Aug 282013
 

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.

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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?

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May 012012
 
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I recently read a book that was equal parts informative, interesting, terrifying and disgusting. The book I’m talking about is Paul Roberts’ “The End of Food.” This book is not for the faint of heart and it will definitely make you rethink a lot of the things you see in the grocery store. The more I read, the less happy I am with our current state of food.

Have you read the latest controversy on the “pink-slime“? We simply do not know what is in our food. We just don’t. We go to the grocery store and think we’re being healthy and mindful by buying a bunch of fresh vegetables but in reality, those veggies could be GMOs and we might not even realize it. I mean, do they put a sticker on that zucchini that says “GMO”? I don’t know.

Sometimes it feels like we are trapped in a sci-fi horror movie.

Here are just a few quotes and a few of my thoughts on the book. It’s really worth a read if you’re interested in knowing what you’re putting in your body. The book scared me, but it informed me too. I hope there is a better, healthier way to eat foods.

“Fat and muscle are more calorie dense than plants are and thus offer more energy per mouthful. Animal foods are also easier to digest, so their calories can be extracted faster. In all, meat provided more calories, and thus more energy, that could then be used for hunting, fighting, territorial defense, and certainly mating. Meat was also a more reliable food source; by shifting to meat, prehistoric man could migrate from Africa to Europe, where colder winters and lack of year-round edible vegetation would have made an herbivorous diet impossible. [pg 6]”

“Because animal and human tissues have the same sixteen amino acids (whereas most plant-based proteins contain just eight), animal converts readily into human: meat is the ideal building block for meat. That’s why bodybuilders eat a lot of meat; it also helps explain why, as our ancestors ate more animal foods, their bodies grew larger. [pg 6]”

 

Reading about the evolution of the human race was fascinating and I had a lot of “ah ha” moments. It made so much sense once I understood the connection of the brilliance of the body and the way our ancestors used to live. The body was designed for “scarcity”–for going long periods of time without food while the hunters and gatherers hunted the massive beasts. The body is built to hold onto fat and weight because back then, it literally depended on it.

That has changed so much with our current lifestyle. We aren’t starving–food isn’t scarce at all. Hungry? Go to 7-11 and grab a candy bar. Food temptations are everywhere around us–fast food commercials, convenience foods, everything…there is no scarcity anymore and our bodies haven’t caught up to that. They still hold on to that fat that we AREN’T burning off for fuel as we hunt the massive beasts!

“As more and more of us move away from producing our own food, we’ve become less and less certain about its safety, its quality or its taste. [pg 43]”

“Our scientifically bred produce grows so quickly that it contains measurably fewer micro-nutrients. Our processed foods are often packed with large quantities of salt, fat and sweeteners, not to mention hundreds of chemical additives, some of which, such as the preservative sodium benzoate and yellow food coloring, are definitively linked to medical problems, such as hyperactivity. [pg 83]”

 

The chapters about how food is manufactured and meat is processed would turn anyone against eating meat! I was a vegetarian for nearly 12 years and part of the reason was because of the animal cruelty issues surrounding it. Even though I eat meat now, I struggle with the moral part of it. It may not be an answer, but I try to just disconnect that “this used to be an animal.” It was hard to read about the chicken farms, but the information about the Avian Flu that began with some chicken farms were definitely enlightening.

“‘Today’s average home-maker isn’t cooking a meal for five people anymore, she’s cooking five different meals.’ And “meal” may be an overly generous term; according to one recent U.S. study, sandwiches are now the most commonly served dinner entrees, ahead of beef and chicken dishes. [pg 43] “

The chapter on the end of meals was incredibly sad to me. As a kid, my family ate every dinner together at the table–without any television watching. While as an angsty teen I hated it, I am grateful that my parents enforced that tradition. It’s a tradition I would like to continue with my kids. I think it’s important to unplug the electronics and enjoy each other’s company over a meal.

“Food companies are in fact anticipating the end of meals as we know them, as a growing number of consumers skip more and more sit-down meals altogether….the average American already misses breakfast every third day and is beginning to skip a large number of lunches and dinners….this trend is extraordinarily bad news for consumer health….because as consumers eat fewer regular meals, they’re compensating by eating more of another even more lucrative food category: snacks. [pg 44]”

 

But how many of us sit in front of the TV while we eat our dinners microwaved? That was me for a long time. It’s something I don’t want to teach my kids! Real food that does not come out of a box and good conversation over a table of healthy meals, that’s what I want.

“…the compound diacetyl became ‘butter’ for many consumers of microwave popcorn–that is, before it was taken off the market in mid-2007 as a possible cause of lung disease. [pg 47]”

As a general rule, when I buy processed foods I try to look at the ingredients list and buy things with the fewest ingredients as possible. It’s a challenge, for sure, but I like to think I’m making a difference by buying something with ingredients I can pronounce.

“He showed how HFCS was used in everything from soda and ketchup to candy and bread. He offered research suggesting that HFCS inhibits the body’s ability to know when it is full. High-fructose corn syrup ‘is the crack of sweeteners, you get addicted and you want more.’ [pg 82]”

The chapter on sugar and HFCS was my favorite, obviously. I’ve struggled with sugar for years. It’s something that I wish I had more willpower to resist. It’s something I hate that I love. Have you ever looked at some of the labels in your pantry? You would be shocked at just how many items contain High Fructose Corn Syrup. It’s even in mouthwash! YUCK!

The book was fascinating, frightening and disheartening. What I didn’t like about the book was that it didn’t provide any alternatives, or ideas on how to STOP the end of food. There was no light at the end of the tunnel in this book.

QUESTION: Have you read this book? What were your thoughts? How do you feel about this topic?

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