I often participate in health fairs which gives me an opportunity to have casual nutrition conversations with many and hear about what’s bugging them most. Sometimes the questions are very personal and I have to say that we need to schedule an appointment to talk more in detail. Other times people ask about the latest “food news”. Very often it is about “Clean Eating”.
This week was no exception. I was at a local school’s health fair. Most of the attendees were teachers (of course). Many of them said they cover food and nutrition in their curriculum during the year. Most of these teachers were science or health and PE teachers. Some athletic trainers and coaches shared the same. While they seemed competent to talk to the students about basic nutrition some were curious about how to talk about clean eating. So here’s my response.
Clean eating is basically eating whole foods (not from Whole Foods). Clean eating includes the least amount of unnecessary processing of the foods on our plate. I say unnecessary because some processing, such as pasteurization, steaming, baking are good processes to help make the food safe and easy to digest. So what would a clean eating look like?
Here are some tips:
- Start with making sure that you are eating whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and lean protein. Yes carbs and lean meat can be part of your clean meal.
- Choose high fiber grains such as farro, wheat berry, brown rice, quinoa, oats (not quick), sweet potatoes, butternut squash or acorn squash as your carb source.
- Eat in season fruits and vegetables. this will not only enhance the best nutritional quality and least time spent transporting the food but also help your local farmer. When there aren’t too many options (winter), simple frozen fruits and vegetables (without any added salt or sauces etc.) are also a good choice. Most produce is flash frozen when it is available in plenty thus preserving the nutritional benefits.
- You don’t have to become a vegan to eat clean. Lean protein sources such as low-fat, no-antibiotic use poultry, grass-fed lean beef and eggs as well as low fat dairy can be a part of the clean eating plan. Moderation is key. You do not want to eat animal protein at every meal. Start varying the protein source and experiment with beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh etc. There are so many different types of beans you will not have to the same one for weeks.
- Keep the cooking methods simple. Sauté, bake or steam your food.
- Use as little salt as possible. Make use of fresh herbs and spices to enhance the flavors.
- Use olive oil, peanut oil or some coconut oil as well as nuts, olives and avocados as your fat sources. Avoid processed and refined oils (even though they are vegetable oils).
So now you have a basic plan for clean eating. There are lots of choices. Summer is a great time to start to refresh your meals. What are you waiting for?