• Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

Get Fresh: The New Definition of Clean Eating

Updated: Sep 10, 2018

As the trees start to change their colors for the fall season, now is the time to add more colors to your plate. It can be tempting to grab onto the vast array of convenience foods stocking the grocery store shelves. However, if the list of ingredients is as long as the label and each ingredient is more than three syllables long, then "Consumer, we've got a problem." For this fall, let's make a vow to keep it fresh in the food department.

How do I keep it fresh?

We're not talking about fresh breath or fresh style here (although they can be important too), but fresh eating. And I'm calling it fresh eating to get away from the oh-so-popular phrase "clean eating" which can be very confusing to understand and can mean something different depending on your source. As my napkin holder says, "Eat Clean, Use a Napkin."

Eating fresh doesn't mean that you have to eat only fresh foods straight from harvest (since it's not practical for many). However, eating fresh means eating foods that are minimally processed and made from mostly natural ingredients. This means avoiding additives and preservatives and dyes that are hard to pronounce and made in a lab. Cutting down on artificial sweeteners like sugar alcohols and non-nutritive sweeteners (even though I must admit I like me some sucralose in my tea once in while). Drinking more water and less sugary drinks and neon-colored concoctions.

Why should I eat fresh if I feel fine?

What is "fine" really? Sure, you should be grateful for having a good bill of health at the doctor. But do you really want to live the rest of life just feeling "fine?" Wouldn't you want to feel GREAT? Now, this may not be a possibility for everyone if you have a chronic illness, but eating fresh can help just about everyone, no matter your health status, feel greater.

This is because research shows that additives in foods can alter the gut bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract and in turn increase inflammation in the body. In simple terms, the additives cause an imbalance of "good" and "bad" bacteria, which triggers an immune response. This immune response can increase oxidative stress, which basically means a bunch of unpaired electrons go around stealing electrons from other tissues and cells so they can be paired (nobody wants to be lonely. lol.). This stealing causes cell damage to the body's tissues, and in turn increases chronic disease risk. This includes not only heart disease, but diabetes and inflammatory skin conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis, to name a few.

So, how can I eat more fresh?

Here are some tips on how you can start eating more fresh today, no matter your budget on time or money.

  • Buy fresh meats versus processed meats, poultry, seafood. You can save money on these foods by buying in bulk, or finding out the latest store specials and stickered discount items. If you are a party of one or two, just grab some freezer bags and split your bulk meats into smaller portions so you can get multiple meals from one family pack.

  • Get most of your vegetables frozen and in bulk. Fresh produce is best, but can sometimes be expensive and can go bad quickly if you don't eat it right away. Therefore, just get some salad greens and some fruit, but make most of your veggies frozen and in bulk bags to same money and waste.

  • Buy bulk. Nuts, seeds, oats, dried fruit, and beans can all be purchased in bulk at your local health food store such as Sprouts or Whole Foods, to name a few. You can buy as little or as much as you want of each fresh food for a discounted price. I have even found delicious dark chocolate pieces in the bulk section for an antioxidant-rich treat. Mmmm...

  • Choose water as your primary drink. Limit your fizzy drinks (not to say that I do not enjoy a diet soda or two here and there). Everything in moderation, but to stay hydrated and healthy, stick to mostly water. Seltzer water can count in this category since it is just fizzy water basically. Just avoid any brands with artificial ingredients.

Bottom Line

Now, I'm not saying that you have to be completely fresh all of the time to reap health benefits. Just be sure to limit your intake of processed foods to a bare minimum to cut down on the inflammation impact on your body. Every little step you take will make you feel that much closer to your GREAT.

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