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Clean eating defined

Mar 19, 2013

Have you heard some of your patients asking about clean eating? Are you familiar with the concept? I try my best to stay updated with the trends in diets and clean eating is something I keep hearing in the media as well as from friends. So I set out to find out who or what is behind this trend.

The trend has stemmed from the book, Eat-Clean Diet, by Tosca Reno. I have not read the book, but from looking online I found a nice review of the book by a dietitian from WebMD. From the review, here are the principles of the Eat-Clean Diet:

- Choose whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats instead of boxed, processed food or foods with preservatives.
- Eat 5-6 meals per day between 200-300 calories (totaling 1200-1800 calories)
- Eat complex carbohydrate with protein (20-21g) at each meal
- Drink at least 8 cups of water a day
- Never skip meals
- Consume adequate healthy fats each day

Most of these concepts are generally accepted as good healthy recommendations. The protein recommendation is a little higher than the traditional diabetes diet. The book also encourages exercise, too. The WebMD review cautions that there is some nutrition and supplement advice that is not necessarily evidence-based.

Generally, the principles seem helpful, but I would encourage good conversation with your patients if they are interested in reading the Eat-Clean Diet. For someone with diabetes, of course, we also need to consider the actual grams of carbohydrate and not just look at protein or making sure it is not processed. However, choosing foods that are considered whole foods sure makes meal planning with diabetes much easier and they may find they can get away with eating a bit more carbohydrates if they are eating foods high in fiber. I would also encourage them to check their blood sugar more frequently any time they drastically change their diet and increase physical activity.

Independent of the Eat-Clean Diet, there is also a generic concept of clean eating where someone just avoids processed foods, artificial preservatives and added sugars.

Several of my friends have tried the meal planning service that is really reasonable in price called eMeals (http://emeals.com/). You can select the “Clean Eating” or “Low Carb” plan. They are just a few dollars a month and you get weekly meal plans, recipes and shopping lists. The downside is they do not list the nutrition facts, including carbohydrates, and it can’t be customized. It is the same plan for everyone in that category.

I live in Lexington, Kentucky and recently, they opened a Trader Joe’s (http://www.traderjoes.com/) grocery. If you are not familiar with Trader Joes, their philosophy is no artificial preservatives or colors as well as no added trans fat and they have their own Trader Joe's brand for the majority of their products. This is another good resource for cleaner eating. However, they do have several products with refined carbohydrates and added sugars so you have to be careful about your choices.

Personally, I think the concept and interest in clean eating is a good thing. It’s just basic nutritious concepts of avoiding processed foods and eating more whole foods. This trend will hopefully promote more recipes and things available in the grocery. It’s important to help our patients with diabetes get counseling from a registered dietitian about how to fit some of the concepts of clean eating into their healthy diabetes meal plan.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with clean eating or, if some of your patients have followed the principles.

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