on this book because I do not have the science background to understand fully what this guy is saying.  BUT it sure sounds scary and to eliminate wheat completely and the other things he suggests to avoid is for me psychologically impossible.  Any Comments???



Of course it's better to eat clean.  We all know what is healthy and what isn't so healthy.  Now, I make healthy choices about half the time, which is a LOT better than I used to be!  No more Pop Tarts for me--unless I'm really really craving one. 

mikacasey Sounds like you're talking about my plan!!!  I talk about eating half meals, which is basically what you're doing, but without having to prepare a bunch of different meals all day.  Also, a lot less time working out...about 15 minutes or so 3 to 4 times a week.  It's all I have time and energy for.

jamesnick "eat less exercise more."  Brilliant in it's simplicity, isn't it?

kabijo Actually, eating less is a much better philosophy than simply eating a lot of big healthy food meals.  Getting used to small meals like mikacasey is great because, suppose you CAN'T eat your whole grain nuggets and non-fat chunky tofu meat chunks...all that's available is a *gasp!* NORMAL SLICE OF PIZZA!  AHH!  Instead of eating a lot to fill up, you just have a slice and you're stuffed.  Eating small meals you will always end up eating less BAD food.  Logical, right?

Finally, I truly am getting tired of the PASTA and BREAD bashing!  These articles make it seem like you're going to take 10 years off of your life AND hurt orphans if you have a slice of bread with a pat of real butter on it.

Jim

Eat less, move more, hydrate - then enjoy your day!



I am also curious about the "wheat demon" and wonder if it's true?  I do believe in the clean eating principal but also agree it's not new.  It's the way my mom always fed our family.

 



Turnpenny -- You will find nutritionists weigh in on all sides of this issue all of them adament about their viewpoint. I (not a nutritionist) think that there's not one solution that fits everyone. You should know from your own body reactions whether wheat is a problem for you. If you have been "clean eating" and your levels are healthy and you don't feel sluggish then you should be fine. If not, try cutting back on wheat and see if it makes a difference. We can drive ourselves insane trying to eliminate every toxin out there but if the stress of it is worse than any dietary or environmental changes we make then what's the point? We cannot ignore the psychological and social implications of extreme diets either. As other people have commented, the idea of "clean eating" is not new and the concept of eliminating processed food is consistent among almost all the diet advice out there, as is the 80/20 rule so our healthy eating lifestyles are socially sustainable. As for whether wheat and grains are causing health problems for you, I think you have to decide that for yourself. 



Original Post by: jimmyloram

Of course it's better to eat clean.  We all know what is healthy and what isn't so healthy.  Now, I make healthy choices about half the time, which is a LOT better than I used to be!  No more Pop Tarts for me--unless I'm really really craving one. 

mikacasey Sounds like you're talking about my plan!!!  I talk about eating half meals, which is basically what you're doing, but without having to prepare a bunch of different meals all day.  Also, a lot less time working out...about 15 minutes or so 3 to 4 times a week.  It's all I have time and energy for.

jamesnick "eat less exercise more."  Brilliant in it's simplicity, isn't it?

kabijo Actually, eating less is a much better philosophy than simply eating a lot of big healthy food meals.  Getting used to small meals like mikacasey is great because, suppose you CAN'T eat your whole grain nuggets and non-fat chunky tofu meat chunks...all that's available is a *gasp!* NORMAL SLICE OF PIZZA!  AHH!  Instead of eating a lot to fill up, you just have a slice and you're stuffed.  Eating small meals you will always end up eating less BAD food.  Logical, right?

Finally, I truly am getting tired of the PASTA and BREAD bashing!  These articles make it seem like you're going to take 10 years off of your life AND hurt orphans if you have a slice of bread with a pat of real butter on it.

Jim

Eat less, move more, hydrate - then enjoy your day!


I just wanted to say that it is "psychologically possible" to not eat wheat. I have eaten NO GRAIN, NO LEGUMES, NO SUGAR, AND NO PROCESSED FOODS for about 10 months now and I feel great! I have lost weight and gained energy.... I will eat primal (clean) for the rest of my life and I love it.



the "wheat demon"   You're on to something, my friend.   Eliminating wheat has changed my life and helped to lose weight and keep it off. 

 



"Eating clean" is a very vague term. It can mean organic, fat free, high protein, low carb, paleo, vegan, etc.



I've been working at "eating clean" since last February and have lost 25 pounds in the process. I have a little app on my iPhone that helps a lot in the supermarket. It's call "Fooducate." It scans the product bar code, rates the product and tells you why it's good or bad. I try to stick to organic wherever possible, and like celestial 95, eliminating the "wheat demon" has left me feeling much better.



Original Post by: christi462

Original Post by: jimmyloram

Of course it's better to eat clean.  We all know what is healthy and what isn't so healthy.  Now, I make healthy choices about half the time, which is a LOT better than I used to be!  No more Pop Tarts for me--unless I'm really really craving one. 

mikacasey Sounds like you're talking about my plan!!!  I talk about eating half meals, which is basically what you're doing, but without having to prepare a bunch of different meals all day.  Also, a lot less time working out...about 15 minutes or so 3 to 4 times a week.  It's all I have time and energy for.

jamesnick "eat less exercise more."  Brilliant in it's simplicity, isn't it?

kabijo Actually, eating less is a much better philosophy than simply eating a lot of big healthy food meals.  Getting used to small meals like mikacasey is great because, suppose you CAN'T eat your whole grain nuggets and non-fat chunky tofu meat chunks...all that's available is a *gasp!* NORMAL SLICE OF PIZZA!  AHH!  Instead of eating a lot to fill up, you just have a slice and you're stuffed.  Eating small meals you will always end up eating less BAD food.  Logical, right?

Finally, I truly am getting tired of the PASTA and BREAD bashing!  These articles make it seem like you're going to take 10 years off of your life AND hurt orphans if you have a slice of bread with a pat of real butter on it.

Jim

Eat less, move more, hydrate - then enjoy your day!


I just wanted to say that it is "psychologically possible" to not eat wheat. I have eaten NO GRAIN, NO LEGUMES, NO SUGAR, AND NO PROCESSED FOODS for about 10 months now and I feel great! I have lost weight and gained energy.... I will eat primal (clean) for the rest of my life and I love it.


Hi christi462,

I agree, it is possible...I'm not sure about the "psychological" part, but the actual physical act of NOT eating wheat, sure!  I'm glad you are able to make that choice for you.

My choice is, if I'm out with friends and there's a yummy spinach, garlic, and sausage personal pizza that I want, I'm free to enjoy it.  Of course, I'm only eating half of it because I'll be too full, I'm sure, to eat the whole thing!

I make this incredible garlic bread with mozzarella, asagio, green onions, real butter, and WHITE french bread...My one slice of that is such a treat...and then I move on to the rest of my half meal.

So, I eat WHATEVER I want, I just eat less of it.  Do I always make the best choices?  Nope.  Do I feel guilty about it.  Nope.  

I realized, for myself, that sugar, bread, legumes, or even processed foods didn't make me fat.  ME eating TOO MUCH of it did.  

Congrats on your success!  Keep it up!

Jim ~ 

The Half Meal Habit



I am doing my best to eat raw foods which are mainly fruits and veggies. I do snack on almonds. I allow myself ONE full cheat day (or 3 cheat meals throughout the week). Its been hard to do but still sticking with it! I have to admit, Id love to have an Oreo cookie!!!



I've been eating clean for over a year and lost 93 lbs. I still have 40 to go, but I feel great and all my "numbers" are where they should be - my doctor is extremely happy. 

To me, eating clean means I'm shopping the perimeter of the store, little to no processed foods, organic meat, dairy, fruits and veggies when I can, and grains like Ezekiel. 

I eat 1400 calories a day, spread out over 5 meals including 2 snacks. I also do a mix of cardio and strength training 4-5 days a week. I'd love for that to be more, but it just doesn't work for me right now.

I feel the best I've ever felt (I'm 59 1/2), and can't wait to start my 60's next year in the best shape I've been in since high school.  



Turnpenny -

There is also a book that I believe may be similar is called The Paleo Solution by Rob Wolf? He touches on the same subjects saying that the commercially mass-produced grains of the modern culture are not anything like they used to be and he takes a few steps further to explain how mankind survived on real actual clean eating before grains ever came onto the scene. it's an interesting fact and has changed my thinking completely. while I avoid most grains I do allow myself to have corn but this does not include corn syrup or any processed corn products although tortilla chips are one thing I occasionally indulge in. But primarily for the carb factor of corn as well as any other grain? I completely avoid it all as much as possible and I feel so much better! I have lost 25 pounds this year because of this!


Original Post by: jimmyloram

Of course it's better to eat clean.  We all know what is healthy and what isn't so healthy.  Now, I make healthy choices about half the time, which is a LOT better than I used to be!  No more Pop Tarts for me--unless I'm really really craving one. 

mikacasey Sounds like you're talking about my plan!!!  I talk about eating half meals, which is basically what you're doing, but without having to prepare a bunch of different meals all day.  Also, a lot less time working out...about 15 minutes or so 3 to 4 times a week.  It's all I have time and energy for.

jamesnick "eat less exercise more."  Brilliant in it's simplicity, isn't it?

kabijo Actually, eating less is a much better philosophy than simply eating a lot of big healthy food meals.  Getting used to small meals like mikacasey is great because, suppose you CAN'T eat your whole grain nuggets and non-fat chunky tofu meat chunks...all that's available is a *gasp!* NORMAL SLICE OF PIZZA!  AHH!  Instead of eating a lot to fill up, you just have a slice and you're stuffed.  Eating small meals you will always end up eating less BAD food.  Logical, right?

Finally, I truly am getting tired of the PASTA and BREAD bashing!  These articles make it seem like you're going to take 10 years off of your life AND hurt orphans if you have a slice of bread with a pat of real butter on it.

Jim

Eat less, move more, hydrate - then enjoy your day!


Sorry Jim,

I too am in the paleo/primal group.  I never feel deprived, I eat until I have had enough and my moods are completly stable.  Will never go back to the "weight watchers' type methods again.

But you have to do what works for you, and this works for me.  Not only because of the weight loss, but I feel great!

 



LOVED this article - so helpful - thank you!!



Original Post by: celestial95

"Eating clean" is a very vague term. It can mean organic, fat free, high protein, low carb, paleo, vegan, etc.


I think you're right. It is very a vague term. Anyone who's into diet can say they're into 'eating clean'. 



You cannot say you are eating clean if you are eating a processed spice package, a processed dip or dressing, canned foods full of salt, a coating or a "lite" (processed) food. Which might, by the way, be called a diet food. Not clean, but diet.  Further, not a mention in this thread of genetically modified foods, which are creeping into every grain, every processed food. Montsanto is, as we speak, lobbying with tons of money to prevent labelling GMO foods in California, which is up for referendum in the election. Read everything you can about this. Hybrid foods are not clean. They cannot seed/propogate without help. Same with irradiation, used in most dairy and much produce these days. More good reasons to eat clean - which should mean knowing how and where it was grown, without additives or chemicals whose names you cannot pronounce or do not know. As to wheat - since I eat (for decades now) mostly organic, local and/or ccoked from scratch in my kitchen -  I have no issues with it. HOwever, I do know many, who like writers above, have lost weight, found energy and otherwise been "better" when they stopped eating wheat. Someone else already said, if you dont feel good (ie bloated, heavy, lethargic, upset, gaseous) after eating, your fuel is wrong. Try stopping the most likely culprits one at a time for a week or two at a time - wheat, dairy, processed sugar, red wine, citrus, red food dye, monosodium glutemate, aspartame. You might be surprised at what your body is trying to tell you!



I enjoyed the opinions  cutting out grains,sugar,preservatives etc. Why would you stop eating legumes? Someone mentioned that they took them out of their diet and I wonder why.



Original Post by: mikacasey

This program has been really working for me. Of course, I'm adapting it to my needs but this is what I'm doing: 

1) The 80/20 rule: This means about 6 days a month I eat indulge in treats or dinners out. I try to never have two days in a row -- hard on vacations! 

2) The timing: I eat 5-6 smaller meals of 200-300 calories each. I was worried that a small dinner would be a problem but when I've eaten a 200 calorie snack before and I can eat later if I'm hungry, a smaller dinner has been easy. I'm following standard portion sizes and trying to eat slower. 

3) Food combinations: I eat protein, fat, and complex carbs with each meal/snack. 

4) Exercise: Getting at least half and hour a day with weight training 3x a week.

5) No processed food:  I don't agree with the number of ingredients rule because it totally depends on what the ingredients are. But generally I'm only eating whole foods and the least processed option of the food I want. I'm not giving up ketchup or peanut butter yet but I'm finding I need these less and less. 

 

Results? Eating this way is very satisfying. I have been using calorie count for a long time and usually had a hard time staying under 2000 calories to hit all the targets but with this plan I get enough protein with about 1500 calories a day. I haven't craved junk food. Eating fat, protein, and carbs with each meal is the key to not immediately feeling hungry an hour later. The biggest challenge is staying prepared with lots of food options to toss into the lunch bag.

I've read the book and my advice is stick to the basic principles and adapt to your needs. 


totally agree with comment by coachtod.

Take note of how you feel after consuming certain foods to see if that food is right for you.

I cut certain foods from my diet years ago and all ailments and discomfort went away. Listen to your body,,

there are very few clean foods I cannot eat and have been buying only fresh produce for years. However, I often have to work away from home and rely on restaurant food so count those as my relaxation day. More often than not I do feel sluggish and discomfort after a number of those meals.

 

 

 

 



this is why I eat no wheat product at all...quinoa, millet, amarath and oatmeal occassionly feature in my meals but mostly it is just fruit, veg and protein products.

Investigate the asian low cal noodles made from a root vegetable as an alternative to pasta etc.



mikacasey...you do not have to give up your peanut butter...you can pure peanut butter from the health food shop or make your own. Just grind a handfule of raw peanuts in a cofee/spice grinder, scoop out into a bowl...add few drops of good oil to make into a paste. My healthfood shop actually has a machine for making fresh peanutbutter. Just puts in a cup of peanuts, switches it on and out comes the paste from the tap...smooth or crunchy. I get a small container each time and after it has been sitting for a while you can see the natural oil seperating from the paste..



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