What “Eating Clean” Means to Me

What does eating clean mean?

Saying the words almost comes second nature to me now. They just slide off my tongue as if they’ve always been there, but when I think back, it really wasn’t all  that long ago that I had absolutely no idea what eating clean meant. I hadn’t even heard of the term before, and I certainly didn’t practice it.

I think my first introduction to this term came when I picked up my first issue of Oxygen magazine. This was back in late 2007 when I started my journey. I had a long road ahead of me, and I sucked motivation from every medium possible. I was like a sponge at the time, and I tried my best to absorb the tips and guidelines shared in that magazine. Not long after, I picked up Tosca’s book, “The Eat Clean Diet”.

Since that time I’ve read countless magazines, newsletters, blogs, recipes, and websites that tote eating clean. Now it’s all I know.

But what is it?

This morning I received a personal email from a girl who is just starting her journey. She is where I was and is trying to take it all in. But the term eating clean dumbfounds her.

What is it? First and foremost I think the most important thing to share about eating clean is it’s not merely a diet. Not even close.

Eating clean is a choice for a healthier lifestyle.

You don’t eat clean until you get your desired results. You eat clean to not only get your desired results but also maintain them.

Eating clean is a way of life.

With saying that we can move on to what it really is.

Eating clean in my own opinion can be summarized by the following bullet points:

  • Eating clean means choosing to eat whole, unrefined foods and staying away from processed, chemically-enhanced foods.
  • Eating clean includes eating a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. Ideally you want to buy organic when possible (proven to maintain higher nutritional values), but any kind of fresh fruit or veggie is better than none. Fresh and frozen are ideal. You want to stray away from anything that might have been changed in any way. Canned foods are okay, and I do use them, but some of the most beneficial minerals and vitamins are lost in the process of canning. This is why fresh is the way to go when possible.
  • Eating clean includes eating lean sources of protein – including fish, poultry, beef, and egg whites. Healthier options include but are not limited to salmon, tilapia, orange roughy, chicken, turkey, flank, and bison. These are some of my absolute favorite sources for lean proteins, but there are countless others.
  • Eating clean includes eating healthy fats. Fats are not a “bad word” and are actually extremely beneficial as part of your clean eating diet. Healthy fats that I use daily include nuts, peanut butters, avocados, coconut oil, and olive oils. Ultimately you want to avoid saturated and trans fats. I found this link which breaks down examples of each – healthy and bad fats. Until you get used knowing which is which, keep this handy for easy reference. http://www.helpguide.org/life/healthy_diet_fats.htm. Just don’t leave fats out all together. Again, I’ve learned this from personal experience. I believe that some of my hormonal issues stemmed from my lack of healthy or any fats in my diet for too long a period of time. Healthy fats keep everything working smoothly and can actually assist you in losing or maintaining a lower bodyfat. Again, everything in moderation. Most authorities recommend 20-35% of your calories coming from healthy fats. If you are competing it might be lower than this for a time, but on average this range is a good rule of thumb.
  • Eating clean includes eating whole unprocessed grains in moderation. Now this is the controversial part (IMO) of eating clean. Many of my followers and industry leaders choose to eat Paleo which means they opt to not eat legumes and grains as well as other things. That is completely okay and purely the choice of the individual. There are also some who deal with auto-immune diseases (such as myself) who can’t tolerate gluten as well as others and may choose not to eat grains. That is okay as well. As with many foods, my feeling is, anything in moderation is okay. It’s when any one food takes over your daily diet you might have a problem. I know this firsthand. Leading up to and while writing my oatmeal cookbook I completely overdosed on oatmeal, and that was before I found out I had Hashimotos which strongly discourages eating anything with gluten. Live and learn. When eating grains you want to steer away from anything “enriched” or “processed” like white bread, white rice, and instant oats. Choose whole grains available.
  • Eating clean means simplifying. If you are like me you probably have a cabinet full of cookbooks full of fancy recipes that have a laundry list of ingredients required in order to make them. Eating clean means you cook with less. Air on the side of fewer ingredients. You want to keep meals simple, fresh, and naturally flavorful rather than covering them up with excess salts, gravies, sauces, and other condiments.
  • On that same note eating clean also means buying products that include fewer ingredients. Make sure you know every ingredient listed, and if it’s something you don’t know or can’t pronounce, there’s a good chance it isn’t “clean” and shouldn’t be in your body. Steer clear.
  • An extension to eating clean is drinking clean. When in excess sugary and diet sodas as well as alcohol can be harmful to your body. Each are full of harmful chemicals, empty calories, sugars, and fats – none of which are on an eating clean diet. Again, moderation is so key.
  • I was brought up to eat 3 big meals a day – as I’m sure many of you were – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’d stuff myself at each meal and then snack on junk in between. When your focus is eating clean, you’ll want to eat 5-7 smaller balanced meals throughout the day. This means you’ll be eating a balance of carbs, fats, and proteins at each meal every 2-3 hours. Your meals will be spaced out  from the moment you get up in the morning to the moment you hit the sack at night. This not only helps you feel satiated throughout the day, but it will provide your body the ongoing energy it needs to accomplish your daily tasks. As an added bonus, when you are eating the right foods throughout the day consistently, you’ll be revving your metabolism. That’s something we all want.
  • In addition to eating the right foods, you want to be sure you’re drinking plenty of water. Water is what helps break down the foods you eat, helps in transporting important minerals and vitamins throughout your body, aids in eliminating and preventing constipation, helps detox the body of waste, helps regulate body temperature, and helps positively with metabolism. It will also help you “fill” that hunger void if you experience it in between meals. Rather than snacking on empty calories, having a glass of water helps you feel satiated – which ultimately carries you over until your next meal. Many suggest you drink 8 glasses of water a day. I try and shoot for half to a full gallon a day. You don’t necessarily need to drink that much, but chances are you should be drinking more than what you are currently.

Eating clean can feel overwhelming at first, but once you get the hang of it, it really is more simple than you might think.

It will help you feel stronger, live better, lose or maintain a healthy weight, and will help you tap in to energy you didn’t even realize you had.

The benefits of eating clean are countless.

Not to mention eating clean is yummy. There’s no rule that good food has to taste boring. Eating clean has come to mean so much to me.

I’m sure every person has their own reasons for doing it, but for me, it really is the foundation of my active lifestyle. My body is my “temple” so to speak, and why would I want to fill it with junk? Been there done that and didn’t like the results. This way, I do.

18 Responses to What “Eating Clean” Means to Me

  1. Lily Wheatfill June 7, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

    So I’ve been a reading fool this week. I’ve read 2 books, magazines and blogs. This post takes the cake by far! Such good direction and information. Love it! Btw Jenny, you should read the book 14 minutes, by Alberto Salazar (kara gouchers former coach) best book I’ve read do far this year. Inspiring.

    • Jen June 7, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

      I will look it up! :)

  2. Lindsey June 7, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    Id stay away from canned foods too. Unless you know for a fact there’s no bpas.

  3. Mac Gordon June 7, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

    Thanks so much Jen, very informational and will help me on this journey!

  4. Jen June 7, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

    Thank you so much!! Its was immensely helpful. I try and eat as simple and healthy as possible, but havent read a breakdown as good as the above on clean eating. And yes there are so many variations that it can be overwhelming. SO THANK YOU!!!

  5. Joan Morte June 7, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

    I always thought that oats were gluten free??? Guess there is a fine line? I know the book Wheat Belly by William Davis also says no oats…Great book about how our wheat has changed in the last 50 years!

  6. Andrea June 7, 2012 at 8:00 pm #

    Great post! I think you give some great advice here!

  7. Emily June 7, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    Jenny- Do you not eat oatmeal anymore at all because of your intolerance? Just curious! thanks!

    • Jen June 7, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

      When I do I opt for Bob’s Glute-Free oats. :) Thank goodness they’re out there. At first I was heartbroken. I can’t even tell you! :)

      • Emily June 9, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

        Okay, gotcha! I’ll have to check those out. thanks :) I don’t comment often but I love your blog/page..

      • Kathleen June 10, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

        Soooo expensive though. :(

      • Misti June 29, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

        I don’t know if you have a trader Joes or not but GF oats are about 1/2 the price there! :)

  8. KP June 7, 2012 at 10:14 pm #

    Great post. We have been trying to adopt this habit in our house for the past few years and have finally gotten pretty darn good. Even when we slip up, we more often then not find ourselves indulging on better versions of forbidden foods. Some of my favorites of recently include 1/2 avocado mixed with tuna in place of mayo or making banana “ice cream” by freezing banans and putting them in the food processor w a few chocolate chips. Eating clean has made a big difference in my and my husband’s diet, but has been essential in helping steer our children toward a life of healthy choice in a world of bad one.

  9. Annemarie Brown June 8, 2012 at 12:40 am #

    I also have Hoshimoto’s but am trying to follow a clean eating diet. I would love to know more about what you have found has worked for your daily meals. Thanks so much for your sharing and encouragement along the way, you are a great inspiration!

  10. Heather June 8, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    What are your feelings about protein powders? What would you consider a clean protein powder?

  11. Christina Sinkovec June 8, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    Hi Jen. Thanks for the great blog post. I love that you summed up what it means to eat clean. One thing confuses me, though, and I’ve seen it on Paleo sites as well: coconut oil is recommended as a good fat, yet when I look it up on websites that talk about fats (or click on the link to good and bad fats that you provided above), it is listed as a bad fat. Which is true? I thought coconut oil was high in trans-fats and saturated fats. Could you educate me, please?

  12. Jen June 10, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    I haven’t heard of that. :) Not sure…

  13. Elaine June 29, 2012 at 3:39 pm #

    This is a great summary, Jen. Thank you!

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