What Clean Eating Means to Me

I overheard a conversation in the sauna room today at the gym. Oh, that’s my new thing these days. After my workout, I go in the sauna once per week. I spray diluted apple cider vinegar on my face after splashing it with cool water, and then sit in the sauna and let my pores open. It makes my skin so soft and dewy afterwards. Soft skin tips aside, back to the story at hand. There were two other people in the sauna, a mom and daughter. As I spread out my towel to sit and enjoy the steam, the lady exclaimed, “like what the frig does that mean? Clean eating?”

“Mom,” the daughter giggled, “it just means to eat healthy.”

“It sounds so dumb. Clean eating. As opposed to dirty eating?”

I have no clue who was advising this lady to be a clean eater. Her trainer? Her dietician? Doctor? I wasn’t able to get the whole story because I entered the sauna mid-conversation. I could tell she was not very thrilled with the term.  Before I continue please allow me to stress that I am none of the professions above. I’m simply an average woman trying my best to maintain health. If this lady asked me what a clean eater is, along with some other gym patrons, it is possible we might all have different explanations.

The term clean eating has been circulating for years. I have seen it countless times in health and fitness magazines. I see the term often in healthy living blogs I read. Clean eaters are everywhere! But who exactly are they? One thing is clear, eating clean has never been more confusing than it is today. Paleo, Keto, plant-based vegetarian, pescatarian,  raw food vegan, gluten-free, dairy free, Whole 30, 21 day Fix. If I was searching for a new eating plan I wouldn’t know where to begin.

My sister is trying to lose a few pounds and she asked me what I eat.  I advised my sister to eat as clean as possible. For me, this means eating fresh and avoiding the frozen, package food aisles in the supermarket or the fast food drive through for a quick meal. Keeping things simple, and avoiding foods with tons of ingredients that I can’t even pronounce on the nutritional information. For example, instead of buying packaged lasagna, I try to make my own. This way, I can control the salt, sugar and whatever else. I can switch the ground beef to lean ground turkey, a lot more vegetables, use a lighter type of cheese, whole wheat lasagna noodles or whatever I choose.  Clean eating for me involves eating a variety of whole foods that will help fuel my body during my busy days and challenging workouts. It’s eating less cake, and more kale.  Less wine, and more fresh, filtered water. I try not to make it complicated. I do my best, but of course I have slip ups, especially around holidays and family gatherings. I make allowances for these times, and try not to let my eating be too rigid. I feel that life is about enjoyment too.

I forwarded my sister my grocery list essentials:

2015-05-30 11.16.18

2015-05-30 12.13.342015-05-30 12.18.10IMG_2786

Today’s lunch:

Green salad topped with tuna, a hard boiled egg.
Green salad topped with tuna and Hemp Harvest seeds and a hard boiled egg.

Today’s Dinner:

Chicken breast stir fry with baby bok choy and brown rice. Avocado on side.
Chicken breast stir fry with baby bok choy and brown rice. Avocado on side.

In essence, it’s a personal choice, and depends on what works for your body, and if you have any sensitivities or an intolerance as well as professional suggestions from your doctor or nutritionist.  I didn’t cut out any foods, just made a few simple changes, such as switching white bread for whole grain. I did eliminate sugar in my tea and coffee as well as juices and soft drinks completely. I found this difficult at first, but now it is second nature. I don’t have an intolerance to gluten or dairy, so I don’t feel the need to eliminate them, I just try to make wiser choices. I buy plain Greek yogurt, because flavoured yogurt is very high in sugar.  I have gone from a size 10 to a happy size 6.

If you are searching for an eating plan, I hope you find the best fit for your lifestyle and your goals. Clean eating may seem confusing but it doesn’t have to be.  Keep it simple. Keep it fresh. Keep it real.  A quote on my old gym bag sums it up best:

You are what you eat,  so don’t be cheap, easy, fast or fake.

What does eating clean mean to you?

21 thoughts on “What Clean Eating Means to Me

    1. Thanks for your visit. Being too one way left or right never worked for me. Sticking with the basics is where I found a good fit. I always think back to that quote and try my best to stick to that mantra.

  1. Clean eating: your old gym bag sums it up!

    My Mum’s just started ‘eating clean’. She was part of some medical trial being a cancer super star beater and found out she could be pro diabetic. She was so shocked that she would even be in that category, didn’t want medicine to deal with and is now 3 months vegetarian and loving it! ‘I have so much more energy! My knee’s better, I might be able to take up tap again!’ As she said however, she was taught about food by her mum and school, no one knew about the bad effects of too much rich food. She was especially shocked about milk. She makes me smile with how well she’s doing!

  2. I LOVE how you described clean eating! I totally agree that it’s an individual thing and definitely not black and white. All of your food pictures look fantastic!

  3. I need to get some bok choy! I always think in my head I am not sure what I would eat it with…just sauté it or something then eat with protein? Clean eating to me is preparing fresh food that tastes good and makes you feel good inside and out. Because junk just kinda makes me feel gross!!

    1. That’s exactly how I use bok choy. I think it pairs best in stir fry dishes, with protein of choice.
      Junk food. Such a great idea in the moment, but you feel the repercussions later.

  4. Part of me absolutely loathes the term “clean eating” because I’m taking it literally; and food is already CLEAN (literally) haha. But I do get that people are trying to think of a way to describe exactly what you described: whole foods, minimally processed. That’s what “clean” eating means to me, too 🙂

    1. Clean is a confusing term. If I forget to wash my vegetables, I guess they’re not clean. Lol. The processed stuff just makes me feel so crappy, so I try my best to stick to pure most of the time.

  5. Well you SHOULD be a fitness professional because your advice is just…so…dang…REASONABLE and doable! Such a beautiful shopping cart full of goodness, too, thanks for that shot. You are right, though, about the term CLEAN. Just like every other term in fitness, it’s open to interpretation. It’s all just a big experiment to see which nutrients best serve your unique body and its requirements. This is a great foundation to start from and love that you laid it out so simply.

    1. Thanks very much, Cass. Coming from a place of removing so many things on various diets, I just thought enough is enough. Let’s get back to basics and eat what is pure and nourishing and will help me train effectively. It does take so much research and experimenting.

  6. keeping the processed foods to a minimum is always a plus. Its very difficult in our day and age to-really-eat clean. Afterall, we are not hunting,fishing, growing or gathering for our meals everyday are we? We shop at grocery stores, we do the best we can. To really truly eat clean I think you need to go off the grid and be completley cut off from the modern world. Take all the jargon, trends and fitness buzz words with a grain of salt 😉

    1. So true, Autumn. I don’t have my own organic garden or fish nor hunt (and highly doubt that I could fish or hunt.) Just doing my very best to stay away from the crap. I don’t buy into the trends. There is so much information overload. I’m just sticking with the basics and it works for me.

  7. I love the fact that you do not eliminate food groups entirely. I’m a fitness nutritionist and it is so hard to get people to understand that your body needs carbs, and fats. It’s more important about where they are coming from. I also buy plain greek yogurt and add my own fresh fruit and raw honey.

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