The Basic Planks of the Eating Clean Platform

By Jonathan Wright, Linda Larsen

The eating clean movement really started in the 1960s thanks to the efforts of Adele Davis and other health food authors. At that time, health food stores started springing up around the country, and people told jokes about tofu eaters who dressed in natural fibers and sandals and ate nuts and berries. In 1987, Ralph Nader wrote the book Eating Clean: Overcoming Food Hazards, which focused on the hazards of processed foods.

But then Corporate America started pushing convenience foods and time-saving products above everything else. Mixes, frozen dinners, and junk foods started crowding whole foods off grocery store shelves.

After decades of Americans’ eating processed foods and, not coincidentally, watching their population become more obese, fad diets became more and more popular. But they weren’t successful, because following a really restrictive diet for long periods of time is nearly impossible. Everyone falls off the wagon, and many people have a hard time getting back on — which is why, after losing weight, more than 90 percent of overweight people eventually put the weight back on. On the other hand, the clean eating lifestyle has become more popular as more people realize how simple it really is. It’s a lifestyle you can live with for the rest of your life.

The basic planks of the eating clean platform are

  • Eat whole, unrefined, and unprocessed foods that are low on the food chain. Buy bunches of broccoli, whole heads of lettuce, corn on the cob, cantaloupe, whole chickens, and unrefined grains rather than processed foods, like broccoli in sauce, packaged salads, canned corn, and lunch meat.
  • Eat a wide variety of unprocessed foods. Today’s markets and grocery stores offer many more fruits and vegetables today than they did a few years ago. Try unusual foods like passion fruit, salsify, or broccoli rabe. Experiment with unfamiliar foods to help make mealtime more interesting.
  • Avoid artificial substances, including artificial flavors and colors, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners. These items can harm your health by literally becoming part of your body’s cell structure and changing some basic biological mechanisms. These changes weaken your body’s ability to stay healthy.
  • Cut back on sugars, especially processed sugars like high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. That means no more soda pop or other sugary drinks. Your body processes these ingredients differently, and they provide nothing but empty calories.
  • Avoid trans fats and artificial fat substitutes. The trans fatty acids found in shortening, lots of baked products, and snack foods may be behind the skyrocketing heart disease rates in this country, so don’t eat them. Two more reasons why you should avoid artificial fats are that they cause unpleasant side effects and no one really knows about their long-term safety.
  • Choose low-fat, not nonfat, dairy products. Nonfat products use processed and artificial substances, like additives and starches, to mimic the texture and flavor of fat.
  • Choose foods that are nutrient dense. In other words, for every calorie a food provides, it should also provide vitamins, minerals, protein, carbs, fiber, and good fats. Good fats include the fats found in nuts, olive oil, and lean meats, especially seafood. On the other hand, you find empty calories, which are calories with little or no nutritional value, in snack foods, cookies, candies, and soda.
  • Combine protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats at every meal for the most satisfaction. This combination helps stave off hunger and gives you more energy than you get from consuming something that’s sugary or salty.
  • Drink lots of water. Try to drink several glasses of water a day. If you don’t enjoy the taste of plain water, you can also drink unsweetened tea. Drinking plenty of water helps keep your digestive system running smoothly. Avoid drinking fruit juices, because they can be high in sugar and calories.
  • Eat five or six minimeals a day rather than three large meals. Make breakfast your largest meal, with whole-grain cereal or toast with butter or peanut butter and some form of protein, like a hard-boiled egg. Your other meals need to include protein, carbs, and fat, like celery sticks with nut butters and dried fruits or sandwiches made with sliced chicken and vegetables such as avocado and tomatoes.
  • Practice portion control, especially when you eat more than three meals a day. Each meal should be about 300 to 400 nutritious calories. Figure out what 1/2 cup of brown rice or other whole grain or fruits and vegetables looks like, because that’s how big a typical serving is. A serving of bread is one slice; a serving of meat is 3 ounces, or about the size of a deck of cards. With time, eating proper portions will become second nature. Depending on which meal schedule works best for your day, you can adjust the amounts accordingly.