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Creating a Healthier Diet: A Guide to "Eating Clean"

March 05, 2013

Lecture Offers Advice on Using Whole, Unrefined Foods

Have you been hearing people talk about the benefits of "eating clean" and wondering what the buzz is all about? The concept is actually very simple, according to Macaria Meyer, RD, a registered dietitian at Washington Hospital.

"Eating clean is based on the idea that the best way to follow a healthy diet is to eat whole foods that are as close to their natural state as possible, without a lot of processing or additives," she explains. "Basically, this means eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins, rather than processed, pre-packaged foods or foods that contain a lot of saturated fats or unhealthy additives."

While the concept of eating clean is simple, Meyer acknowledges that putting it into practice requires more effort than grabbing a quick meal at a fast-food restaurant or popping a pre-fabricated frozen dinner in the microwave.

"We live in a society that is rush, rush, rush," she says. "It's important, though, to take the extra time to plan and prepare your meals to ensure that you're getting high-quality, healthy food. And, by planning your meals in advance, making out weekly menus, purchasing foods in bulk and buying produce when it's in season, you can avoid using unhealthy processed foods without spending significantly more money."

To help people learn more about how to create healthy meals for their families using unrefined, whole foods, Meyer will be speaking at an Evening Lecture Series program on Wednesday, March 13 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Washington Women's Center located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. The fee for attending the program is $5.

As part of her presentation, Meyer will discuss the types of fruits and vegetables that are always good to have on hand.

"Fresh produce is always the best choice, and it's cheaper when it's in season," she notes. "Farmer's markets also may have lower prices on fresh fruits and vegetables. Freezing your own vegetables also can help you economize. You can purchase vegetables in season and flash-freeze them for later use. Flash-freezing involves boiling the vegetables for a short amount of time and allowing them to drain to get as much moisture out as you can before freezing them in freezer bags or containers.

"Organic produce that is grown without pesticides is often preferable," she adds, "but there are some types of vegetables that are grown with minimal amounts of pesticides and can be non-organic. Also, with fruits such as bananas and oranges that you have to peel before eating anyway, it's not as important to buy organic."

When it comes to using canned or packaged goods, Meyer recommends reading the product labels carefully.

"The key to clean eating is choosing those products with as few non-food ingredients as possible," she says. "In choosing pasta and breads, look for 'whole grain' as the first ingredient. Use brown rice rather than white rice, and choose organic sprouted-grain breads if your food budget allows. Avoid foods with added ingredients such as hydrogenated fats, high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives and salt or sulfites. If you're in doubt about obscure ingredient listings such as 'natural flavorings,' call the company for an explanation. To cut down on the amount of salt in your diet, use herbs and spices more often."

Getting the right types of protein is another part of eating clean. Meyer suggests lean meats such as skinless, white-meat poultry and sustainable seafood. Dried beans, peas and legumes are good vegetable sources of protein. Her clean-eating recommendation for dairy products and eggs is to buy organic products if you can afford them.

But what about desserts and other sweet treats? Can they be part of a "clean eating" diet?

"Pure maple syrup and honey are the best sweeteners for clean eating," Meyer says. "Also, pureed fruits such as applesauce or prune whip can be used in place of sugar in a variety of recipes."

At the seminar, Meyer also will provide tips on cooking methods and menu planning, as well as recipes for healthy, economical clean-eating meals.

"Eating clean might mean you have to pay a little bit more for your food," she admits. "It's still a good 'bargain,' though, because you can't buy extra body parts to replace ones that may be damaged by eating an unhealthy diet."

To register to attend the seminar on March 13, call 800-963-7070 or visit www.whhs.com/event/class-registration.

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