Just what do you mean when you say you are “eating clean”?

Just what do you mean when you say you are “eating clean”?

Just what do you mean when you say you are “eating clean”?

“I’ve started eating clean,” my client reported with pride. While I understood what he meant, I decided to play devil’s advocate.

“What were you eating before… filthy food from the floor?”

“Do you actually think food in wrappers is dirty?”

“Are you concerned that processed food is filled with dirt?”

Clearly, the phrase “eating clean” is a bit too trendy for me. It implies that commercially prepared foods are unfit for human consumption. Not quite true. Some commercially prepared and  processed foods are indeed healthier than others; for example, munching on baked corn chips is preferable to  eating fried cheese puffs. But processed/canned kidney beans and tuna fish, Wheaties from a box, frozen broccoli, ZING Bars in wrappers, and numerous other foods that come pre-wrapped add to our ability to consume a wide variety of highly nourishing and wholesome foods.

I’d like to suggest you—

• replace the words “eating clean” with “enjoying lightly processed” (if processed at all) foods. They might even come in wrappers (to, literally, keep them clean).

• be more concerned about nutrient density than “simple ingredients.” (After all, sugar, white flour and salt are “simple ingredients.”).

• embrace wholesome fortified and enriched foods. While the ingredient list for foods with added vitamins and minerals can look “dirty,” fortified foods offer an advantage over “all natural” foods with no additives. For example, the iron added to breakfast cereals like Post Grape-Nuts or Kellogg’s Raisin Bran (as compared to “all-natural” Kashi or Puffins) can boost your intake of this important mineral that is often missing in the diets of athletes who avoid red meat.

Instead of clean/dirty or good/bad foods, let’s think about balance/moderation. The real focus of your food choices should be on eating a variety of primarily wholesome foods, in particular, a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables (white bananas, red cherry tomatoes, orange baby carrots, green grapes, yellow pineapple, blueberries, etc.). Of all the foods that can improve your health, colorful fruits and veggies are high on the list – even if they are the “dirty” types (canned tomatoes, peaches, or pineapple, or frozen berries, broccoli, and green beans).

Just call me untrendy.

To your good health,


Written by Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD

Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD is an internationally respected sports nutritionist, weight coach, nutrition author, and workshop leader. She is a registered dietitian (RD) who is a board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She is also a certified WellCoach. Nancy specializes in nutrition for performance, life-long health, and the nutritional management of eating disorders. She counsels both casual exercisers and competitive athletes in her private practice in the Boston area (Newton, MA). Some of her clients consider her to be their food coach, others their food therapist. Regardless, she enjoys the challenge of helping sports-active people transform their suboptimal eating habits into effective fueling plans. Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook, a best-selling resource, has sold over 550,000 copies and is now in it's new fifth edition.
Website: http://www.nancyclarkrd.com

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