Happy Friday my friends! And happy last week of our #eatpretty16 challenge! I can’t believe how quickly 4 weeks went by! Some of you are probably rejoicing that this challenge is over. For the final week (which starts Monday) of the challenge, we will be eliminating processed foods and will be focusing on clean eating.
“The soul of clean eating is consuming food in its most natural state, or as close to it as possible. It is not a diet; it’s a lifestyle approach to food and its preparation, leading to an improved life – one meal at a time.” –Clean Eating Magazine
The reason why we are avoiding processed foods this week is because they have acquired a bad reputation for being your diet saboteur. It’s blamed for our nation’s obesity epidemic, high blood pressure and the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes. But processed food is more than boxed macaroni and cheese, potato chips and drive-thru hamburgers. It may surprise you to learn that whole-wheat bread, homemade soup or a chopped apple are also processed foods. Wait what?!
“We have to determine what processed really means when we’re talking about processed food,” says Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD. She says, for example, that she considers white bread refined since most of the healthy fiber has been removed during the processing. “It’s also processed, but keep in mind, that as a cook you’re doing processing yourself. Have you ever heard of something called a food processor? I think we get really caught up in the wordprocessed without realizing what it truly means.”
According to Eatright.org, processed food falls on a spectrum from minimally to heavily processed:
- Minimally processed foods — such as bagged spinach, cut vegetables and roasted nuts — are often simply pre-prepped for convenience.
- Foods processed at their peak to lock in nutritional quality and freshness include canned beans, tomatoes, frozen fruit and vegetables, and canned tuna.
- Foods with ingredients added for flavor and texture (sweeteners, spices, oils, colors and preservatives) include jarred pasta sauce, salad dressing, yogurt and cake mixes.
- Ready-to-eat foods — such as crackers, granola and deli meat — are more heavily processed.
- The most heavily processed foods often are frozen or pre-made meals like frozen pizza and microwaveable dinners
Processed food can be beneficial to your diet.
- Milk and juices are sometimes fortified with calcium and vitamin D, and breakfast cereal may have added fiber. Canned fruit (packed in water or its own juice) is a good option when fresh fruit is not available.
- Some minimally processed food like pre-cut vegetables are quality convenience foods for busy people. “Bagged vegetables and salads are helping people eat more vegetables,” says Giancoli. “They’re more expensive, but if your choice is between paying less and chopping it when you know you’re not going to do that, and paying a little more for the bagged vegetable you know you’re going to eat, the [bagged vegetable] is a better choice.”
“You have to look at the big picture,” says Giancoli. “Be a detective — read the ingredients list and review the nutrition facts panel. Food is complex and we need to get to know it.”
Confused or worried yet? The best way for me to explain clean eating is to give you a few pointers on how you should and should not be eating this week.
(1) Choose organic whenever possible
If your budget limits you, make meat, eggs, dairy and the Dirty Dozen your organic priorities.
(2) Drink at least two liters of water a day
Preferably from a reusable canteen, not plastic; we’re friends of the environment here! Limit your alcohol intake to one glass of antioxidant-rich red wine a day.
(3) Get label savvy
You should be able to recognize everything on a food label. Any product with a long ingredient list is human-made and not considered clean.
(4) Avoid processed and refined foods
This includes white flour, sugar, bread and pasta. Enjoy complex carbs such as whole grains instead.
(5) Know thy enemies
Steer clear of anything high in saturated and trans fats, anything fried or anything high in sugar. Avoid preservatives, color additives and toxic binders, stabilizers, emulsifiers and fat replacers. Check out this list of the top ten food additives to avoid.
(6) Consume healthy fats
Aim to have essential fatty acids, or EFAs, every day. Think- avocados, eggs and nuts.
(7) Learn about portion sizes
Work towards eating within them. I highly recommend using www.choosemyplate.gov to figure out your portion sizes.
(8) Reduce your carbon footprint
Eat produce that is seasonal and local. It is less taxing on your wallet and our environment.
(9) Shop with a conscience
Consume humanely raised local meats and ocean-friendly seafood. Visit seachoice.org for a printable pamphlet.
So recap- here is what we are NOT eating this week:
- Non- whole grain carbs (breads + pastas)
- Granola Bars & Energy Bars
- Dried Fruit (you can have home-made dried fruit but not store purchased)
- Flavored nuts (you can have all natural nuts)
- Fruit snacks (gummy style)
- Microwave Popcorn
- Ketchup (unless its 100% all natural)
- Frozen Dinners
- Canned Soup
- Pasta Sauce
Remember to use your judgment on the rest. Look behind at the “Ingredient List” and if you see a bunch of ingredients you’ve never heard about- don’t buy it. This week is not meant to be easy so keep that in mind. If you are struggling just shoot me and e-mail and we can think of some delicious clean eating recipes to try together! Good luck my pretty friends!
Here is a delicious recipe that is CLEAN and easy to make. Enjoy!
Composed Bean Salad Recipe
- 3 lemons, juiced
- 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 cup French or Green beans, trimmed
- 1 15-ounce can dark red kidney beans, rinsed
- 1 15-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed
- 1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 cup very thinly sliced radishes
- 1 cup of edamame
- Rinse your vegetables and trim your French beans. Optional: steam green beans in a large saucepan fitted with a steamer basket until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Spread them out to cool.
- Combine lemon juice from your 3 lemons, vinegar, mustard and pepper in a small bowl. Stir until mixed well.
- Arrange all your vegetables on a platter. Serve with the dressing.