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The Truth Behind Clean Eating

A quick trip to the grocery store or chain restaurant and you will likely be bombarded with the concept of “clean eating” foods that claim to be “organic”, “natural”, “non GMO”, and “gluten free”. There is also the laundry list of foods you should avoid such as high fructose corn syrup, processed foods, and various toxins or chemicals. As a consumer it can be very overwhelming and intimidating to choose which foods are best for you.

While clean eating is not a new sensation, it has become increasingly popular in part due to misinformation on social media. Fear mongering is the latest marketing strategy in which companies are deliberately arousing fear in consumers to help sell their product. For example, products claim to be non-GMO when in fact it is not produced as a GMO food in the first place. There are only 8 genetically modified crops commercially prepared in the U.S. Products that have never contained gluten have a “Gluten free” label on them. Then there is the irrational concept  of avoiding foods with chemicals, which is essentially impossible as everything is a chemical including many natural ingredients. All chemicals have the capacity to be deadly if consumed in excessive amounts, including water (H20).

A major problem with many health claims is that it is causing people to cut out entire food groups such as dairy, gluten, or carbohydrates as they are portrayed as unclean.This is leading to an increasingly unhealthy relationship with food and disordered eating habits as well as insufficient intake of many essential nutrients.

Clean eating initially started as something I could get on board with, encouraging consumers to increase intake of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, animal and plant based protein, nuts, seeds, and oils. It’s emphasis was on eating minimally processed, whole foods, and cooking at home. All of these ideas are things most of us could benefit from. The problem now seems to be the misconception that if you are not eating “clean” than you must be eating “dirty” which often results in feelings of guilt, blame, and overall negative self-esteem. These feelings can spiral causing people to often give up on their healthy eating plan or feel insufficient. There is plenty of pressure in our society to live up to a certain standard that we do not need increased stress by feeling guilty if we are not eating “perfect.”  So with all of the health claims made, how do you know you are making the most healthful choices?

Here are my recommendations for balanced, healthy eating.
1.       Eat your fruits and veggies. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is important for getting the recommended amount of fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. Fresh, frozen, and canned are all great options. It may be best to limit juice as it does not contain the fiber that whole fruits and vegetables have that help to make you feel full and keep you regular.

2. Plan ahead. It is essential you plan meals and snacks ahead of time to be successful with healthful eating. Whether you plan a day at time or a week’s worth of meals, you must have a plan.  Your chances of making the best food choices are best when you are prepared ahead of time..

3.  Increase variety. Be sure to choose a variety of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, fats, and grains to be sure you are getting appropriate macro and micronutrients.

4. Strive to be healthy, but not perfect. Food is meant to be fuel but is also meant to be enjoyable. Remember that the foods you eat do not distinguish the type of person you are so don’t be afraid to splurge occasionally. Eat foods that you actually enjoy and you will feel more satisfied.

5. Be Mindful. Are you eating because you are hungry? Stressed? Bored? Listen to your body and the cues it’s providing for both hunger and satiety. Learn the emotions you have surrounding food.

6. All foods fit. If you primarily eat foods that are benefiting your body, all foods are appropriate in moderation.

Be well,



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