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What Does it Mean to Eat Clean?

Eating clean sounds like a healthy diet in theory – but what does it really mean?  

Susan Okonkowski, registered dietician for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, said a lack of a universal definition for “clean eating” means it’s easy for people to interpret the diet trend in a way that could be problematic.  

It’s really broad, because the whole philosophy in and of itself is to eat more nutrient-rich types of foods that are whole,” Okonkowski said. “So, you think about whole grains and fruits and vegetables and legumes. That part of clean eating is healthy. With artificial ingredients, of course, you don’t want to be eating things that have food colorings and food dyes and added sweeteners and added sugars into them. That’s a very good part of the clean eating movement.”  

On the latest episode of A Healthier Michigan Podcast, hosted by Chuck Gaidica, he and Okonkowski discuss what clean eating really means.  

Click on the media player below to hear the podcast:

In simple terms, eating clean should mean eating nutrient-rich foods that are less processed, have less artificial ingredients and less sweeteners.  

But some people take clean eating to mean more than that – and can misinterpret the concept into something restrictive.  

For example, some people may think “clean eating” means taking off the skin of an apple or a potato before eating it – but the skin contains important fiber and nutrients, Okonkowski said. Or if someone decides they won’t eat any food that has additives; yet some foods like milk typically has Vitamin D added to enhance the uptake of calcium.  

So, you start to think about all the different ways that people are clean eating and they’re missing out potentially on some really good vitamins, nutrients and minerals for the body,” Okonkowski said.  

If you’re thinking about trying out the clean eating approach, Okonkowski said it’s best to focus more on adding more nutrient-rich, minimally processed foods to your diet and to avoid fixating on every ingredient in the food that you eat every day.  

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