We hear a lot about “clean eating” these days. What exactly does it mean?
To answer this question we turn to Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist Rikki Rabbin, MS, RD, LDN. “’Clean’ does not have a legal definition when it comes to food,” Rabbin explains. “For some people it might mean avoiding certain types of preservatives; for others, cooking from scratch. Still others may consider a meal clean if it is full of nutrient-dense, healthy foods.” It usually refers to food that is minimally processed.
Should we all be eating this way?
“It depends on each person’s definition. There are some essays and lists out there suggesting that you should be able to pronounce all the ingredients in your food, or that there should only be 5 (or some other low number) ingredients total. For these restrictive and amorphous definitions, I don’t recommend clean eating,” says Rabbin. “My chicken cacciatore recipe (below) has 14 ingredients, and it’s packed with lean protein, vegetables, and spices. Similarly, I haven’t always been able to pronounce ‘quinoa,’ but it has always been healthy!”
Does diet impact athletic performance?
“Following a healthy diet can reduce a person’s risk of chronic disease and maximize workouts. Having the right nutrients available will allow you to perform at the top of your game, because your body won’t be fighting against a poor diet.”
“I much prefer to think of ‘clean eating’ as choosing a well-balanced eating pattern, which includes avoiding too many ultra-processed foods while including a lot of fruits and vegetables — fresh, frozen, or canned all count! It’s not necessary for everything you eat to be ‘clean,’” explains Rabbin. “With the right balance, there will always be room for a little piece of cake in your overall diet.”
Reach Rikki Rabbin, MS, RD, LDN, at email@example.com.
Made with unsalted butter, boneless skinless chicken breast, and green bell peppers, this recipe contains 330 calories, 28 grams protein 3 grams fiber, 9 grams sugar, 16 grams total fat including 5 grams saturated fat, 700 mg sodium, and 880 mg potassium. Adding quinoa, rice, or pasta will increase some of these values.
Nutrition information calculated from http://www.supertracker.usda.gov