Nutrition, The Nutrition Edge

Tips on how to become a ‘clean eater’

“Clean eating’’ seems to be a hot trend these days.

But what is it?

Signature Medical Group dietitian Liz Erker says clean eating does not follow a specific diet or certain foods. Instead, it is a movement toward eating more of the foods that nature provides.

That means, you need to examine lists to identify foods with fewer ingredients, learning more about the source of your food, and appreciating how it affects your body.

Erker gives these tips about clean eating:

Foods commonly recommended: Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables; whole grains such as oats, farro, and quinoa; legumes and pulses such as kidney and black beans, lentils, or chickpeas; and small amounts of lean meats, organic poultry or wild fish, as well as healthy fats from nuts, seeds, and olive oil. Meals and snacks should be homemade from the above ingredients, and sweets or desserts, sweetened beverages, alcohol, and caffeine are limited or avoided. Often, clean eating plans advise eating 5 to 6 small meals each day.

The health benefits of clean eating include:

  • A significant increase in dietary fiber, which has benefits for the gastrointestinal system, glucose, cholesterol, and weight management.
  • Fewer ingredients such as artificial coloring and flavoring agents, preservatives, added salt, sugar, and fat.
  • Additional dietary antioxidants and phytochemicals (plant compounds) that help to reduce the risk of many cancers and cardiovascular disease.
  • A steady supply of essential nutrients to fuel the body and boost the metabolism, which may aid with weight loss and improve energy levels.

How to get started:

Examine ingredient labels. Although there are no hard and fast rules, whole, or “clean” foods often contain between one and three ingredients, and many whole foods, such as produce, do not contain a food label. Steer clear of processed foods with ingredients made in a lab. The goal is to choose foods that are as close to the way they come from the ground, or farm, and eat as simply as possible.

Shop the perimeter of the grocery. Many of the foods within the supermarket aisles are heavily processed, while the perimeter contains mostly whole foods. Focus on the produce department, and fill your cart with as much color and variety as possible. Move into the meat department, and look for small portions of skinless poultry, wild-caught fish wherever possible, and lean beef. Choose hormone-free milk and dairy products, and buy organic dairy if it is available and affordable.

Fill up on fiber. Instead of white breads, pasta, rice, and baked goods made with white flour, experiment with whole-grain products like oats, brown rice, ancient grains such as quinoa, amaranth or spelt, and products made from whole-grain flours. These foods are far less refined, and more nutritious. Other healthy and whole sources of fiber include nuts, seeds, and legumes. Including several servings of these foods with meals and snacks will help you meet the recommended goal of 25 to 35 grams of fiber each day.

Wean yourself from added fats, salt, and sugar, and retrain your taste buds. Most processed foods are high in these three ingredients, which are not only addictive to the taste buds, but they contribute to lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Stick to healthy fats such as olive oil, or nut butters. Substitute fresh or dried herbs, lemon and garlic for salt in cooking, and use small amounts of natural sugar from fruit, honey, or maple syrup as a sweetener.

Cook more frequently. Preparing meals and packing snacks made from the above ingredients certainly requires more of a time commitment, but the payoff is great – no foods are off limits.

Signature Medical Group believes a healthy diet is a key to maintaining overall health. Make an appointment today to see one of our nutritionists to set you on the right path.