What is Clean Eating Anyway?

January 25, 2012

Michael Pollan sums it up best when he says, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” If you have a good attention span, read that whole article and just skip this post.

If that’s too much for you at this stage of the game, then let me introduce you to my food mentor, Erika Kendall from A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss. If you want to follow the journey of a woman who went from 300+ pounds to fit and healthy through clean eating, then go there now. Anything I say about clean eating will reflect what I learned from her amazing site. But while her website is dedicated to clean eating and body issues, I plan on discussing how clean eating impacts lifestyle and fits into the bigger picture of  an ultra-retro life.

So you don’t want to click on any links?  Fine, then, “let me ‘splain. No there is too much, let me sum up.”

Clean eating is not a diet. It does not require driving 30 miles to shop at Whole Foods. And it does not entail cutting out whole food groups (unless you consider McD’s a food group). Clean eating is simply eating real foods made from real ingredients from sources you can identify, and that your great-grandma would recognize as food.

For example:

Cheese. Ingredients: milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes.  Clean? Yes. (The culture and enzymes are what helps milk solidify and determines the type of cheese — although once you go hardcore clean, you will have to start looking into the source of the enzymes.)

Pasta. Ingredients: flour, water (e.g. Trader Joe’s dry) or flour, eggs (fresh pasta). Clean? Sure. We can argue the merits of the different flours, but let’s do that later.

Kraft Mac n’ Cheese. Ingredients: whey, milkfat, milk protein concentrate, salt, sodium tripolyphosphate, contains less than 2% of citric acid, sodium phosphate, lactic acid, milk, calcium phosphate, yellow 5, yellow 6, cheese culture, enzymes.

Clean? Take a guess. I will grant you that if you make your own mac n’ cheese you will be adding in some more milk, salt, flour, and spices, but those are all clean. At this point, we are not comparing calories, or nutrition content, we are just talking about eating clean.

Okay so everyone knows Kraft Mac n’ Cheese is fake as all get out…. Let’s try bread.

Bread from scratch: Flour, water, butter, sugar, yeast, salt (the sugar is food for the yeast, it is not added to sweeten the bread).

Wonder Whole-Wheat Bread: Whole wheat flour, water, wheat gluten, high fructose corn syrup, contains 2% of less of: soybean oil, salt, molasses, yeast, mono and diglycerides, exthoxylated mono and diglycerides, dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium iodate, calcium dioxide), datem, calcium sulfate, vinegar, yeast nutrient (ammonium sulfate), extracts of malted barley and corn, dicalcium phosphate, diammonium phosphate, calcium propionate (to retain freshness).

Admit it… you stopped reading after the 2nd line! What is that stuff? Why are we eating it? Why are we feeding it to our kids?

Why should we care? Now that’s the $64,000 question. Most people don’t care. But we need to start.

But enough for now. This is a long process, so let’s take it slow.

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