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Clean eating: Getting real food back in your diet

Clean eating?


Barbara Mintz thinks the term is silly. Real food? Who comes up with these phrases?

But regardless the trendy buzz word you want to use, Mintz and fellow registered dietitians and doctors are rejoicing that Americans are now finding it cool to do what they’ve been telling us for years to do:

Eliminate processed foods from our diets and replace them with an array of vegetables and fruits, whole grains and lean proteins.

“It’s like, ‘OK, now you’re finally getting it,’ ” said Mintz, vice president of healthy living and community engagement for Barnabas Health.

Clean eating continued its spread throughout the masses last year, but health experts say it’s not just a flashy fad that should be discarded.

Americans have spent years trying to find a quick fix for nutrition. What can I grab quick for breakfast, if I don’t skip it entirely? What can we throw together in a hurry for dinner?

And that has left doctors seeing more patients complaining of fatigue and sluggishness that Dr. Monica Bais, an internist with Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, New Jersey, said often can be traced back to what we consume from the start.

“It’s very exciting because people are becoming more aware of what they are putting in their bodies,” she said.

And now that we’re paying attention to what we’re eating, what should our plates look like?

“Half of your plate should be vegetables, quarter should be protein and a quarter should be starch,” Bais said.

Bais emphasizes farm-to-table: The less amount of time it takes for your food to get from the ground to your plate is better.

Mintz calls this idea “naked foods.”

“The closest you can stay to the natural product, the better you will be,” she said.

Here are some other tips Bais and Mintz give to start eating clean:

Shop the perimeter. Fresh vegetables, meats and dairy are kept around the outside of the grocery store, so Bais said your best bet is to stay in these areas while shopping.

Fill your cart with color. To fill half your plate with vegetables, you should be eating five servings of vegetables and three servings of fruit, Bais said. And make sure you have a rainbow assortment of them. Vegetables and fruits with different colors have different nutrients, all of which our bodies need to be healthy, she said.

Protein matters. Some people who are clean eating want to be completely vegetarian. But you still need protein to have a balanced diet, Bais and Mintz said. And you don’t need to forgo meats to eat clean. Choose lean meats like chicken, turkey or fish, with a serving coming in at about 3 to 5 ounces. Red meats should be limited to 3 ounces.

More fiber than sugar. If you do opt for food that comes in a box, make sure it has more fiber than sugar, Bais said.

Check the ingredients. If you’re buying something in packaging, check the ingredients label. Bais suggests you put anything back that says partially hydrogenated oils or fructose. Or even simpler: If you don’t know what one of the ingredients is, put it back, Mintz said.

Talk to an expert over your friend. One of Mintz’s biggest concerns is that people get accurate information about nutrition. Some information out there is wrong.

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