lean cuisines

What is “Clean Eating”?

The internet is rife with buzzwords. Paleo, low carb, superfoods, organic…the list goes on and on. One of my biggest annoyances lately is the buzzword “Clean Eating.” Why is it annoying me? Because half the time when I click on a website talking about the topic, I roll my eyes at their definition of clean eating. Example: I found a website boasting the best “clean eating” recipe for a dip and then showed pictures of pre-made guacamole in a box! What’s wrong with fresh avocados?!

While the definition of clean eating can be different for everyone, I’m pretty sure that if it comes out of a box, it’s not clean.

CleanCuisineMotto1

What does clean eating mean to me?

It means I eat fresh fruits and veggies that I grow in my garden, buy at a farmer’s market, or the produce section of the grocery store. It’s not in a can, in a box, with added sugar or sodium. I try and limit the foods I eat that come out of a box. If HFCS is listed as an ingredient, I skip it.

There are a million websites out there on the topic and a lot of them say clean eating is vegan or vegetarian. That’s not MY definition (especially when it comes to processed faux meats and soy products!). As a reformed vegetarian, I do eat meat and lots of seafood and I try my best not to get the stuff that is corn-fed. I like the Trader Joe’s meat–it’s spendy but worth it because it tastes great, is organic and grass-fed and not pumped with hormones.

Clean eating to me means eating snacks that are natural. Am I perfect all the time? No but I do my best (90/10!). For example: if I want a snack I eat nuts, veggies with avocado, fresh seasonal fruit, things like that. I definitely eat some processed foods–I love plain Greek yogurt and cottage cheese as a healthy snack.

I try my best to buy foods that are in season. We’re coming up on cherry season–which I am ecstatic about! And it’s perfect timing because the apples I’ve gotten at the store have been terrible lately. Time to switch to summer fruits!

“Food that’s clean is food that’s for the most part real food and not encumbered with things that compromise health: artificial flavorings, artificial colorings, sugar substitutes,” said Katz. (source)

The clean eating rule of thumb: The shorter the ingredient list, the better. Michael and I eat a specific brand of corn tortilla chips because they are gluten free (for him), taste great, and are basically 2 ingredients. Check the back of a bag or box of food the next time you’re in the grocery store. How many ingredients are listed? Is it half the box? Is it a bunch of words you can’t pronounce? Probably a good idea to avoid it.

“I don’t think sugar makes food unclean.  Pure fruits are not unclean foods.  You can add sugar to foods, and it can be clean. … It’s not about banishing any particular type of ingredient,” said Katz. ” It needs to be a holistic concept.  There’s a real danger in placing it on just one ingredient.” (source)

 

I don’t think sugar is the Boogie-Man of healthy eating. Like I’ve said a million times before, everything in moderation. I’d rather eat real sugar than the chemically altered stuff like nutrisweet and splenda. There was definitely a time in my life when I did eat a lot of substitutes because they were low calorie options. While it worked for me to lose weight, I wouldn’t say I felt fantastic. Diet soda may have zero calories but the chemicals and weird sugar in it always make me feel gross.

I also don’t think you have to eliminate EVERY processed food in order to eat clean. Rice, whole grain pastas, quinoa, etc…all of those things can be part of a healthy diet. I eat sushi a lot and I definitely use soy sauce–which comes from a bottle obviously–but I’m not going to nitpick. There’s a difference between nitpicking and being smart.

What About Supplements?

So what about supplements and vitamins? Michael recently started trying a Whey product because he’s doing a good 100 miles a week on the bike. He wasn’t getting enough calories, even though he was eating a massive amount of food during the day. He’s still experimenting with what works and what doesn’t, but the whey seems to help him with feeling more satisfied.

I used to drink a lot of protein shakes. I tried the store bought kind and back in the day the only one I liked was the Atkins shake. It was low in calories and tasted great. Then I went through a phase where I made my own shakes with some protein, fresh fruit and yogurt. I eventually stopped doing that because I wasn’t feeling satisfied when I drank it.

I do take some vitamins. I take a multivitamin. I take Vitamin D because I live in the Northwest and I’m deficient (as are most people in Oregon and Washington according to my doctor). I’d really rather prefer to get my vitamins my body needs from food naturally but like Vitamin D, that’s sometimes not possible.

About a year ago I started taking B12 1000 complex (from Costco). It’s supposed to give you more energy and I did feel like it gave me a little boost. I can get Vitamin B from foods like beans, bananas, lentils, and potatoes. I like all of those things but I wouldn’t say that I eat them consistently enough to think I’m getting a good source of B from the food.

I also take Krill oil. This one I’m iffy on. Is it necessary? Especially since I eat so much seafood? I eat salmon at least once a week, shrimp once a week, and if I’m craving sushi I eat a ton of tuna and salmon rolls. Shouldn’t that be enough? Is the krill oil giving me anything extra or is just something else “unnatural” that I’m adding to my diet? I’m not sure what the answer is!

GMO’s

What freaks me out is that we’re hearing more and more about GMO’s and how foods we get at the stores are often genetically modified and WE DO NOT KNOW IT! How scary is that? I wish that they would pass a law that stuff like that needs to be label everywhere. It’s important information to have if you’re trying to eat clean but who has the advanced knowledge to figure that out in the middle of a grocery store? (Check out an old post: The End of Food and Nutrition: Who to Trust?.)

I know what clean eating means for me and I strive to attain that. It’s never 100% perfect and I still rely on processed foods (like canned soups and beans) for meals sometimes. I definitely get lazy once in awhile and eat a Lean Cuisine for lunch. But more often than not, I am taking homemade, leftovers and salads made from my garden for lunches at work. It takes more effort, for sure, but I feel so much better!

So what about you? What is clean eating for YOU?

A Big Mouthful of Poison

Let me preface this post with a warning: there will most likely be ranting involved. Let me also say that it might also sound hypocritical because I lost my weight by eating “diet” food (i.e. processed junk).

Did anyone see the 60 Minutes piece on the “Flavorists” recently? It was about a company called Givaudan, the largest flavoring company in the world. They opened their doors to 60 Minutes and shared their secrets. Secrets that made my stomach turn. Secrets that I had NO idea about. (Read the transcripts here.) You can also watch a small clip of it here.

I hadn’t heard of this company, Givaudan, until I watched the show. Sure in the back of my mind I knew processed food was bad and engineering food was worse. However, it’s easy to ignore these things in your normal day-to-day life.

“Food companies know that flavor is what makes repeat customers. So they commission Givaudan to create what they hope will be a mouthwatering taste. Givaudan may be the biggest multinational you’ve never heard of. The Swiss company employs almost 9,000 people in 45 countries, providing tastiness to just about every cuisine imaginable.”

While I was watching this piece on 60 Minutes, I couldn’t help but feel like I was watching a company create a cancer epidemic. Of course this is based on nothing because I’m not a doctor, but I find it hard to dismiss the fact that eating a bunch of chemicals could lead to cancer. Seeing how they manufactured “chicken flavoring” was nauseating and it honestly just looked like poison to me.  It makes me wonder about these “flavors” and whether they are tested on lab rats? Is there information out there about the effects on the lab rats?

“It makes you want to eat this again, and again, again, okay? It’s like sex, okay? You know, you want to do it over and over again until you get a headache.”

“Ground zero for the food and flavor industry is the supermarket. Givaudan won’t reveal which brands contain their flavors, but in this aisle, almost every product on the shelves has been enhanced artificially or with so-called natural flavors. And not only that, virtually everything edible in a package, in a jar, or in a can is intensified with either fat, sugar or salt… or, all three of those little devils.”.

 

Dr. David Kessler, former head of the FDA, asked: “We’re eating fat on fat on sugar on fat with flavor. And much of what we’re eating with these flavors, you have to ask yourself, ‘is it really food?'” GOOD QUESTION. Is it really food? The flavors are false, manufactured. That “natural chicken soup” flavor in your soup is a creation, not really chicken. Dr. Kessler went on to say “We’re living in a food carnival. These flavors are so stimulating, they hijack our brain.”

Do they hijack our brain? Are we a nation of obese people because the food we’ve been eating has these manufactured elements in them that make us addicted to them? So we eat more? The Vice President of Givaudan went on the defense and said  “Our business is to make taste experiences pleasurable ones. So, I don’t think that the flavors create an overeating problem. I think that’s a different issue.”

Hmmm, easy cop-out if you ask me. Although, I don’t think placing all the blame on the food industry is the way to go. Sure I can blame McDonald’s and Burgerville for my obesity but is it REALLY their fault for providing fattening food? No. I drove myself there. I made the bad decision to overeat all the time and not exercise. Sure they enabled that behavior by making the food taste so good but I wouldn’t blame them. It was all on me.

At the same time I am highly disturbed by Givaudan manipulating all food with chemicals. During the 60 Minutes piece all I felt was disgust. Disgust in myself for eating processed food, disgust in myself for not really caring where my food came from. Sure my transformation from a processed-food junkie to a newbie-foodie has enriched my life but I still eat a LOT of processed food. And these “flavorists” have their hands in everything. The soup I eat. The salad dressing I like. The diet soda I drink. It’s even in WHISKEY.

I turned to Michael when the show was over, feeling very overwhelmed and discouraged and said “God, it’s in everything. There are no safe foods.” 

You think eating fruits and veggies would be the answer–but produce has been assaulted as well! Produce is probably genetically engineered. Just take a look at how huge everything is now. The tomatoes I grew in my garden this summer were small, sweet and perfect. They also didn’t last very long. The produce I buy in the store is big, less flavorful and lasts for much too long before going bad.

Who knew I’d want to become one of those types that wanted to grow all my own food and never eat processed, store bought food…I try to limit my processed food intake. I eat less frozen meals, I avoid soy products the best I can. I try and go by Michael’s rule of looking at ingredients and not buying stuff that I can’t pronounce. Am I becoming one of those people that want to live on a farm where I eat only my own food and meat from my farm? I have to admit, the idea is very appealing after watching this show.

QUESTION: Did you see the piece? What are your thoughts on it?