It is no secret that Americans are over-indulgers. We live for holidays that focus on mounds of food and our restaurants feature menus loaded with guilty pleasures. We live an indulgent lifestyle, and because of it, 78.6 million U.S. adults are obese.
As a result, there is no shortage of “diet miracles” and commercial weight-loss programs that lure folks into trying to manage their weight. And while it works for some, there are others that believe in a natural, gimmick-free weight loss method: clean eating.
But what exactly does that entail?
“Eating clean is about filling your plate and your diet with super-nutritional foods that heal and nourish," explains Terry Walters, author of Eat Clean Live Well, "and doing the best you can… one healthy choice at a time for sustainable good health. There are no rigid guidelines or harmful judgments, just abundant seasonal foods that are minimally processed for maximum nutrition.”. “These are the foods we all need more of, no matter what else is on our plates — whole grains, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and fruit, all in a rainbow of color and all five tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent).”
It sounds simple and intuitive to eat foods that are natural without overthinking it. So why isn’t everyone doing it?
“The biggest misconception about eating clean is that it is inconvenient," Walters continues. "People sacrifice nutritional value for convenience every day, and it can be hard to avoid highly processed foods that draw us in with their attractive packaging and persuasive marketing statements. However, if we skip the package altogether and shop the perimeter of the grocery store, we can avail ourselves of a bounty of fresh foods that provide abundant nutrients and good health.”
That isn’t to say that folks aren’t interested in healthy eating. According to a recent survey by the International Food Information Council Foundation, 51 percent of consumers use nutrition information such as calorie counts when eating out at restaurants. and are eating “pretty close to” or less than what they believe is the appropriate amount of sugars in their diets. “More than a third of consumers report regularly buying food that is labeled as ‘natural’ (37 percent) or ‘local’ (35 percent)," says the study, "with 32 percent who regularly buy products advertised as ‘organic.’”
“There’s no doubt in my mind that the more convoluted our food [supply] chain has become, the more people desire to return to the basics," says Walters. "People want to know what they’re eating and where it comes from in order to be empowered to make the choices that are right for themselves and their families. That’s what eating clean is all about.”
If you’re considering making clean eating a 2015 resolution, Walters shared some tips and trends to expect in the upcoming year for an easy clean eating transition.
Baking with Benefits
"Gluten-free baking has evolved, and the results are appealing to everyone. Baked goods made with alternative flours such as millet, almond meal, teff flour, and coconut flour are yielding baked goods that are delicious enough to eat for dessert, and healthy enough to eat for breakfast.”
"When you think of food you find in the water, fish and seafood often come to mind — but there are actually vegetables growing down there, too. Sea vegetables like nori, and other types like kombu, wakame, and arame are rich in bioavailable minerals. Sea vegetables come dehydrated, so they’re super easy to store, and a little goes a long way. A thumb-size strip of kombu added to cooking grains and beans infused with minerals helps neutralize acidity, reduces gaseousness, and tenderizes food. Other sea vegetables can be used in a variety of ways, from wrapping rice and vegetables in nori for a sushi-like snack on the go to adding wakame to your soup or arame to your salad. This staple of Asian cultures is finding its way in to the American diet and our health is the benefactor."