Smart Bites: Whole Foods for the Whole Family

Published on 
June 10, 2015

Clean eating has been making its way through social media, nutrition blogs, magazines and books. But what is it really, and is it a diet?

The name "clean eating" has been around since the mid-90s, and the concept is actually something registered dietitians have been talking about for decades. If you see a dietitian or nutrition professional for healthy lifestyle and eating, she or he will tell you to eat foods that are "whole," or closest to their original state. That is what clean eating means in its simplest definition.


Let’s take eating whole tomatoes versus tomato soup. A tomato has no processing and is considered whole because it is in its original form, including all its vitamins, minerals and fiber, while the soup has gone through processing that breaks it down, and it may includes additional ingredients such as salt, high-fructose corn syrup, wheat flour, potassium chloride, citric acid and natural flavors. (Yes, I am reading the label and I do have tomato soup in my kitchen—don't we all?) If you read the ingredients and find more than five, it is usually a processed item. That’s not to say you can't find processed foods with minimal ingredients. A bag of potato chips may only have three: potatoes, vegetable oil and salt. But we all know potato chips aren't the healthiest thing for our waist lines. The idea is to eat the potato (bake it or roast it) vs. eating the chip that has been made from a potato and fried. Catch my drift?

Avoid the processed stuff. Things that come in a bag, can or box will often contain many ingredients and processing to preserve shelf life. I'm not here to say you can't eat them, I would just be cautious. The fewer ingredients in a list on a label, the better. If you don't know what an ingredient is, you may want to take a pass.

Incorporate more unprocessed foods, like:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Legumes
  • Oils, such as olive oil
Minimally processed foods include:
  • Unrefined grains like whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa and steal-cut oatmeal
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables minus the butter and sauces
  • Unprocessed meat such as grass-fed cattle, free-range chicken and wild-caught fish
  • Hormone-free dairy products