What is Eating Clean?

Liz Cabrera, RD, CSO, LDN, CNSC

Are you curious about “Eating Clean”? The history of eating clean dates back to the “natural health” movement of the 1960s when processed foods were shunned for moral and ethical reasons. Today, consumers are more aware of the role good nutrition plays in preventative health. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month and a great time to take inventory of your eating habits and overall lifestyle.

Eating clean is the practice of avoiding highly processed foods to include refined sugars and preservatives. In general, the concept of eating clean focuses on wholesome foods in their natural state and being physically active. The emphasis is on food quality not quantity.  Some eating clean followers also choose to use mostly organic products or adopt a plant based diet approach. There is no right or wrong way – just the right way for you to optimize your health and energy level.

fruit and vegetable variety

How to Start Eating Clean?

Not everyone can afford to restock their pantry and refrigerator from scratch, so start slow and within your budget. Don’t worry about making drastic changes overnight. Keep in mind that this is a lifestyle change not a “diet”.  When making your grocery list, select one or two items that you need and switch those to “Clean” items. For example, buy fresh chicken breasts instead of frozen pre-breaded chicken breasts.

Clean Eating Basics

As the focus of clean eating is to avoid processed foods that tend to be caloric dense – this eating concept automatically lowers your caloric intake to promote a healthy weight.  If weight loss is a goal, it is important to watch portion sizes.

  1. Choose natural foods straight from the farm; opt for seasonal fruits and vegetables for best nutritional value and most flavors. Visit your local farmers market!
  2. Select low fat dairy products (non-fat dairy products usually contain additional preservatives)
  3. Eat unprocessed poultry and seafood, grass-fed beef and game
  4. Incorporate plant based protein sources such as legumes , beans and unsalted nuts
  5. Opt for unrefined grains such as brown rice, pasta, quinoa – buy in bulk for best value
  6. Avoid added salt and sugars. Instead select “clean” sugars such as honey and maple syrup; and fresh herbs and spice instead of salt. Some fresh herbs/spices contain added anti-oxidant benefits- these include fresh basil, parsley and turmeric, cinnamon.
  7. Eat smaller more frequent meals; be sure to include a protein source at each meal .This meal pattern will not only deter you from overeating but also help stabilize insulin levels and improve cholesterol levels.
  8. Do not drink your calories – high calorie drinks such a s specialty coffees and soft drinks provide no nutritional value; Clean drinks include water, unsweetened tea, 100% fruit juices diluted with sparkling water
  9. Learn to read food labels and ingredient lists (ingredients are listed in order from what the product contains the most to the least)
  10. Be active – participate in some form of physical activity at least 5 times/week to strengthen core muscles, keep bones healthy and allow for a better night’s sleep

“Eating Clean” and the AICR Cancer Prevention Guidelines focus on guidelines to help decrease incidence of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers such as breast, ovarian and colon cancer.

Cabrera, LizLiz Cabrera, RD, CSO, LDN, CNSC, is the Lead Clinical Dietician for Touro Infirmary with over 25 years experience. Liz has advanced education and extensive experience in nutrition for a broad range of health conditions for which she provides nutrition support. Liz provides comprehensive nutrition care for inpatient and outpatient departments at Touro. In addition, Liz leads monthly healthy lifestyles community seminars and a nutrition after cancer cooking class.

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