Updated: Jul 18
Clean Eating: Athletes are doing it, celebs are doing it, dogs are doing it, and the cavemen did it. The term ”Clean Eating” is one of the biggest, latest and greatest buzzwords in nutrition, but truth be told, the concept has been around since the beginning of time.
What is Clean Eating?
The basic premise of clean eating is consuming foods the way nature delivered them (or as close as possible). For me, it means foods that GREW, FLEW, SWAM or RAN. It’s a lifestyle philosophy, not a diet.
Clean eating is a very simple concept because it’s all about eating foods in their purest form. It’s about eating real food and avoiding Franken-food — those “food products” that don’t resemble anything made in nature.
In the true sense of the words, clean eating is about eliminating all processed foods. Now, for most people, that’s highly impractical and undesirable. At Mind + Body Elite, we focus on eliminating the highly processed foods, while giving a stamp of approval to minimally processed ones.
Getting Started with Clean Eating
If you’re new to clean eating, then start one meal at a time. Take breakfast, for example. What processed foods are you consuming at breakfast, and which can you easily eliminate?
Concentrate on eating as many whole foods as possible from all the colors of the rainbow. And don’t worry about missing out, or sacrificing good tasting foods - whole foods taste great and will give you a bigger explosion of flavor than processed foods. It may take awhile, but you can totally retrain your brain (and your taste buds) to appreciate all the flavors of real foods without the processed, artificial flavorings you may currently be eating.
Whole, unprocessed foods include: fresh fruits and vegetables, farm-fresh eggs, nuts, legumes, etc. Minimally processed foods include frozen fruits and vegetables, unprocessed meats, poultry and fish, unrefined grains, and oils.
Aim to avoid processed foods that are heavily modified and contain a very long list of ingredients, many of which are unrecognizable in nature, cannot be pronounced without an advanced linguistics degree and will knock you out of a spelling bee.
These foods, which typically have little to no nutritional value included sweets, snacks, frozen dinners, sugary drinks and packaged meats such as sausage, hot dogs, etc.
As you embark on this journey, I must caution you to avoid becoming the Food Police.
This is your healthy living journey. It is not an excuse to become judgmental and to tell everyone how, what and when they should eat.
Lead by example and you’ll be amazed at how many people you inspire to walk in your footsteps.
Not All Processed Foods Are Bad
I’m not raising my own livestock, growing my own vegetables, squeezing my own olive oils, blending my own peanut butter or milking cows (but I do make my own almond milk). That’s okay and that’s where minimally processed foods come into play.
Nobody expects you to eat everything raw and from your own backyard, but most of the items in your shopping cart should come from the perimeter of the grocery store. When you’re choosing processed foods, ask yourself these questions:
Are there more than five ingredients?
Do I recognize all the ingredients?
Does the product contain whole grains (rather than refined grains)?
Does the product contain added sugar and artificial ingredients?
Are these ingredients necessary?
Is there a healthier version?
How many calories are in a serving size?
Is it really worth it?
Removing all processed foods is unnecessary, but we want you to make smarter and more educated choices by purchasing only minimally processed foods. Here’s the list of ingredients in a Chicken Pasta Parmesan made by a popular weight loss food delivery company:
WATER, COOKED CHICKEN (CHICKEN BREAST WITH RIB MEAT, WATER, RICE STARCH, SALT, ISOLATED SOY PROTEIN, SODIUM PHOSPHATE), ENRICHED PASTA (DURUM SEMOLINA, EGG WHITES, NIACIN, FERROUS SULFATE, THIAMINE MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID), CRUSHED TOMATOES, GREEN BELL PEPPERS, PARMESAN CHEESE (PASTEURIZED MILK, CHEESE CULTURE, SALT, ENZYMES), MODIFIED CORN STARCH, ROMANO CHEESE (PASTEURIZED MILK, CHEESE CULTURE, SALT, ENZYMES), TOMATO PASTE, KALE, AGAVE SYRUP, ISOLATED SOY PROTEIN, SUGAR, SEA SALT, ONION POWDER, GARLIC POWDER, SPICES, OLEORESIN PAPRIKA. CONTAINS EGG, MILK, SOY AND WHEAT.
How many of those ingredients do you really recognize? If you made this dish at home, with minimally processed foods, you would have a lot less ingredients.
Here's how you can make it with less ingredients and a whole lot healthier.
Barilla Whole Grain Pasta: whole grain durum wheat flour. Want to make it even cleaner? Then use zucchini noodles otherwise known as zoodles.
Tomato Basil Sauce: Italian tomatoes, olive oil, fresh onions, fresh basil, salt, fresh garlic, black pepper, oregano.
Home-grilled chicken: chicken Add some herbs, spices and vegetables of your choice and you have a really healthy alternative to the highly processed diet food. Which would you rather eat?
What's So Bad About Heavily Processed Foods?
The Standard American Diet (SAD), which is typically comprised of unhealthy fats, low fiber, highly processed foods, and low in plant-consumption, has been linked to the following diseases and conditions:
Highly processed foods are stripped of the nutrients our bodies desperately need for optimal health and happiness. Just say no!
Let’s reiterate that we don’t expect perfection at Mind + Body Elite. It’s all about making practical, achievable and sustainable changes to your diet. Start by eliminating the worst offenders.
Avoid the Worst of the Worst
The first step is to eliminate the worst Franken-foods. Here are five foods that have been designated as cancer-causing (or at least contributing) foods:
1. The Dirty Dozen. Each year, the Environmental Working Group publishes a list of the twelve dirtiest fruits and vegetables. The fruits and vegetables on this list have been found to be contaminated with cancer-causing pesticides. And here’s the thing ... washing doesn’t remove the pesticides.
Click to review the EWG’s Dirty Dozen. If you can’t find or afford to buy these fruits and veggies in the organic form, then do NOT eat them. Choose something else.
2. Soda. Did you know that a 12 ounce can of Coke has 140 calories and 39g of sugar? This is more sugar than a Snicker’s bar which comes in at 250 calories and 27g of sugar. The sugar, food colorings and artificial ingredients acidifies the body and feeds cancer. Certain ingredients, including the caramel color, have also been touted as cancer causers.
3. Artificial Sweeteners. Don’t be getting all smug if you’re a diet soda drinker like I was! Some artificial sugars have been linked to cancer and those little colored packets you see on restaurant tables have been linked to Type 2 Diabetes because they alter the the composition of bacteria in our intestines. That’s bad!
4. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Corn and soy are two of the most common genetically modified crops. Some reports have shown that 90% of corn and soy has been modified. That’s crazy! Long-term research is still needed to specifically identify the horrible side affects of GMOs in humans, but initial research on rats is not good. A 5-digit code beginning with an 8 means your fruits or vegetables have been genetically modified.
5. Microwave Popcorn. Besides being made of GMO corn, the chemical-laden bags have been linked to lung cancer in recent studies. If you love popcorn, try my favorites that are made with non-GMO corn: BoomChickaPop and SkinnyPop.
Eat Unsaturated "Good" Fats Daily
Healthy fats don’t make you fat. The fat-free products revolution of the 1980s, really did a disservice to our health and weight.
Our bodies need monounsaturated fatty acids in order to reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol and to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Fats are also required for energy, cell growth, temperature regulation, nutrient absorption, and to feel satiated. Some great sources are avocados, olives, nuts/seeds and the oils extracted from these foods.
Our bodies also need polyunsaturated fatty acids for brain and heart health. These fatty acids can be found in cold water fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines and herring. If possible, choose wild fish over farmed because the farmed fish may be treated with antibiotics. Non-fish eaters can get them from chia, flax, hemp and walnuts.
Eliminate "Bad" Fats
Trans fats are man-made fats created by converting liquid fats into shelf stable solids which have a longer shelf life. In June 2015, the FDA has ordered manufacturers to stop using trans fat within three years. In the meantime, be sure to read labels carefully to avoid them. There's a lot of conflicting information about saturated fats (most commonly found in animal sources). The American Heart Association recommends limiting them to 5% - 6% of your daily calories.
Veggies - Cooked or Raw? Some vegetables lose nutrients in cooking and other vegetables nutrients are increased in cooking. Here’s a simple cheat sheet of foods that are better for you cooked or raw.
Go Slow and Take Small Steps!
We served you a rather big plate of clean eating in this blog and we know change can be overwhelming, so please start slow. Our clients have had great success by concentrating on one meal time each week. For instance, if breakfast is primarily processed foods, then work on making your breakfasts healthier.
When you have conquered that meal, go onto another one until you have really cleaned up most of your meals. And don't forget to leave some room for those oh-so-tasty "Planned Indulgences" that we advocate.
Are you a busy man or woman who's ready to feel strong, live healthy, and get fit? Discover how to take small steps to get healthy & fit without cutting out the foods you love or spending countless hours on cardio. Come join me inside my online Facebook Community - The Healthy Habits Club. It's where busy folks go for tips, tools and support they need to eat healthy, move daily, and feel good for life!