“Clean eating” is one of the latest buzz phrases in our quest to find the “right” diet. There has been an increase in consumer demand for clean food products. Consumers are asking for products lower in sodium, without high fructose corn syrup and trans-fats, products with short ingredient lists, recognizable and “natural” ingredients. And the food industry is responding. Ingredients are being removed which are not easily understood. You will find more options without artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. In 2015, 25% of new product launches globally were considered “label-friendly.”
Is this the answer? More food “products” with fewer ingredients? It can be a component of better eating, but I hope to continue to aim for more food and fewer food “products.”
Benefits of Clean Eating
With any choices in our eating patterns there are a variety of reasons individuals may make the choice for a cleaner diet.
• Food allergies and food sensitivities is a concern many men, women and children face each day. Making the diet simpler can make it easier to avoid foods that may be of concern.
• Clean eating may be a choice made for weight loss. The weight loss benefit of a cleaner approach to eating can be a result of focusing on nourishing your body well rather than the concentration on calories in versus calories out.
• Increased energy and focus is a benefit many experience from a cleaner approach to eating.
When you provide the nutrients your body needs for good health it will function optimally rather than creating restriction with a diet low in calories that also may be low in nutrient value.
How to Eat Clean
So what do you do? How can you make simple changes to shift to a cleaner diet. Follow these tips to get started to eating a more real food diet and one made less of food “products.”
1. Shop the outer ring of the grocery store. The outer ring of the grocery store contains foods including fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed meats. It will include dairy products that range from lightly processed to highly processed. When you go towards the center of the store you will find more foods that are heavily processed which may contain a long list of ingredients. There may be basic foods that will fit well into your cleaner diet in the inner portion of the store, but you need to then look at tip 2.
2. Read food labels. We talk about “processed” food as if it is the enemy. But we also need to define what that means. Processing can be as simple as turning a product that isn’t in an edible state to a form that we will consume in our diet. To the extreme, processing can be adding colors, fillers, additives and chemicals to alter the taste, color and texture of a food to be more appealing to the consumer. Reading the label will help you understand where the difference lies. Look at the ingredient list and ask yourself the following questions.
• Are there more than 5 ingredients?
• Do I understand what each ingredient is?
(Sometimes added vitamins or minerals may be words you don’t understand. Check out the products you buy and do some research to find out the definition of words you don’t know, then consider if you want to buy that product in the future).
• Does it have added sugars and where is that on the list of ingredients?
(The higher in the list, the greater the quantity of that ingredient)?
• Does it have added fats and what is the source of that fat – is it a source that I choose to include in my diet to nourish myself well?
• Does it contain additives, fillers or food dyes?
• Does it contain ingredients that you suspect you may be sensitive too?
3. Prepare your own food. In our culture with busy lives today buying prepared foods can be appealing to simplify your life. Unfortunately, with that your diet may not be as clean as you would like. Make a plan for three – five meals that you can prepare for dinner each week. Can you make one or two meals on the weekend to make life easier during a busy week? Can you make extra and use that as lunch for another meal?
1 – Make a plan.
2 – Make it a plan that will work in your schedule and will allow for simple food prep to make your eating cleaner.
You may look at clean eating as another trend in our food market. Yes, it will be that as well. But I prefer to think about it as a way of life that allows you to nourish yourself well, to feel your very best and to optimize your health.