Eat Clean:
Simplify Your Food Choices

What does it mean to eat clean? For me, it means to simplify your food choices. So how do you get started? There are many ways to approach the clean up process. I suggest you educate yourself on what’s good for you and then head to your cupboards and start eliminating all the items that don’t meet your new definition of food.

I just read a fantastic little book called In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan, and it got me thinking about how the average person views food.

In his book, Michael talks about people thinking in terms of nutrients, and, being a nutritionist, I understand this. What I didn’t realize was that breaking foods down in to their nutritive constituents has become a big confusing industry all on its own and in turn confuses the consumer about what is a healthy choice and what is not. It’s an interesting read, and I do recommend picking up the book.

The last third of the book focuses on using certain food principles or values to get you through all the misinformation that’s out there. Here, in brief, are a few of his principles to help you eat clean:

  1. Don’t eat anything your great grandmother would not recognize as food – this statement stands on its own
  2. Avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number, or that include d) high fructose corn syrup
  3. Avoid products that make health claims – in order to have a health claim on the package, it has to be packaged, which makes it a processed “food product” instead of a real food
  4. Shop the outer isles of the supermarket and stay out of the middle – the middle contains all the highly processed food products
  5. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible and avoid the convenience stores – farmers markets, co-ops, and organically grown delivery services are much better options
  6. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves – that’s where all the good micronutrients are hiding
  7. You are made up of the things your food eats too – take a look back at your food chain…if your meat is fed a Western diet of grains, antibiotics, and growth hormone instead of grass, then you in turn are being fed that Western diet…if your grains and plants are grown on chemically fertilized soil and dowsed with pesticides and herbicides, then so are you
  8. Eat like an omnivore – this speaks to biodiversity…most of the foods in your local supermarket are made from a small group of plants, and you eat them over and over again in various states of processing…break outside this select few and try adding new species of plants and a few organic/wild animals to your meals
  9. Eat well-grown food from healthy soils and eat more like the French, or the Italians, or the Japanese, or the Indians, or the Greeks – each of the cultures mentioned are more health conscious than the average North American…and it shows…usually around the waist
  10. Have a glass of wine with dinner – besides taking the edge off, a regular glass of red wine has protective qualities against heart disease

Pay more, eat less, and eat slowly – this is the idea of quality vs. quantity. High quality foods do cost more, but because you’re getting much more out of the foods you don’t need to eat as much. The idea of eating slowly will give your brain time to register the message that your stomach is full before it becomes “stuffed”.

Do all your eating at the table – your office desk is not the table and neither is a TV table or the coffee table in your living room…and please, for goodness sake do not eat in your car.

Here’s your exercise for the week:

Go to your cupboards, your pantry and your refrigerator.

Pull all the jars, bottles, tubs, packages, boxes, and any other containers you have that have the ingredients labels on them.

Look at the ingredients. If there are more than 5 ingredients – get rid of them. If the ingredients have chemical names – get rid of them. If the ingredients include high fructose corn syrup or glucose/fructose – get rid of them.

Now replace all those items with real food. This is how you eat clean. Real food usually doesn’t come in packages with health claims and claims of being low in fat or calorie reduced. Real food resembles the actual food the farmers harvest (so if it doesn’t look like a carrot, it’s probably not – and if you want to have a sauce containing carrots, you can make it with real food ingredients and save yourself the extra chemicals the food manufactures would have added to the “food product” to increase its shelf life). Your body will thank you for it.

Eating is simple – it’s the food industry that’s made it so difficult for everyone to figure out what they should sink their teeth into.

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The contents of this site are the opinions of Michele Tse unless otherwise noted. The information on this site is intended for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical or nutritional advice or treatment. Please consult your health care practitioner before beginning any fitness program.