The New Nutrition: Clean Eating

Donna Ison

 

Over the past year, discussions about self-care were everywhere—on the evening news, daytime talk shows, social media, and in Zoom meetings, therapy sessions, and private conversations. It is now nearly universally recognized that attending to one’s own mental, emotional, and physical health is a necessity, not a luxury. Choosing food that provides the vitamins, nutrients, and pleasure to not only sustain but nurture us is an invaluable aspect of self-care.

The current focus is not on restriction, but replacement. The new nutrition is all about making sure our bodies receive plenty of foods that are full of the good stuff, and sans preservatives, pesticides added sugars, and, basically, anything not easily pronounced. One term for this dietary philosophy is “clean eating.”

We talked with three Lexington leaders in the field of nutrition to gain some insight.

Emily McGlone

Licensed Dietician and Owner of LexStart Nutrition

McGlone holds the accreditations of Masters of Science, Registered Dietitian, Licensed Dietitian, Certified LEAP Therapist, and Integrative and Functional Certified Nutrition Practitioner. Her company, LexStart Nutrition, focuses on gut health and reducing inflammation through medical nutrition therapy by utilizing a “whole systems” approach. First, she uncovers the underlying problem(s) and then creates personalized treatment plans, working closely with each client to expand the variety of foods they consume for optimal health.

What does the term “clean eating” mean to you?

When I think of “clean eating” I think about eating foods that are close to their natural state or have ingredients that reflect this. Getting back to the basics by eating real food with real ingredients, which usually consists of more fresh and less processed foods.

What is your philosophy on eating/nutrition?

As an integrative and functional dietitian, I believe that food should be nourishing to our bodies and taste good. Food can be a very powerful tool if we learn to use it in the right way. Learning to listen to our bodies and make the food and symptom connection can be a huge game-changer with how we feel.

What foods should people incorporate into their daily diet?

I teach people to eat variety. Eating as many plant-based foods as possible, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, lentils, and seeds, can greatly influence your gut microbiome in a very good way.

What is the biggest mistake most people make when it comes to their diet/eating?
Something I think we can all work on when it comes to our diet and eating is changing it up. Most of us tend to be creatures of habit, but the research shows the more variety we eat the more we are creating a diverse microbiome in our gut. Diversity in our gut is a good thing.

What one piece of nutrition advice would you offer our readers?

Try not to overthink it. Get back to the basics and start exploring new ways to eat or cook with real food and simple ingredients. Listen to your body and tune in to how the foods you are eating make you feel.

5 Really Easy Clean Eating Swaps

1.) Skip fruit-flavored yogurt and instead put your favorite fruits into plain yogurt. Need it to be a little sweeter? Add honey!

2.) Try overnight oatmeal for breakfast instead of fast food or frozen foods.

3.) Skip fruit juice and eat the whole fruit instead. Juices are lacking in fiber. Even when it’s organic, 100% juice, you often still end up having more sugar than you’d get if you just had an apple.

4.) Learn to make your own pasta sauces. You’ll be skipping a bunch of sugar while giving yourself a ton of new ways to incorporate veggies into your meals!

5.) Swap croutons for nuts and seeds. You’ll be adding healthy fats, protein, and fiber to your salad or soup!

Jack X. Taylor

Certified Trainer and Nutrition Coach

Taylor, known to his clients a Coach Jack, is a personal trainer who is certified through both the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and the Online Trainer Academy (OTA). He is also a Level 1 Precision Nutrition-certified nutrition coach. His mission is to help people become stronger in their bodies and in their relationship to their bodies, as a path to deeper self-care and greater self-love, through online strength training and coaching.

What does the term “clean eating” mean to you?

An objective way to define “clean eating” is a focus on eating mostly unprocessed foods. However, just the use of the term “clean” when talking about our eating exposes the underlying moralistic view most of us take on food, even if this view is unconscious. If some food is “clean,” then other food must be “dirty.” This quickly moves into a “good/bad” binary.

The unfortunate extension of this is how we judge ourselves, and others, for eating a particular food, depending on where it lies on that binary. Ever heard someone say “I was bad,” just because they ate a cookie? This quickly creates unhealthy and obsessive thinking around food and eating, which is the opposite of health. And so I refrain from using labels like this when discussing food and eating with my clients.

What is your philosophy on eating/nutrition?

Take an individualized and nonjudgmental approach and you will be happier and healthier. There are foods that work for you and for your goals, and there are probably some foods that don’t work for you.

You can use food to improve your health, but not if everything about food stresses you out. Reduce your stress by focusing on the things you can control which will have the biggest impact on your health:

  • Eat sufficient protein and veggies from varied sources.

  • Drink enough water.

  • Include healthy fats.

  • Let yourself enjoy fun foods that you like without guilt.

Anything more than that is overkill, and for most people really putting the focus on these few things will vastly improve how they feel.

What one piece of nutrition advice would you offer our readers?

Be kind to yourself! Your body is a miracle. Really. Your heart beats and your lungs breathe and your eyes blink and you don’t have to tell your body to do that; so be nice to it, be grateful for it, speak to it kindly. Your body already loves you, it’s a lifelong journey to love it back and a journey that is entirely worth it.

Nishaan Sandhu

Certified Mind-Body Nutrition Coach and owner of Nourish

In addition to being a mind-body nutrition coach, Sandhu is also a clinical herbalist and holistic healer. Along with nutrition coaching, her company Nourish helps clients restore their sense of balance, confidence, health, and joy through the integration of herbal medicine, Ayurveda, and astrology for healing.

What does the term “clean eating” mean to you?

When I think of “clean eating” I think of:

  • Foods that have not been treated with herbicides, pesticides, hormones, or genetic modification.

  • Quality foods from farmers you trust.

  • Ingredients that are certified organic, non-GMO (genetically modified organism), and contain natural ingredients.

Join a CSA with a local farm, such as Elmwood, and support your local co-op and Robert’s Health foods. It will take a lot of confusion out of your grocery shopping trips, as they have done a lot of the work for you in sifting through to find quality foods and ingredients. When you can, choose to purchase from companies who share humane practices and make their products in small batches and with love.

What foods should people incorporate into their daily diet?

As stated by Michael Pollan in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, “eat real food... mostly plants.” While I am not an advocate for any single diet as the key to health, no matter what you choose to eat, it’s almost always a great idea to eat more veggies.

And, go organic. One thing you can do is grab a “Dirty dozen and Clean Fifteen” list off the internet; they’re everywhere and are a great place to start your shift into organic foods, specifically veggies, to start with.

Foods high in omega fatty acids are essential, and organic fibers keep us regular. Protein keeps us energized and balances our blood sugars, and so do fats. Lots of clean water is always a great idea.

What one piece of nutrition advice would you offer our readers?

Take time to look at what you’re eating and make an inventory of how it makes you feel after you eat it. Do you feel tired? Bloated? Have a runny nose? Immediate need to run to the loo? Anxious? Depressed? These are just a few things that can happen from foods that don’t agree with you.

If there’s one thing I’ve seen cause a positive healing ripple in the lives of clients over the past 16 years, it is the identification and removal of foods that your body is sensitive, allergic, or, intolerant to.

 

In closing, our experts agree on a few key principles we could all embrace.

Respect and listen to your body and be kind to yourself. Trust your gut, and feed it accordingly. Embrace variety as the spice of life and a necessary part of proper nutrition. Make vegetables a mainstay. And, when you choose to indulge, do so without guilt or judgment.

So, whether for you “eating clean” means eating green, eating lean, or eating both and everything in between, remember eating well is the ultimate in self-care... and you deserve it!