By Andrea Chaffin
Someone on the outside might see clean eating as a trend or just another diet idea, but those who do it are quick to point out that it’s more a way to live every day life.
And this lifestyle seems to be everywhere lately. So, what exactly does it mean?
What is clean eating?
The concept is based around eating three meals and two to three small snacks a day. Those meals include a lean protein, unlimited fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans and eggs; all while avoiding white flour, refined sugars, breads and pastas, as well as staying away from additives and preservatives.
Clean eating also means swearing off anything high in saturated and trans fats, any processed foods and anything fried or high in sugar.
Are you up for a challenge?
Karla and David Banks, owners of Plain City Fitness, 240 W. Wain St., Plain City, have a connection with clean eating and the clean eating challenge that has helped keep their gym busy.
Karla is a coach for MyCleanEatingChallenge.com and an advocate for the lifestyle-changing way to live and eat that has people all across the country eating differently.
“It’s not like a new fad diet,” Karla said. “The simplest way to describe it is you’re eating the basics. If it doesn’t come from the ground or doesn’t have a mom, you don’t eat it.”
According to its website, My Clean Eating Challenge is a 10-week program that teaches people to eat real food in real life for real health benefits. It says through education and accountability challenges, it enables participants to make long-term lifestyle changes through eating whole foods.
“The challenge is something we started three years ago at Plain City Fitness,” Karla said. “It’s something that has really gotten popular.”
Teams of participants pay a registration fee and compete in a weight loss challenge against each other for prizes, all by following the 10-week program.
“A year ago, we had 40 people in the challenge and right now we have 257 people doing it for this 10-week session,” Karla said.
Many of those participants live in and around Plain City in Madison County, but there are people doing the program in different states around the country.
“It’s snowballing,” she said. “We have people in New York, Wisconsin and Kansas doing it.”
The idea of competing as a team helps give participants a support system, as well as provides individuals a chance to take personal accountability being part of a team. It also helps to keep the lights on at Plain City Fitness.
Those in the 10-week program get one-on-one clean eating coaching, weekly clean eating webinars, a client portal for recipes, personal progress tracking and resource center access.
“Clean eating becomes a lifestyle,” Karla said. “After two weeks, people are sleeping better, feeling better. The weight loss is usually right around one percent per week. It’s not like a crazy fad diet, the weight loss is consistent.”
There are three 10-week challenges a year. Banks said roughly 75-80 percent of those who do the challenge continue to eat clean afterward.
Tips from a clean eater
Barbara Perenic, of Columbus, said she has been eating clean for a few years after struggling with Crohn’s Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome since college.
“Most doctors won’t recommend any particular diet, but it just makes sense that food is a factor in a person’s health or illness,” she said.
Sticking with foods that are homemade, fresh and not processed has provided the best results, she said.
For the new clean eater, Perenic recommends starting simple.
“Eating clean means eating simply and cooking with simple ingredients. Back to basics,” she explained. “If you can’t pronounce an ingredient or spell it out loud, don’t eat it.”
Instead, the foods should be the ingredient, she says. Fill your plate with fresh things and prepare your own as much as possible. Shop around the outside of the store but don’t forget about staples, like grains.
“Think of the success of Chipotle — basically a taco bar,” she said. “This is so simple to do at home and everyone can build their own dinner.”
Clean eating requires more regular shopping, better meal planning, and trying new things and may be more expensive to get started, but it’s so worth it.
Looking to start eating clean? Here are a few recipe ideas.
PEANUT BUTTER AND “JELLY” SANDWICH
1 slice whole wheat bread or wrap
2 tablespoons natural peanut butter (only ingredient is peanuts)
1/3 cup fresh or unsweetened frozen berries (blueberries, strawberries raspberries, blackberries, or bananas work too)
1 teaspoon honey (optional)
Spread peanut butter on top of bread. Slice or smash berries and spread on top.
Adapted from heandsheeatclean.com
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
4 tablespoons unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 cup celery
1 cup onions
Bunch of organic grapes (approximately 2 cups)
Sea salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Onion powder (optional)
Pecans or walnuts (optional)
Boil your chicken breasts until cooked through. This is a very important step. I boiled ours as listed here with organic chicken broth, minced garlic, sea salt and pepper. It is very important to not over-cook your chicken. Boiling instead of baking the chicken for the recipe makes a huge difference.
Dice celery and onion. Place aside. You could also half or quarter your grapes.
Let chicken cool to room temperature. Once cooled, shred (I just used my hands) or cut into pieces.
Combine Greek yogurt and unsweetened almond milk using a whisk.
Add chicken to a large bowl and cover with Greek yogurt/almond milk mixture. Stir.
Add grapes, sea salt, black pepper and onion powder (optional). Stir.
Garnish with pecans or walnuts (optional, this will add healthy fats).
Refrigerate for 30-45 minutes before serving.
SLOW COOKER SUPERFOOD SOUP
Adapted from skinnyms.com
2 cups sliced carrots
1 large sweet potato, cut into 1/2” cubes
1 cup fresh or frozen green beans
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
Kosher or sea salt to taste
2 cups vegetable juice
2 cups vegetable broth, low-sodium
Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker, cover and cook on low 6-8 hours, or until veggies are tender. Add a tablespoon of reduced fat cheddar cheese, if desired.
Note: If you prefer a less subtle onion and garlic taste, saute onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 additional minute. Add to slow cooker along with other ingredients.
To make this even more of a Superfood Soup, add 2 cups coarsely chopped kale the last 5 minutes of cooking, or until wilted.
CHOCOLATE BANANA “ICE CREAM”
Makes one serving
1 frozen banana (cut in slices)
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
Combine everything in a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. Eat immediately for more of a soft-serve feel, or freeze and scoop out for later.
Tip: To freeze bananas, wait for them to brown and then slice and seal in snack-sized zip top baggies and store them in the freezer door. This way, they’re already divided into single servings, and can be tossed right into the blender when needed.
Chris Miles contributed to this article.