What Does “Clean Eating” Mean?

 Clean Eating has become a buzz word in nutrition.  There are clean eating books, magazines and websites.  While this may be a newer term, it is not a new way of eating.  In fact, it’s taking a step back and eating foods closer to the way they were prepared by our ancestors.  So, what does it mean?  Is it a diet?Clean eating is not a diet; it’s just choosing foods in their more natural state.  This style of eating focuses on including more “whole” foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, unprocessed, lean-meats and low-fat dairy products.  It avoids processed and refined foods like white flour, sugar and trans fats.  It also limits saturated fats, fried foods and alcohol.  This is actually a very healthy way of eating because it includes foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, and eliminates foods that have less nutrients and foods that can actually cause heart disease (i.e. saturated and trans fats).

This way of eating can improve energy levels and overall health because you are getting more nutrients.  People also feel very satisfied because the foods are generally high in fiber and quality protein.  Often this style of eating can also help people to maintain/achieve a healthy body weight because it eliminates many calorie dense foods that are easy to overeat.  However, it is important to remember that weight management is all about calories in vs. calories out.  (You can still over eat healthy foods!)  Therefore, the clean eating philosophy also focuses on portion control and eating frequently (i.e. 5-6 small meals).

While this may be an ideal way of eating, for many of us it is unrealistic to say that we are instantly going to eliminate all processed and refined foods.  Rather, I would suggest gradually replacing refined products and build up to this more natural approach over time.  Perhaps you could try switching from white bread to whole wheat bread, then try brown rice instead of white rice, and so on.  The more gradually you make these changes, the more likely they are to become part of your lifestyle and really stand the test of time.  Remember, it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing and a more moderate approach may be more realistic.

For more information and some ideas for “clean eating recipes”, check out Clean Eating Magazine’s website.