Clean Eating: Why It’s Good for You

The term  “clean eating” seems to be popping up everywhere … in grocery stores, health food stores and online. So what is clean eating, and why should you be paying attention to it?

Clean eating is the principle that there are health benefits from eating whole foods in their most natural state, and reducing consumption of processed foods. Clean eating revolves around a set of principles that include:

  • Eating fresh fruits and vegetables at every meal.
  • Choosing whole grains instead of refined grains (for example, barley and brown rice instead of white rice).
  • Limiting highly processed and packaged foods: these foods are more likely to contain a number of additives, preservatives, and artificial flavours and colours.
  • Limiting foods with added salt, sugar, and trans or saturated fats .
  • Choosing foods in their natural form rather than in an altered form: for example, choosing fresh fruits (such as apples or oranges) instead of fruit juices, or choosing a piece of fish over fishcakes or fish sticks.
  • Preparing and eating more foods at home, instead of choosing takeout foods or eating in restaurants.

Why clean eating?

Personal values often drive consumers to seek out clean foods. These include people who are:

  • Seeking nutritious foods to support a healthy lifestyle for themselves and their families.
  • Seeking vegetarian, vegan, halal or kosher choices.
  • Concerned about animal welfare.
  • Eager to purchase only fair trade or locally produced foods.
  • Looking for organically produced foods.
  • Trying to avoid allergens (for example, those who are allergic to soy, wheat or nuts).

What about clean labelling?

Similar to clean eating, the term “clean labelling” seems to have sprung up over the past few years as well. When you’re shopping for convenient meals and snacks – whether for yourself, your children or even your pets! – be on the lookout for clean labels. These will let you know that the product is a good one not only for your health but for agricultural and environmental reasons as well.

While there’s currently no consensus among governments or organizations regarding the definition of ‘clean labelling’, for the purposes of this blog, a clean label is one that has relatively few ingredients overall, and few or no preservatives, artificial flavours or colours.

A clean label is also fairly easy to read, in the sense that the ingredients are recognizable and pronounceable (for example, saying “cream” versus “microparticulated whey protein concentrate”). The  journalist Michael Pollan, who has written extensively about agriculture and food production, once said, “If you can’t say it, don’t eat it!”.

 


Zeroing in on clean labelling

These days, consumers like you are looking for ingredients that you recognize. Learn and understand what is on the label, and then decide whether you want to eat it. To that end, here are some tips on reading food labels to help you understand if you’re making a ‘clean’ choice:

  • Check the number of ingredients: the fewer, the better.
  • If you’re not familiar with an ingredient, do some research to find out what it actually is!
  • Limit the number of times you reach for highly processed or artificial ingredients.
  • Look at the Nutrition Facts table to determine the amounts of healthy versus less healthy ingredients. All of the information on calories, nutrients and ingredients can be found there.

Clean eating and clean labelling go hand in hand. If you make the choice to ‘eat clean,’ then paying attention to labelling, and looking for clean labels, will naturally follow. Be sure to support your clean eating efforts by checking out products at your local Canadian Health Food Association Member health food store and make clean eating a part of your daily routine – your body will thank you!