Clean Eating On The Rise
No doubt about it, “clean eating” is coming into its own. Once associated in the general public’s mind with well-meaning but rather eccentric types, the phrase — and even the concepts behind it — seem to be reaching a proverbial awareness tipping point. Of course, there are still many who’ve yet to investigate what clean eating is all about, and many likely to assume it’s just another flash-in-the-pan diet, like fat-free, high protein or … fill in the blank.
But clean-eating experts and average practitioners say that the whole point is that it’s not an unsustainable diet craze, but a lifestyle based on sound, common-sense nutritional and health principles. They add that you needn’t take their word: Just try introducing even one or two “clean” meals into your weekly diet, and it won’t take long to begin noticing benefits like better digestion, sharper mental focus, more energy, healthier skin and (often) natural weight loss.
A quick survey of the growing number of books and blogs on the topic confirms there’s no universally accepted, hard-and-fast “definition” of clean eating. Still, at the risk of offending some adherents, a capsule of the core precepts might go like this: Eat whole, simple (one to five ingredients), unprocessed foods that are as “close to the source” as possible, and in-season whenever possible, and balance your diet across the core food groups, focusing on vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy proteins and fats.
Some practitioners eschew meat (or all animal products, including dairy), gluten, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or all of those, and some eat only organic foods and beverages. Others say that while all of those are fine, there are many ways to practice clean eating, which are bound to be healthier than the still-typical American diet that’s heavy on low-nutrient, low-fiber processed foods that often contain added sugar, chemicals and preservatives. Some people opt to make clean foods 20, 50 or 80 percent of their diets.
“To me, clean eating is never about judgment, deprivation or rigid attitudes like ‘You have to follow a vegan diet, or else,’” says Avon resident Terry Walters , whose groundbreaking, best-selling cookbook “Clean Food,” released in 2000, has sold more than 100,000 copies. “It’s about bringing super-nutritional foods into your diet and onto your plate, whatever else may be there — not cutting out all of the foods you love.
“What works for me is different than what works for you,” she says. “The key is listening to your own body, or ‘the nutritionist within.’” Walters started a nutrition makeover to tackle high cholesterol, and devised practices and recipes that worked for her and her family over time. She believes helping people to eat clean based on their own physical constitutions and available resources and budgets is the most effective way to help make the lifestyle more mainstream.
She stresses “eating all of the colors of the rainbow and all five tastes,” know the sources of your food and what’s in it and use local sources when possible.
Similarly, practical precepts and approaches are driving a plethora of new clean-eating and expanding resources in Fairfield County.
Mike Geller, founder and CEO of Mike’s Organic Delivery, started in 2009 by delivering sustainably grown, locally sourced vegetables, dairy, meats and other products to nine homes. This year, the company will be delivering weekly, year-round, to 500 to 600 homes in Southwestern Connecticut and Westchester (N.Y.) County and may expand to serve other regional towns going forward, he reports.
Geller believes clean eating is all about the methods used in growing food and raising animals — the transparency and direct connection to sources that are “absent in the corporate food system.” He explains that while some of his small farmer-partners can’t afford to be government-certified in order to label their products “organic,” they use natural, organic methods: no chemical fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics or inhumane breeding conditions. While he respects the vegan lifestyle, he maintains that sustainably raised chicken, pork, lamb and beef can be part of a clean, healthy diet.
Which isn’t to say that you can’t “eat clean” if you shop at local supermarkets for budget, time or other reasons, says Walters, who uses both specialty and mainstream sources for personal consumption and her cooking classes. Today, she says, “95 percent of the ingredients are at my local Stop & Shop or ShopRite.”