Seems like every time you turn around, there is a new diet trend.
There will always be books and bloggers touting the latest “healthy” diet for all of us to eat. Eat this, not that.
And so it is, the #eatclean movement is no exception.
Describing the clean eating philosophy may differ depending on who is defining it – vegan, paleo/ancestral diet guru or celebrity spokesperson. The basis of eating clean to my understanding is eating whole foods while avoiding processed foods.
According to Rachel over at Clean Food Crush:
150 years ago processed foods didn’t even exist. Now, we’re so accustomed to eating out of boxes and plastic bags that we’ve begun to think Clean Eating is somehow a weird diet that’s being blown out of proportion.
I share the same sentiments, particularly as an Islander where I grew up eating meals that were prepared every day, from scratch. Sunday’s were the best – my sister and I spent the better part of the day (at mom’s direction), grating coconuts to make coconut milk for the rice and beans. As well as putting the dried beans to simmer slowly before adding the rice. Grating carrots and boiling beets to make carrot juice. Yum! That’s how we juiced it up, no Vitamix blender available to us back then.
Of course, we did not give our diet fancy or trendy names. And, I will admit that we did not adhere completely to the whole food philosophy as there was a lot of white flour and white sugar always in use. You dared not prepare a pot of beef stew without some (white) flour dumplings! Looking back, I recognize those two items led to a few health issues. I’ll share about the sugar/simple carbs issue in another post.
All in all, food from box or bag was virtually nonexistent in my household. That is why the idea of clean eating makes so much sense to me.
One of the most important aspects of clean eating is what you choose to eat on a regular basis. It doesn’t mean becoming fanatical, or sadly, have a disordered view of food as described in this article on the Guardian. As the article points out, for therapists who work in treating eating disorders, clean eating “is a phrase we have come to dread.”
I don’t however, agree that clean eating is a fad. The phrase might be new in our dietary lexicon, but the philosophy is not.
It means that whatever you choose to eat, the closer it is to its natural state, the more nutrient dense and the more beneficial for you. For me it means, thinking in terms of whole, organic foods with minimal to no processing. It means enjoying shopping, planning and preparing my own food. It means paying mindful attention to the life cycle of our food.
I emphasize as ‘much as possible’ because I believe in the 80/20 rule. To avoid becoming obsessive over what you eat, if 80% of your diet is geared towards eating whole foods, you will be doing your health a whole lot of good. Let that 20% give you some wiggle room to splurge, experiment or just bend a little. Don’t become the food police to yourself or anyone else.
For example, with the daily hustle, sometimes time is not on my side when it comes to spending an hour in the kitchen. I may end up in the frozen food aisle for something pre-prepared. When I do, I read labels. In general, the more ingredients a packaged food contains, the higher chances that it contains preservatives and artificial ingredients which are not good for my body. Or yours for that matter.
The simplest way to think about eating clean is to remember that clean food generally equals to locally-grown, whole, minimally-processed foods. Whether you are a carbo or protein type following a plant-based or omnivore dietary style, think about where your food came from, how its grown, harvested, caught or farmed. If it’s good for the plant or animal, it’s good for you too.
So, what’s the missing ingredient in clean eating?
With all the advocates hailing the health benefits of whole, unprocessed food, eating like our ancestors did, one key ingredient seems to be missing – community.
Our ancestors ate together. Hunting, gathering and cooking were centered around community. The communal aspect of preparing and eating is all but lost in this eat-for-health-driven world. It’s more about what you put in your mouth, than the psychology of eating. The meals I enjoy the most are the ones with family and friends in the kitchen during prep, or at the table savoring the fruits of our labor.
Eating clean, whole foods does not have to be difficult or intimidating. Start small and implement easy, gradual changes into your regular eating habits to get yourself on the path toward better health with whole foods. And make it a family (or friend) affair.
Yours in hormonal health,