clean eating

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?

Skinny Poulet Au Vinaigre

I like chicken again. For a long time I didn’t like chicken because I sucked at cooking it: it was dry, overdone, flavorless. The trick? Finding a few GOOD recipes that are tasty have made all the difference. A few sites that I’ve been happy with in regards to chicken recipes are: Real Simple, Eating Well and Gina’s Weight Watchers Recipes. Just because it tastes good doesn’t mean it has to be high in calories!

Gina’s Skinless Chicken Thighs with Shallots in Red Wine Vinegar (Poulet Au Vinaigre)

From Gina’s Weight Watcher Recipes
Servings: 4 | Serving Size: 2 thighs with shallot sauce | Old Points: 5 pts | Points+: 6 pts  | Calories: 242.5

  • 8 lean chicken thighs, skin removed
  • salt and fresh pepper
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup fat free chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced (3/4 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp light sour cream
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley

1. Season chicken with salt and pepper.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine vinegar, honey, 3/4 cup chicken broth and tomato paste. Boil about 5 minutes, until it reduces down to about 3/4 cup. Remove from heat.

3. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat and add chicken. Cook on both sides, until brown, about 6-8 minutes. Remove chicken and set aside. Add the shallots and garlic to the skillet and cook on low until soft, about 5 minutes. Pour the sauce over the chicken, add the wine, remaining broth salt and pepper. Cover and simmer about 20 minutes until tender.

4. Remove the chicken, add sour cream and stir into the sauce (if sauce dries up, add more broth). Boil a few minutes then return chicken to skillet. Top with fresh parsley.

I was in charge of making salads and prepping all the ingredients. I wish I had paid more attention to what Michael was doing to cook the food but I was too busy prepping everything.


I skinned the chicken thighs and Michael cooked them in the skillet.


I decided I wanted to make this recipe for the salad dressing. I thought it would go nicely with the red wine vinegar sauce on the chicken. Unfortunately it was a big, disgusting fail. Thankfully I tested the dressing before adding it to our salads. I was annoyed to dump it all out. I hate wasting products!!


Instead I used the light raspberry walnut vinaigrette dressing for mine and just plain oil and balsamic for Michael’s salad.


After the chicken was cooked and browned, Michael took it out and then added the sour cream to the sauce, letting it boil and thicken into a sauce. Then he plated the chicken into our pasta bowls and poured the gravy over the top of the chicken.


The chicken was great! I liked this one a lot (Michael thought the instructions were goofy and could have been done better). The sauce was tangy and salty in a wonderful way. I wish there had been MORE sauce but I think part of the reason for that was that we halved the recipe so there wouldn’t be any leftovers. Next time I’d make a little more sauce!


I really enjoyed this chicken. If I had to rank the chicken recipes we’ve done lately, I’d say they are in this order:

1. Braised Chicken with Spring Vegetables

2. Poulet Au Vinaigre

3. Quick Coq au Vin

All this menu planning and recipe experimenting has been FUN. I’ve learned a lot of things in the last few months and I’m having a great time eating the food! Plus, I think all the clean eating I’ve been doing has helped with my weight loss.

QUESTION: How was your weekend? Did you make anything spectacular?