Food & Fitness After 50: What is Clean Eating?

A funny meme circulated among my dietitian friends. The first woman says, “I can’t eat that, I’m trying to eat clean.” The second woman (probably a dietitian) replies, “It’s banana bread, Susan, not heroin.”

clean eatingIt’s funny and sad at the same time. Many people limit delicious, healthful foods (banana bread) because they don’t fit into what they consider “clean” eating. Some people rely on the front-of-pack “free-from” claims to judge if a food is worthy…. free from sugar, white flour, gluten, additives, colors, GMOs, and on and on.  Which leads us to the concept of clean eating. Most dietitians don’t like the term because the opposite of clean is dirty and no one wants to say they are eating “dirty.”  Saying you eat clean implies a certain moral superiority to the rest us who are microwaving a frozen meal.

But it doesn’t matter if I like it or not, the term clean eating is here to stay. I counted over 70 books for sale on Amazon with “clean eating” in the title.

At a recent conference, I learned from Kris Sollid, a registered dietitian and senior director of nutrition communications at the International Food Information Council, that clean eating was the the number 1 diet trend in 2019. Some people think clean eating is diet of whole, unprocessed foods. Some people are OK with processed foods if they don’t contain artificial coloring or flavors with hard to pronounce ingredients. Other think foods labeled organic tick the clean eating box, while some ascribe a vegan diet as the only way to eat clean.

2019 Diet Trend for CR

But, when it gets down to the definition of clean eating, it depends on who you ask. “The bottom line is that while the definition isn’t clear, ‘clean’ is often used as a proxy for ‘healthy’” adds Sollid.

Hand-in-hand with clean eating is a trend in the food industry to develop “clean” labels. Many food manufacturers are reformulating products to limit the number of ingredients to satisfy consumer demand.  In many cases this is a good thing; finding ways to reduce salt by using fewer sodium-based ingredients or lowering sugar by finding the sweet spot of less sugar without changing taste are all good moves. But, when a product simply replaces sugar from sugar beets with “pure cane sugar” and makes you think it is healthier, well, sugar is sugar and just because the word “pure” is front of cane sugar it doesn’t make it a healthy ingredient.

So, instead of focusing on eating clean, let’s just focus on healthy eating. Some ways to do that are:

  • Focus on the positives in a food, not the negatives. Choose foods with nutrients that you need, like vitamins, minerals and fiber instead of focusing on sugar or fat content. Sugar and fat are important but take a wider view when choosing foods. For example, as we age, we still need bone building nutrients: calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K, and magnesium. Look for foods with those nutrients and keep in mind that not all dairy foods or plant-based alternatives to dairy contain vitamin D.
  • Ignore the buzz words like “all natural,” “real ingredients,” or “minimally processed.” They don’t mean anything.
  • Recognize the value of processed foods, like frozen berries, canned tomatoes, or ready to eat breakfast cereal. These foods provide big nutrition for little money. Amy Cohn, a registered dietitian with General Mills reminds us that cereal is the number 1 source of whole grains, fiber, B-vitamins, iron and zinc for all Americans at breakfast. And, when paired with milk, the “average bowl of a Big G cereal is about fifty cents.”
  • Don’t be afraid of words you can’t pronounce on list of food ingredients: pyridoxine hydrochloride may sound strange, but it just the chemical name for vitamin B6.

For more tips on healthy eating, check out Food & Fitness After 50, available at Amazon and other booksellers.

Disclosure: I attended a sponsored conference where both Kris Sollid and Amy Cohn spoke, but I was not asked to or compensated to write this post.

Food & Fitness After 50: A Healthy Mindset Can Provide Big Rewards

Bonne, now in her mid-70s, is a California gal at heart, even though she now lives in the southeastern U.S. Born and raised in California, Bonne embraced the west coast fitness movement in the 1960s and 1970s to keep her body and her health in the best possible shape. Californians were ahead of the curve on the fitness trends; she was fit even before Jane Fonda’s call to action with her workout video in the early 1980s. (We all remember Jane’s workout videos!) “Living in southern California was synonymous with looking good, and eating and exercise were a very important part of my life.” Bonne worked full-time as a market research consultant and raised a family, but always found time to be active and eat well. She eats a plant-centered diet, but eats small portions of meat. She enjoys a variety of different cultural cuisines: Indian, Mexican, Turkish, Middle Eastern, Chinese, and Italian are all favorites. She cites the diversity of bold flavors as a big reason to break out of the typical American diet rut. She is careful to reduce sugar intake and eats a variety of foods to reduce inflammation (Foods that fight inflammation). Bonne makes her own special beverage of ginger water. (Bonne’s recipe: Cut fresh ginger and simmer in water with stevia leaves, strain, and add to sparkling water for refreshing drink because “water is a great beverage, but it gets boring.”)

As she has aged, she realized that she had to change her activities from high impact sports, like skiing, tennis and running, to low impact workouts. Now she plays golf (quite well; being named the “most improved 9-hole golfer” at her golf club), is an avid gardener and practices yoga and tai chi. Over 500 clinical research trials and 100 systematic reviews have been published on the health benefits of tai chi. For aging adults, the benefits include improving balance, reducing falls, strengthening the lower body, reducing osteoarthritis pain, and improving cognitive function (Health benefits of Tai Chi.)

Bonne yoga
Bonne practicing yoga (photo courtesy of Al Olsen)

 

Bonne says her mindset about activity never changed, she occasionally “strayed” but in the back of her mind she knew she had to “eat properly and move.” She takes a holistic approach to her health and encourages her friends to do the same with a gentle nudge. Bonne maintains the same weight as her high school days by watching her portion sizes, being active, and having a positive mindset. She recommends that all women know their bone density, blood pressure, blood sugar, and healthy weight range. She also finds time to meditate every day to clear her mind and reduce stress. She is her own health advocate and encourages everyone do the same.

Bonne suggest that adults “visualize where you want to be and set goals to be healthy enough to do them.” Her goal? Traveling and being around to watch her 2 great grandchildren grow.

To learn more about Food & Fitness After 50, visit the Website and you can pre-order Chris Rosenbloom and Bob Murray’s book at Amazon pre-order.

Good Food News of 2012

 
 
Nutrition headlines seem to shout the “worst” food news…from “everything causes cancer” to “no health benefits found” by consuming your favorite food. So, let’s take a moment as 2012 comes to a close to celebrate those nutrition stories that you may have overlooked in all of the noise. The following nutrition stories were good news stories and should be embraced in 2013.


1. A healthy diet (one high in the usual suspects…fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and fish) is additive to the protective effects of medications used to treat heart disease. In a study of over 31,000 patients from 40 countries, researchers found that those who ate a healthy diet along with taking prescription meds reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by 35%, stroke by 19%, heart attack by 14%, and congestive heart failure by 28%. This study looked at secondary prevention….that is preventing another disease after one disease has been diagnosed and treated. Paying attention to diet…and not just relying on medication to treat our most common diseases has a better outcome than just popping pills.

2. Speaking of nuts…did you see the study from researchers at the United States Department of Agriculture who found hat calories on the label are too high for our of the most heart healthy foods….almonds (check out my photo above to see that almonds even look heart healthy!) Researchers found that almonds contain 20% fewer calories as stated on the label; so that means your 100-calorie snack pack of almonds provides only 80 calories to your body. When we eat nuts, especially hard nuts like almonds, the cell walls are not completely broken down and the fat content inside of the cells does not get absorbed. Voila…fewer calories but all of the great taste and nutrition.

3. For the 2.9 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. there is good news on eating soy. For years, those of use who have had breast cancer have been frightened to eat soy because of reports that the isoflavones in soy exert an estrogenic effect on breast tissue. Recently, the American Institute for Cancer Research reported that “six recent human studies and one major meta-analysis have found that consuming moderate amounts of soy foods does not increase a breast cancer survivor’s risk of recurrence or death.” A moderate serving of soy is defined as one or two servings of soy a day; a serving is 1 cup of soy milk, 1/2 cup of edamame, 3-ounces of tofu, or a soy-based veggie burger.

4. Lastly, one of my good food news stories comes from McDonald’s…yes, McDonald’s. In September they announced that they will voluntarily post calorie counts on menu boards and I applaud any quick service restaurant that provides nutrition information to the public. And, if you haven’t tried some of their healthier options like the strawberry banana real fruit smoothie, Southwest salad with grilled chicken, or the new Egg White Delight McMuffin, try one in 2013 and be prepared to be surprised.