The Down & Dirty on “Clean” Eating

It seems everywhere we turn someone is talking about “clean” eating.  In general the term “eating clean” refers to consuming food as close to its natural state as possible, and avoiding processed foods and those with added refined sugar, sugar substitutes, excess sodium, modified food starches, additives or dyes.  Examples include eating fresh string beans with olive oil instead of canned string beans with processed butter sauce or whole fruit and fresh bread instead of toaster pastries.  It is not a diet, but more a lifestyle approach.  There is, however, no government, academic or medical definition of “clean eating”.  It is important to note that all food ingredients in the United States are approved by the Federal Drug Administration as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe).  Any new additive – such as a new sugar substitute – must go through rigorous testing before companies may incorporate it into foods for human consumption.  Much of the promotional information on the web and in magazines for clean eating is anecdotal, stories from individual experiences, not evidence from scientific experiments.  A diet composed of mostly vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains and minimally processed meat and dairy is one any Registered Dietitian will get behind.  This is what we like to call “clean eating”, not to be confused with “clean eating” trends that include cleansing or fasting for weight loss or health goals.

To determine a food’s healthfulness, one must consider its nutrient density: The concentration of naturally occurring protein, carbohydrate, heart-healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants in relation to total calories.  Foods that are closest to their whole state are far more nutrient dense than their processed, sold-in-a-package counterparts.  Translation, a meal of steamed brown rice with fresh sautéed vegetables packs a higher nutritional value and a lower calorie level than boxed rice mix and anything with “helper” in the title.  Reach for an apple, not a packaged apple pastry.

While focusing on nutrient-dense food is certainly a great approach to following a meal plan that promotes good health and weight control, remember that even “clean” foods can lead to weight gain if too much is consumed.  Recommended daily calorie intake levels based on age, weight and activity level can be calculated at

Published by Anna Bullett, MS, RD, on August 17th, 2011 at 8:05 pm. Filled under: Diet,Fruit,MyPlate,nutrition1 Comment

Hello MyPlate, So Long MyPyramid

While it has been a standard on cereal boxes and health classroom walls for the entire life of most young adults, older adults might remember a time when the government’s nutrition advice was mainly driven by wartime food insecurity, malnutrition among school children and soldiers, or the need to help certain segments of the food & agriculture industry sell their products.  When the food pyramid was introduced it was intended to teach American consumers how to maintain a proper diet, one based on carbohydrates, lean protein, fruits and vegetables, and low fat dairy – sound advice but never translated in a way that consumers totally understood.  The original pyramid was fraught with issues like vaguely defined portion sizes and a lack of emphasis on which carbohydrates, which proteins and which fats were best.  A 2005 re-vamp and interactive web site roll-out brought positive additions like exercise and whole grains but the new icon lacked pictures of food and was confusing as a whole.  The pyramid was colorful but not necessarily useful in teaching people how to eat.

Fast forward to 2011.  These days the nutrition advice from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) stems from the serious obesity epidemic threatening the health of the nation and its future generations.  Finally the USDA has acknowledged that Americans need to eat fewer calories, exercise more and eat a more plant based diet.  Academics, scientists, health professionals, and focus groups with the American public all played a roll in the 2011 decision to lay the food pyramid to rest.  In its place?  Something registered dietitians have been using for years to teach proper nutrition – a picture of a plate, half of which is filled with fruits and veggies!  Williamson Hospitality chefs are at the ready to keep their cooking delicious and on par with the latest (and in our opinion, most practical ever) USDA nutrition advice.  We are comparing our plates to the new MyPlate icon, and we hope you will as well.  Check it out at

Published by Anna Bullett, MS, RD, on May 4th, 2011 at 7:54 pm. Filled under: Diet,Health,MyPlate,nutrition,USDA,Vegetables Tags: , , , , , 3 Comments