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One Small Change

A Month of "Clean" Eating

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Each month in this blog I make one small change in my life and then advise you on whether or not to make it, too. The other day, I was indulging in a few spoonfuls (well, maybe a pint) of Haagen-Dazs Five vanilla ice cream. It’s called Five because that’s how many ingredients it has: milk, cream, sugar, eggs and vanilla bean. Although it’s a marketing ploy (the stuff still has 220 calories and 11 grams of fat per ½ cup), it made me feel like I was eating more simply and healthfully.

And it gave me an idea: Suppose for the next 30 days I would eat and drink only stuff that contained five or fewer ingredients? If I could resist the temptation to horf Haagen-Dazs, there probably isn’t a better nutrition plan anywhere. What would a month of eating “clean,” as it’s called, do to me physically, psychologically, athletically and financially? And more to the point, would it even be practical?

If you’re thinking this isn’t a “small change” but a monumental one, understand that I already have a fairly healthful diet. Although I succumb to pizzas, burgers and tacos, for the most part I am mindful of what I eat (light cheese on the pie, ground turkey breast for that burger, and a soft shell with black beans, please). I love all food too much to ever go vegetarian, vegan, raw or macrobiotic, but I’ve long thought that clean eating makes sense as a sound, sustainable lifestyle. In fact, it follows that the foods you enjoy—if kept simple and whole—should taste even better (while being better for you).

Such logic has not escaped the food industry, which is gearing up to capitalize on this thinking. Besides Five, you can see more evidence of it in entertaining spots like this one from Shredded Wheat, which stresses how the cereal has contained “one honest ingredient since 1892.”

Indeed, Amanda Carlson-Phillips, M.S., R.D., the director of performance nutrition and research for Athletes’ Performance, says “the move to clean foods will be the biggest food trend in the next 12 to 18 months.”

To help you better digest what’s happening and also avoid the hidden pitfalls of mildly deceptive products, I’m willing to serve as your test dummy. Here are my menu rules for the next month:

  • I’ll try to eat and drink only those things that contain five or fewer ingredients.
  • I’ll try to make sure that each of the ingredients is natural and recognizable. (In other words, no monoglucobenzesorblahtal.)
  • I’ll try to buy organic and local when possible.
  • For prepared foods such as soups, chilies and casseroles, it’ll be okay to have more than five total ingredients. So a 15-vegetable soup or an 8-bean chili is fine, as long as each item that goes into it has five ingredients or less.
  • I’ll do my best to abide by these guidelines without beating myself up or becoming a social outcast. As Athletes’ Performance preaches with any nutrition plan, strive to follow it 80 percent of the time. That way, says Carlson-Phillips, even if you waver at a Labor Day picnic or fall tailgate, “you won’t feel like you’ve failed and let it derail your nutrition habits.”

So what do you think? Care to join me for this experiment in clean eating? Next blog, I’ll visit the supermarket to see just how feasible and costly it is.

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About The Author

Joe Kita – Joe Kita is a noted writer, editor, motivational speaker and teacher. He authors the blog "One Small Change" for CorePerformance.com.

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Tags: Health, Food