I’m not a fan of dietary labels or rules. The way we eat is emotional, cultural and personal. We don’t need to categorize it and feel confined to the walls of any box. But, I do strongly believe in having a philosophy around food – a manifesto, if you will! And to eat “clean” is at the center of mine.
“Clean Eating” – sound familiar?
It could easily be considered a fad, or diet-du-jour, by some. It depends on how you define it, and therein lies a little problem – no one has really defined what it means to “eat clean”. It’s simple, really. As every food choice should be, it’s what you make of it. But here are a few guidelines that I use to define what it means to C.L.E.A.N. up the food you choose to put on your plate:
CHOOSE FRESH FOOD
Fresh food doesn’t come in a box, bag or wrapper. It is often found on the perimeter of the grocery store – think fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh proteins from the meat/seafood/deli counter, etc. It doesn’t mean everything has to be straight from the ground, or that there isn’t a place for frozen fruits, vegetables or proteins in a healthy diet. But start with fresh food, and go from there.
Look for farmer’s markets, CSA options, farm-shares, Co-ops and/or grocery stores that sell local foods. Not only does this help you support local farmers, but it also means you’re getting fruits and vegetables when they’re in-season.
This may seem a little off on the trend of guidelines, but remember that “clean” eating is part of our manifesto, not a diet. Mindful eating takes some practice – with a busy schedule it’s easy to scarf down meals and snacks without even being able to remember what you just ate, or even how it tasted. Take a breath; enjoy foods and savor the tastes. Be aware of nutrients, balancing food groups throughout the day. Taking moments to not only plan meals and snacks but also to appreciate nourishing foods is part of the process.
AVOID PROCESSED FOODS
If we’re being really picky here, most foods in the grocery store are processed in some way. But we’re not that picky, so look at the big-picture. Look up at the first point here – choosing fresh. Processed foods have to make big claims with package designs to get your attention – “Low fat!”, “No added sugar!”, “Good source of fiber!” – but fresh foods own the true bragging rights. They don’t have to say a word, we know they’re healthier.
NATURALLY BALANCE YOUR DIET
The best thing about eating “clean” is that you don’t have to think about much! Whole foods are naturally balanced with carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and are full of nutrients our bodies both need and recognize. They’re easy on the digestive system and send the right signals to your brain to tell you when you’re “full”. When your diet is made of up a variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins (plant- or animal-based), nuts/seeds, oils and/or whole grains, you get the balance you need.
This isn’t a scientific definition and is totally open to interpretation, but I hope it gets some wheels turning. What’s already clean in your diet? What could use some C.L.E.A.N. adjustments? What would be on your Eater’s Manifesto?