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What Does It Mean To Eat Clean

eat clean meal

What Are the Guidelines To Eat Clean?

Who doesn’t want to eat clean? Certainly, the alternative doesn’t sound appealing. Eating Dirty? No thanks!  But while the term “eat clean” seems pretty straightforward, exactly what this eating clean movement means is certainly not. Is white rice considered clean? What about agave? Is agave a “clean” food? When you are eating clean, does it matter how a food is prepared? Does vegetable tempura get a thumbs up even though it’s fried?  Trying to determine what exactly is “clean” is enough to make one’s head spin. Search “eat clean” on Pinterest and up pop recipes ranging from protein smoothies to pasta primavera to pork sliders. Hmmmm ….

Our Definition Of Eating Clean

Given our love for nutrient-dense, minimally processed snacks that are both satiating and support the body’s performance, we have our own definition for what clean eating means: prioritize organic and avoid processed foods and sugar. How does this stack up against experts’ views? We decided to find out.

First, This Is What It Doesn’t Mean to Eat Clean

Cutting Out Entire Food Groups

The diet wars can end now. Whole 30 is not cleaner than Paleo is not cleaner than Ketogenic etc. Each of these diets suggests cutting out food groups, but this does not mean that those food groups are unclean. The authors of these eating plans have their rationale for why they advocate omitting certain food categories. In some cases like Whole 30, some food categories can later be reintroduced to help you determine if you’re sensitive to them. Ultimately though, it’s up to you and your body to determine what’s best.

Unless you have a food allergy or intolerance, we don’t suggest cutting out entire food groups, here’s why, “Unless it’s medically necessary you’re veering into faddy eating.” says Helen Bond, spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association to Glamour magazine. “The food groups – starchy carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables, protein, dairy and unsaturated fats – each contain macro and micronutrients essential to health. They exist for a reason.”

Diet Perfectionism

The other word for this is diet obsession. Yes, we should be vigilant to eat close to our values and eliminate foods we know our body doesn’t do well with, but overly monitoring your plate is also unhealthy. “It has a perfectionist, black-and-white feel to it,” wrote Dr. Sherry Pogato for Psychology Today. “Food is now categorized as either ‘clean’ or ‘unclean.’ Perfectionism generates anxiety and demoralization because it sets an unattainable goal. The perfectionist dieter feels failure every time she eats something ‘unclean.’”

Being on a Diet

This one is pretty straightforward. You don’t have to be on a diet to eat clean. You can do this on your own.

This is What It Does Mean to Eat Clean

Eating Organic

If we’re talking about eating clean, we gotta talk about eating organic. Organic food was “clean” before “clean eating” was a thing. Just consider, “70 percent of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables contain up to 230 different pesticides or their breakdown products,” according to the Environmental Working Group, and pestides are seriously no bueno.

“After countless studies, pesticides have been linked to cancer,Alzheimer’s Disease, ADHD, and even birth defects,” according to an article published in the scientific journal Nature.  “Pesticides also have the potential to harm the nervous system, the reproductive system, and the endocrine system.”

By definition anthing with a USDA Certified Organic label must be produced without synthetic additives like pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and dyes, and must not be processed using industrial solvents. If you want to eat clean, organic food, is literally the cleanest available.

Prioritizing Whole, Unprocessed Foods

At its core, this is the clean eating basics. It’s also where a lot of the confusion arises. Fruits and veggies are pretty obviously unprocessed but what about whole grains? Is dairy unprocessed?

‘“Whole eating” or “eating whole” means eating meals prepared with whole, unprocessed foods that are picked or raised from their natural habitats,” wrote healthy cooking expert and author Jennifer Iserloh for Yoga Journal.  “To give you an idea, fruits and vegetables are whole, veggie chips are not; quinoa and brown rice are whole, bread is not; tomatoes are whole, jarred pasta sauces are not.”

With this definition, dairy would be considered a whole food and thus a clean food.  For some, it can certainly be a part of a clean diet. For those with a dairy allergy or intolerance, it certainly would not.

Cooking At Home When You Can

It’s a lot easier to eat clean when you know what’s in your food. Cooking your own meals is the best way to do that. We all lead busy lives so we get that cooking every day is not always an option, but we do recommend that you try to eat at home more than you eat out. Not only will you be eating healthier, you’ll also likely save money.

Ditching Your Diet

Generally speaking, we’re not huge on diets. Not only do they usually not succeed, severely restricting what you eat often leads to food obsession. “When you are dieting, you actually become more likely to notice food. . . But you don’t just notice it—it actually begins to look more appetizing and tempting,” said researcher Traci Mann, who has studied dieting for more than 20 years, to Psychology Today.  “Mann also stated that as you begin to lose weight, ‘the hormones that make you feel hungry increase’ and ‘the hormones that help you feel full, or the level of those rather, decreases.’”

Being Kind To Yourself

“You are a smart, capable woman with too much shit to do to waste any more time at war with your body,” Daryl Lindsey writes for The EveryGirl. “Cut yourself some slack and remember that life (and food!) is meant to be enjoyed. I know this sort of paradigm shift is easier said than done but start putting in the work to get there. Treating your body with respect doesn’t just mean eating salad and hitting the gym. It means recognizing it for all the awesome stuff it lets you do — and quitting punishing it just because you feel you should.



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