Recently, I gave a nutrition talk to a women’s club. I’ve done these sort of talks before, and I have them mapped out with the precision of a sleepy Monday morning commuter attempting to jam her subway pass into a vending machine (which is to say, rather loosely – I prefer to leave room for adjustment based on changing audience interests). No vending machi–, er, challenge is insurmountable to this friendly RD. Anything can fit into the nutrition field.
Bottom line: I love a good challenge. That’s why I was over-the-moon when the women’s club asked me to talk about “clean eating”. I’d never done a clean eating talk – perfect!
The club members listened so attentively and asked such good questions, I left a happy RD. I thought I’d share a few highlights with you.
What is Clean Eating?
There’s no strict definition of Clean Eating, but the idea is that we choose whole foods with short ingredient lists. You can think of it as replacing processed and packaged foods with fresh and natural foods. You haven’t added anything, like adding sugar to tomato sauce, and you haven’t taken anything away, like stripping the bran from wheat to make white flour. You focus on quality of food rather than how many calories or how much fat is in them.
The key to eating clean is looking at ingredients lists and ditch foods that have really long lists, or ingredients you can’t pronounce, or additives like sweeteners, colors, preservatives, and stabilizers, or foods treated with hormones or antibiotics. Clean eating means choosing organic when you can, because you’re looking out for both your health and the health of the environment. It makes sense to eat clean, because we really are what we eat. What we eat become the building blocks of our bodies and every other part of ourselves.
What are some benefits of clean eating?
(1) Cheaper, because you’re using inexpensive ingredients instead of paying $4 for a frozen dinner.
(2) Easier, because you probably have a lot of ingredients on hand and won’t have trouble finding the rest in the grocery store. Talk to your friendly local RD if you need a helping hand.
(3) Healthier, because you don’t have extra salt, sugar, and unpronounceable ingredients in your food. When you’re eating clean, you know what’s in your food. For example, how many of us have come home after a weekend trip where we ate out a lot and snacked on packaged food and just felt bloated and tired? I know I have! Whenever that happens to me, all I want to do is go back to clean eating.
Remember the sugar content of sweet iced tea?
All that sugar goes down easy and makes staying healthy hard.
How do I eat clean?
Ah ha! This is where I use my dietitian-y powers to bring back our pal MyPlate. Review the Update Your Plate series if you need a refresher, beginning with post numero uno. Here’s where I’m going to set off a sentence in italics to make it seem more important.
You can think of Clean Eating as the plan and MyPlate as a way to put that plan into action.
How do we combine Clean Eating and MyPlate? The trick is to think of “Clean Eating” versions of the foods you would eat in each MyPlate spot. For example, say you want to fill half your plate with salad, then have some chicken and rice. You might start with a salad covered in store-bought dressing with a mile-long list of five-syllable ingredients, plus a frozen prepared breaded chicken breast and a cup of buttered white rice. Even though this meal follows MyPlate, it’s loaded with salt, sugar, and fat.
How do we Clean Eating this? (And yes, I just verbed the phrase “clean eating”.)
I’ll give you a moment to think about it.
(1) Make your own dressing (30-second oil and vinegar to the rescue!).
(2) Marinate and grill chicken.
(3) Serve brown rice cooked with herbs or turmeric and cardamom. Brown rice is one of those start-it-and-forget-it kind of dishes.
The overall goal is not to eat “perfectly”, because really, there is NO such thing as perfect eating. I can’t emphasize that enough. Instead, the goal is to eat healthy most of the time and enjoy our foods.
And that’s why I ended the talk with a dark chocolate tasting, which is seriously the most awesome way to end any talk.
Q: What’s your definition of “Clean Eating”? What are your healthy eating challenges?
P.S. Looking for some Clean Eating recipes? Well.
P.P.S. A friend I met over the weekend:
I think “Overly Friendly Pelican” would make an awesome band name. You heard it here first, folks.