Today's Wellness 101 is a crash course on clean eating, from our friends at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. The Holidays will be here before we know it — how did that happen? — so it's a great time to get our diets in order before the sweet, seasonal treats start showing up everywhere.
Clean eating has been making its way through social media, nutrition blogs, magazines and books. But what is it really, and is it a diet?
The name "clean eating" has been around since the mid-90s, and the concept is actually something registered dietitians have been talking about for decades. If you see a dietitian or nutrition professional for healthy lifestyle and eating, she or he will tell you to eat foods that are "whole," or closest to their original state. That is what clean eating means in its simplest definition.
Let’s take eating whole tomatoes versus tomato soup. A tomato has no processing and is considered whole because it is in its original form, including all its vitamins, minerals and fiber, while the soup has gone through processing that breaks it down, and it may includes additional ingredients such as salt, high-fructose corn syrup, wheat flour, potassium chloride, citric acid and natural flavors. (Yes, I am reading the label and I do have tomato soup in my kitchen—don't we all?) If you read the ingredients and find more than five, it is usually a processed item. That’s not to say you can't find processed foods with minimal ingredients. A bag of potato chips may only have three: potatoes, vegetable oil and salt. But we all know potato chips aren't the healthiest thing for our waistlines. The idea is to eat the potato (bake it or roast it) vs. eating the chip that has been made from a potato and fried. Catch my drift?
Avoid the processed stuff. Things that come in a bag, can or box will often contain many ingredients and processing to preserve shelf life. I'm not here to say you can't eat them, I would just be cautious. The fewer ingredients in a list on a label, the better. If you don't know what an ingredient is, you may want to take a pass.
Incorporate more unprocessed foods, like:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Oils, such as olive oil
Minimally processed foods include:
- Unrefined grains like whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa and steel-cut oatmeal
- Frozen fruits and vegetables minus the butter and sauces
- Unprocessed meat such as grass-fed cattle, free-range chicken and wild-caught fish
- Hormone-free dairy products
~Ginevra L Bianchini, RD, CSP, CNSC, Clinical Dietitian III
Ginevra is certified as a specialist in pediatric nutrition and nutrition support clinician. She’s been practicing in pediatric nutrition for 9 years and has been with CHLA for three years working as the intestinal rehabilitation and home parenteral nutrition dietitian.
This post is solely for informational purposes. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for medical advice. Before undertaking any course of treatment or dietary/health changes, you should seek the advice of your physician or other health care provider.