• In the last several years I hear the term “clean eating” more and more.

    I remember when I first heard this term, or read about it, in a fitness magazine. I had no idea what it meant exactly.

    Is clean eating just making sure you wash your fruits and veggies as part of the preparation? To most is it more than that.

    I never thought much about what it meant because I do wash my fruits and veggies before prepping them, even items like melons and avocados.

    There was that time I witnessed someone (who shall remain nameless), drop a cooked steak on the ground, rinsed it off and served it anyway. Don’t ask. Please.

    But I have people tell me that they are clean eaters and they feel great.

    I am still not sure what this means… I just smile and tell them “that is awesome.”

    I have two degrees in nutrition science, years of experience, and even previously had a ServSafe® Food Handler Certification and taught the ServSafe® class to college nutrition students (all but one passed), so this isn’t like I don’t know nutrition or proper food handling to keep food safe. Or more specifically, keeping people safe from improper food handling.

    Trying to specifically define “clean eating” is like referring to a “nice neighborhood” – it is vague, subject to interpretation by the individual, and really has many potential meanings.

    So, I just have to ask people, “what does clean eating mean [to you]?

    And the response, “you know, clean. Whole foods, minimally processed food, lots of fruits and vegetables and lean protein and whole grains.”

    Ok, so what I call… hmm, what do I call that? Oh, yes: EATING.

    This is what I help my clients achieve with their overall eating pattern (aka diet) is mostly whole foods, minimally processed foods, lots of plant foods, healthier choices in the animal-based foods and making sure their intake of salt, added sugar, caffeine and alcohol are appropriate.

    Funny thing though, many of the people I meet who claim they are clean eaters – still consume alcohol.

    Wine, or other forms of alcohol, always tend to be an exception.

    Clean eating then, not clean drinking?

    I have no issue with moderate alcohol consumption as part of an overall healthy diet. I do find it interesting how people will make exceptions for alcohol when it comes to “clean eating.” I often hear, “but I won’t give up my glass or two of wine a day.”

    So, people who go on about the fact that they eat clean are just following what nutrition experts will call a healthy diet? You could also call it the DASH Diet, the Mediterranean Diet, the anti-inflammation diet, the heart-healthy diet, or any number of “diets” that help people reduce their risk of chronic disease by choosing mostly plant-based foods and lean protein sources.

    Here is the thing: there is nothing “magical” about following a pattern of “clean eating”.

    When people significantly reduce or stop eating highly processed foods that are calorie dense but not nutrient rich (things that have a “high” number of calories, but really nothing in the way of vitamins or minerals) overall health gets better and weight may change. Or not. This isn’t a guarantee.

    There is no clear definition of “clean eating” – it just depends on how the person or individual interpret it at the moment, that day, that week or whatever.