Such a loaded question! But since this is my blog, I get to share my thoughts.
I like to think of it as cleaner eating. The less processed, the cleaner the eating. Because really, is rice any more processed than a flank steak? In the 100 days of real food challenge, one of their challenges is to eat food that has fewer than 5 ingredients on the label. I really like this one. I mean, how many ingredients need to go into one product?
Have you ever looked at the label of Kraft Singles? What catches your eye first?
For most of us, the No Artificial Preservatives or Flavors is a great attention getter. But the fine print down there says Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product, why is that? Because it contains less than 51% cheese! Does it really matter that there are no artificial fillings if it isn’t really cheese in the first place? Before I hop off my soap box on this, I will also point out that Natural Flavors is a great way for companies to hide GMOs in their food labels.
I went onto Subway’s website, their slogan is Eat Fresh, after all. Have you ever looked at the ingredients in the BMT meat? If not, here you go:
BMT® MEATS: Genoa Salami: Pork, beef, salt, water, corn syrup, dextrose, sugar, wine, sodium erythorbate, flavorings, sodium nitrate, spices, garlic, lactic acid starter culture, sodium nitrite. Pepperoni: Pork, beef, salt, dextrose, water, spices, corn syrup, paprika, oleoresin of paprika, flavorings, sodium erythorbate, lactic acid starter culture, sodium nitrite. HAM (Black Forest) Ham cured with: water, dextrose, 2% or less of modified food starch, salt, vinegar, seasoning [maltodextrin, flavors, sunflower oil, and smoked flavor], sodium phosphate, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite.
That is a whole lot of ingredients. Now, I know it isn’t like salami and pepperoni are naturally occurring pieces of meat on an animal. They don’t even have just one animal source at Subway. By comparison, here is the ingredients of Applegate brand pepperoni from their website:
The first rule of flexibility in the food here, the applegate pepperoni does have more than 5 ingredients listed. However, celery powder, spices, paprika, and garlic are pretty straight forward seasonings, not the same, to me, as ingredients.
I’m not going to enter the debate of Does bacon/ground beef/lunch meat count as processed? Technically, yes it does. It has to be processed to be edible. I make sure to buy nitrate free, no sugar added on the bacon and lunch meat. When it comes to ground meat, know your farmer, trust your butcher counter. You don’t need the most expensive cut of meat, but you don’t need a bunch of fillers in your food.
If you had to classify my eating, it would be considered loosely paleo. No breads or pastas, gluten or soy. I am not dairy free, as I have limited amounts of cheese, although even some of my cheese is actually dairy and soy free. I enjoy some of the starchier veggies like carrots, potatoes, and winter squashes. On occasion, we use regular rice instead of cauliflower rice.
We don’t make everything all the time, although I have made paleo ranch at times. Since Grace and I are gluten free, we buy or make gluten free barbecue sauce. If we don’t make our own salsa, I like Newman’s Own Farmer’s Garden, as it has minimal ingredients. The kiddos like corn tortillas with peanut butter and jam, and so we buy ones made with corn and water. As for the jam, I make raspberry jam with chia seeds. Or I buy from local farmers with no sugar added, fruit is sweet enough.
Some people don’t have a desire to eat gluten free, which is totally fine. I don’t think all gluten is bad for all people. The way we process our food these days, though, is harder on our body than the same food 20 years ago. The soil is more depleted today, so a carrot doesn’t even give you the same nutritional content. This means that our bodies do not operate as efficiently as bodies of the 80s, or 60s, or 40s, and this means we must change. Since I cannot change how my food is grown or processed, I must change the food I eat.
Some people don’t have a desire to cut out dairy. I think that for a minimal part of the population, that is just fine. You shouldn’t be eating cereal with milk, or deep frying cheese curds though. A little sprinkle of cheese on a dish can go a long way in terms of flavor. And greek yogurt is a great substitute in some recipes for things like sour cream.
What will clean eating look like for you? If you drink juice or pop, just stop! Drink more water, and stop saying you don’t like water. Of course you don’t like it, if that is what you keep telling yourself. If you are buying overly processed tv dinners or boxed dinners like hamburger helper, just stop! Take the time to make up some food and freeze it for convenience. If you go out to fast food for something quick or to treat your kids, just stop! Run to the grocery store and buy a rotisserie chicken with a bag of steamable veggies. It takes no more effort than a drive thru, and your body will thank me!
Where do you see how you can step up your eating to be cleaner? Let me know in the comments, or message me if you have more specific questions!