Have you ever heard of the term ‘clean eating’? What does that mean? Is it a diet? Is it like being a vegetarian or a vegan? Google the term “what is clean eating” and there are a variety of articles and sources that offer their own definition of the phrase. Is it hard? Is it expensive? Does it take forever in the kitchen? This week I am demystifying the idea of clean eating and offering tips for helping you clean up your diet.
What is Clean Eating?
What is Clean Eating?Eating Well says cleaning eating is “about eating more of the best and healthiest options in each of the food groups—and eating less of the not-so-healthy ones. That means embracing foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains, plus healthy proteins and fats.”
In their article The Complete Crash Course on Clean Eating Fitness Magazine defines it as “At its simplest, clean eating is about eating whole foods or “real” foods — those that are un- or minimally processed, refined, and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible.”
Is All Processed Food Bad?
Most articles I read agree that clean eating is about eating the least processed foods available – this cuts out lots of junk food like chips, sweets, soda pop, etc…However, applesauce is processed – does that mean it’s bad for you? What about cooked carrots? After all, cooking them is a form of processing, no? Is this just another way of saying clean eating is a raw diet? [insert horrified face here]
Processing is important because it can kill bacteria and make food safer to eat – like chicken or pork. And processing doesn’t always remove vitamins and nutrients. Lycopene, found in tomatoes, actually increases with cooking. So when you think processed, think Doritos or Oreos or even the ‘whole wheat’ bread in the grocery store that has a good 20 ingredients. That’s the kind of processed stuff you want to stay away from.
Is Clean Eating Just Another Diet?
There is no official government, USDA sanctioned definition of clean eating (at least not one that I could find). Unlike the food pyramid or the DASH diet, which are backed by big agencies – clean eating is a movement, like farm-to-table, buying local, and slow food. While fad diets like Atkins or Beachbody focus on eliminating certain food groups or restricting calorie consumption – clean eating encourages eating whole foods in as close to their natural state as possible. Some clean eating rules of thumb I’ve heard about include the 80/20 rule – 80% whole foods and 20% processed and the five ingredient rule – any processed or prepared food should have less than five ingredients on the nutrition label.
Is Clean Eating Hard?
Sometimes. It does require foresight and prep and there is a fair amount of cooking involved. Most recipes I make take about 20 – 30 minutes to cook from scratch. For some people this is nothing, for others, this is more time than they spend in their kitchen all week. It’s really a personal preference. The biggest obstacle between me and a truly virtuous clean diet 100% of the time is lack of prep and planning. I am getting better at it, but often (like this morning) I had nothing on hand to make a healthy lunch for work. No dinner leftovers, no salad stuff, not even a mystery dinner in the freezer to be had. So naturally, I grabbed some knock-off General Tso’s chicken at Hannaford. #cleaneatingfail
Is Clean Eating Expensive
No. I make healthy food a priority on my grocery list and that leaves little room for any impulse buys. After the initial shock of little to no snack foods lying around the house, the kids got used to it. I also try to practice portion control (gah, I know, I know) and you’d be surprised at how far food goes when you eat the recommended serving amount, versus piling food on your plate haphazardly. The amount of food I used to eat in one sitting is enough to now make two or three different meals.
Clean Eating is really just about getting back to the basics – like what people ate before the 1980’s, when we were introduced to chemically processed quasi-foods like like Sunny D, Tato Skins and Fruit Roll-ups. You can find a lot of good, affordable clean eating recipes at The Gracious Pantry and on my Clean Eating Boards on Pinterest.
Did I miss anything? If you have more questions about clean eating or how I do it at my house, let me know!