Monday, September 19, 2011

What Makes Something Clean?

My Brother-In-Law, "The Witty Brit™" -has been trying to eat Clean for a while now. He and my sister have made a conscious effort to clean up their diet about 4 weeks ago. So when I got a phone call earlier today from him about Clean Eating - I wasn't terribly surprised. I get the occasional email from him on it, too. However, his question did surprise me.

"What makes something clean? When I'm at the grocery store and I'm looking at the ingredient there some sort of minimum standard I should be looking for?"

Seriously, Witty Brit™. I love you to bits.

1. When examining a nutritional label, the first thing to scan is the ingredient list. Does it have more than 4-5 ingredients?  ( Obviously, this ingredient # threshold will be different for everyone. I personally aim for 4-5 ingredients. Sometimes 6-7 pass muster. You'll have to decide what number is your "trigger number" and go from there ) Are all the ingredients items you recognize? Items that occur in Nature? If there are more than a few ingredients, don't waste your time examining it further. Move along.

2. If the label passes rule #1, look more closely at the ingredients. Do you see the words "High fructose corn syrup" or "partially hydrogenated" referring to a fat or oil? What about unpronounceable chemicals and words you vaguely recognize but have no idea what they actually are? If so, put it down. Unclean!

3. If you are at stage 3 and your item doesn't include the two phrases above, look to see if you find a sugar source, and examine the sugar per serving in the data table. Does it seem high for a small portion? Look for hidden sugars. Remember, honey, agave nectar, evaporated cane juice, and molasses are all sugars - but there is sugar in fruit, milk solids, and brown rice syrup is another sugar source. Does it seem high, or reasonable? If you have a choice of a product with no sugar added versus sugar added - opt for sugar free       ( like ketchup! )

4. Now examine the sodium level for the product in the data table. Is it high for the serving size? Is "salt" high on the ingredient list, or low? It should be low or not even on the list.

5. So if you have reached rule 5, the packaged item you are holding has only a few ingredients, no corn syrup or anything hydrogenated, and has a low sugar and salt content. There is a high probability the item in your hands is Clean. Is there an organic version next to it? Examine the contents of the label. Not all organic products are necessarily better. Some organic products have added salts and sugars that make them unclean.

If your product has passed all 5 rules - you probably have a Clean food in your hands. More than likely, you can put it in your basket with confidence.