Eat Clean….and Refresh Your Life!! Part 2

by Wendy Midgley, MEd, RD, LDN, CDE and Deb Brothers-Klezmer, BSN, RN-BC, CRRN, NCTMB

“Real Food Doesn’t HAVE Ingredients…..Real Food IS Ingredients.”          -Jamie Oliver, Chef-

In EATING CLEAN Part 1, we reviewed the philosophy of “Eating Clean”.   See:

In Part 2, we offer our Top Tips for Eating Clean. In Part 3, we will review food shopping lists, meal and snack ideas, sample menu ideas, and provide an extensive reference/resource list.

Deb and Wendy’s TOP TIPS and GUIDELINES:

  1. Limit processed foods high in sodium (from salt and sodium compounds like MSG—monosodium glutamate), sugar, fat, artificial colors and dyes, artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, nitrites, nitrates, and other chemicals and preservatives.
  2. Read ingredient lists on packaged foods.

If the list is long with too many ingredients you can’t pronounce, stay away! Do more home cooking, use high quality ingredients.   You can even make your own protein bars and shakes.

Did you know that petroleum derivatives are an ingredient in very common and popular candies?

Artificial food dyes used for coloring,  including: Yellow 5, Yellow 6 and Red 40—are in part derived from petroleum.

Several brands contain tert-Butylhydroquinone (a petroleum derivative).

Some studies have shown that a relationship exists between artificial dyes and hyperactivity in children.    Thanks to a long-standing outcry from parents and health care folks: several popular candy brands will no longer have artificial food dyes in 5 years! European countries are way ahead of us on this and have already banned them. At least changes are in the works. (

***Not everything from a box, bag or can is bad! Examples: baby organic spinach, organic herbal teas, and organic broths.***

  1. Look for organic, non-GMO varieties of canned, boxed or packaged foods. Some are better than others. For ex: organic, gluten-free cookies may be “organic” and “gluten-free’ but are high in sugars and carbs and not particularly healthy.  On the other hand:  frozen organic vegetables, with no salt or sauce added, are a good choice.
  2. Increase Veggie Intake

“With abundant variety, vegetables can easily become the star of your plate, increasing your good health and body’s immune system.” (from: ‘SuperFoods: Eat Your Way to Health and Longevity’. National Geographic, 2015).

Vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, anti-oxidants and phytochemicals that help fight inflammation.

Vitamin A is essential for healthy vision and immune function (e.g., carrots, sweet potatoes).

Dark green vegetables such as spinach and kale—also contain Vitamin K, which (along with Vitamin D and calcium) helps keep bones healthy.

Many vegetables contain the mineral potassium, important for blood pressure, nerve function, fluid balance, and muscle contraction.

Vegetables high in potassium: spinach, Swiss chard, beet greens, kale, mushroom, sweet potato, Brussel sprouts.

Tomatoes contain a variety of vitamins and minerals as well as the anti-oxidant lycopene. Lycopene gives tomatoes their red color.  It is believed to be healthy for skin, heart, prostate health and even bone health.

Fiber offers many benefits. It can help us feel full. It is extremely important for gastrointestinal health. It may play a role in regulating blood sugar.

           “Fiber is a fierce secret weapon.” JJ Virgin

Many veggies are low in calories, so you can eat many without worrying about weight gain.

Fresh vegetables, straight from the farm, are “clean” especially when grown in organic local gardens. (Don’t forget to wash them!)

Recommended daily veggies amounts: 2½ to 3 cups. Raw, lightly steamed or sauteed, or as ingredients in omelets, soups and stews.

Increasing veggie intake, especially from green, alkalizing veggies,  will create a better acid-alkaline balance and a better blood/body pH.

  1. Include Fruit, 2-3 servings per day

Fruit is “nature’s candy”—naturally sweet from fructose, ‘fruit sugar’. Many fruits are also rich in potassium and vitamin C–important for a healthy immune system.

Fruits are also high in health-promoting, anti-inflammatory anti-oxidants and phytochemicals (contained in colors of fruits).

Fresh fruits are whole and unprocessed.  

FROZEN, NO Sugar Added is a good alternative to fresh fruit.

NOTE: Dried fruits often contain sulfites, which some people cannot tolerate.  (Reactions reported: asthma in those prone, general respiratory issues, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular reactions, headaches, hives.)  Another issue: It is easy to eat too much! (high in sugar).

Choose whole fruit over juice, including “natural juices.” Juices raise blood sugar more quickly than whole fruit; and don’t always contain all the properties of the original fruit.

NOTES: EXCESS fruit intake of any kind can be high in sugar—for those limiting carbohydrates. A good choice: BERRIES.  All berries are low in sugar and high in anti-oxidants and fiber!

Organic is the healthier choice for many fruits and veggies–due to high pesticide residues found in commonly eaten ones. Examples: strawberries, apples, celery. Some herbs like cilantro have also been found to be high in pesticides.

In other cases, “conventional” fruit and vegetable options are “OK”, due to lower pesticide residues.

Many “OK” conventional foods are ones that need to be peeled—for ex: pineapple. We may be just eating the insides and discarding the peel or rind (like cantaloupe).  However, we should thoroughly wash the outside before making any cuts. Slicing through a dirty peel can drag germs and pesticides into a fruit or vegetable.

***WASH ALL FRUITS and VEGETABLES (organic and inorganic) before eating.***

If you are consuming a lot of vegetables and fruits, it may be wise to allot some of your budget for ORGANIC and locally grown, in-season foods.

The EWG (Environmental Worker’s Group) has composed Lists of Fruits and Veggies Best to Buy Organic,   OR “OK” to buy conventional.

DIRTY DOZEN 2016: Recommend Buy Organic (in order of highest to lowest amounts of pesticides):

#1 Strawberries: highest pesticides in this report, #2 apples. Followed  by: nectarines, peaches, celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers. 

Also of concern:

Imported snap peas, domestic blueberries, potatoes, hot peppers, chili peppers, lettuce, kale and collard greens, imported blueberries, green beans

CLEAN 15, OK to buy Conventional (in order of cleanest. Avocado is the cleanest this year!)

Avocado, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, sweet peas (frozen), onions, asparagus, mangos, papayas, kiwi, eggplant, honeydew melon, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower

For more information, go to:    Currently:   50 Foods listed with pesticide analysis.

  1. Try “Eating Naked” some days! This has nothing to do with your state of dress!! Rather, it refers to the idea of eating wholesome foods in a very SIMPLE state–without extra condiments and sauces (even healthy sauces.).  Eating Naked challenges us to appreciate the subtle nuances and flavors of healthy foods au naturel. “The Art of Eating Naked”

  1. Choose more healthy fats; cut down saturated fats

Do NOT cut out all fats! We need some for health.  For ex: Essential fatty acids (like “the omega 3’s”) are important for the brain, neurological functioning and night vision.

Choose more “good fats” (like “the MUFAS”:  i.e., monounsaturated fatty acids, as in extra virgin olive oil and avocados).  Also: fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel, and a variety of nuts and seeds, like flaxseeds, chia seeds.

“Good fats” are beneficial to your heart and may help raise good HDL cholesterol.

Avoid/Limit foods high in saturated fats. High saturated fat intake is associated with increased risk of heart disease.

Foods high in saturated fats:   butter, full fat cheeses, whole milk dairy products, fatty beef, lard (from pork), many processed deli meats, gravies, ice creams, cream, Crisco, many baked goods.

Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature.

NOTE: Although coconut and coconut oil contain 40% saturated fats, many sources consider coconut to have beneficial attributes. For a thorough review of the coconut oil question, check out Dr. Mark Hyman’s recent review at:

Trans fats (a “bad fat”, from a synthetic fat structure) have been banned in the USA for food preparation. Typically, they were used in baked goods.

If you want fat for taste and satisfaction: top your salad with nuts or olives instead of cheese, use almond butter instead of cream cheese. Replace mayonnaise with sliced or mashed avocado or hummus.  Drizzle olive oil on salads or vegetables.  Add a bit of toasted sesame seed oil to a stir-fry dish.

  1. Avoid or Reduce Alcohol

Clean up what you drink. If you choose to consume alcohol, follow the recommendations—no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 for men.

One drink = 5 ounces wine, 1½ ounces hard liquor or 12 ounces beer.

According to the Blue Zone studies: a glass of wine per daytogether with a healthy diet, exercise, and positive social relationships—may increase health and longevity. ***

BLUE ZONE diet and lifestyle tenets are very much like the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle.

Blue zone website:

Book: Buettner, Dan.  The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer, from the People who Have Lived the Longest.

Alcohol dehydrates you. In excess, it is not good for the liver or for your complexion, and adds excess calories. Avoid mixed drinks with lots of added sugar.

Alcohol is contraindicated with many medications, such as:  statins, opioids, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and warfarin (Coumadin). Check with your prescribing clinician to confirm the safety of alcohol in combination with your medications.

  1. Avoid Sugar and Sugar Substitutes

Minimize sweets like soda, candy, baked goods and sugar itself.  Choose plain yogurt (vs sugar added types), add your own fresh or frozen fruit. If you buy processed foods with sugar—make sure sugar is at the bottom of the list–which means it is not a major ingredient in that food.

Know all the varied names for sugar and sugar substitutes!

SUGARS: Sugar (white, brown, raw, cane, confectioner’s), beet sugar turbinado sugar, lactose, maltose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup.  Excess sugar carbs can also come from molasses, maple syrup, agave syrup or nectar, rice syrup, and even honey– if consumed in excess.

SUGAR SUBSTITUTES–chemically synthesized artificial products–are known by many names.

Examples: Sucralose, Splenda, Aspartame, NutraSweet, Acesulfame K, Ace K, Sweet and Low— to name a few.

Although the FDA proclaims these safe to use, there are many documented health problems associated with some of them, Aspartame, in particular: Aspartame has been linked with migraines, chronic headaches and neurological conditions.

Beware of natural “fruit essence waters.”   Most seltzers with fruit essence flavors use NO artificial sweeteners.  But some ‘fruit waters’ may be flavored with Sucralose (Splenda).

SUGAR ALCOHOLS (note the ‘ol’ at the end of the word) are made from sugars, and in that sense, are closer to ‘a natural substance’ than are artificial sugar substitutes. In fact, our own body produces sugar alcohols in normal metabolism.  Dentists recommend chewing gum flavored with xylitol, as it is safer for teeth.

Common names for sugar alcohols: sorbitol, mannitol, glycerol, xylitol, erythritol.  Glycerine is also in the sugar alcohol family. Sugar alcohols have ~½ the calories of sugar; they don’t create a significant rise in blood sugar.   They are considered generally “SAFE.”  However, sugar alcohols can cause a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms such as : bloating, belching, gas, loose stools or diarrhea.

STEVIA: Stevia is one of the more acceptable sugar substitutes– derived from the leaf of a plant. In excess, it can leave a bitter after-taste. Truvia is a combination of stevia and erythritol.

  1. Limit Salt Intake

Excess salt (the sodium part of salt) can promote an increase in blood pressure.  It can also promote fluid retention, for those so prone.

Sodium is necessary for body processes and cellular integrity.  However, many Americans eat considerably more than the recommended LIMIT of 2,300 mg of sodium per day which is = to 1 teaspoon of salt. For those with known blood pressure and heart issues—1500 mg/day is typically recommended (~2/3 teaspoon salt).

NOTE:  The average American consumes ~ 3,400 mg sodium per day. (some folks consume much more than that) due to high intake of processed foods, fast foods, and frequency of eating out.

Most packaged foods and restaurant foods contain excess sodium.

Lighter sodium versions of SOME processed foods can be quite good, like organic “lite soups” and broths by Pacific and Imagine.

Flavor food with herbs and spices, citrus, garlic and onions.  Do not use a salt shaker at the table, at home or when out.  If you must use a little salt: sea salts, Celtic salt, and pink Himalayan salt are known for containing  healthful mineralsHowever, sodium is still present!

11. Choose whole grains (vs processed, refined grains).

Whole grains include MORE NUTRIENTS and FIBER than refined ones because the bran and germ are not removed.

***“Rotate” your choices for more nutritional variety.***  

Healthiest Grains to Choose:

The following grains, in whole form, are nutrient dense, familiar, available, and tasty. They can be used as cereals, pilafs, soups, and in vegetarian mixed dishes. (Look for ORGANIC, NON-GMO and NON-GE forms).

  • Whole Rye:   A cereal grain that contains more nutrients per 100-calorie serving than any other whole grain. 4 x more fiber than whole wheat, contains ~50 % of daily iron recommendations.
  • Quinoa: Actually a seed, (vs grain) but widely considered/used as a grain. A good choice for vegans as it contains a more complete form of protein than other seeds/grains. It is high in vitamin E and calcium, low in fat, and gluten-free.
  • Oats: Can help stabilize blood sugar if in whole, unprocessed or steel-cut form–and portion-controlled. Some sources say oat fiber can help lower cholesterol.
  • Barley: A good source of fiber, selenium, phosphorous, copper and manganese.
  • Millet: A seed. (often used as birdseed!)  A good source of manganese, phosphorus and magnesium. 
  • Brown Rice:  Grain. A good source of manganese, selenium and magnesium. Also high in fiber.
  • Buckwheat (kasha): Technically a fruit seed, but used like a grain in cooking.  A go-to on gluten-free diets.
  • Spelt: Grain. A good source of manganese, copper and zinc. This grain causes fewer sensitivities in some people who are wheat-intolerant. (However, those with celiac disease should avoid all spelt.)
  •  Whole wheat : A popular grain rich in B vitamins, vitamin E and fiber. It’s also low in fat.   (also a major source of gluten)

 Re: CORN: In our opinion, CORN is not the best grain option. Many corn crops are from farms that use genetic engineering. If you eat corn, look for organic, GMO-free sources.

 Additional grains: 

  • Amaranth
  • Bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • Farro
  • Freekeh (a green wheat made into cereals)
  • Kamut
  • Teff
  • Wheat berries

To get the most health benefits, you can grow your own whole, sprouted grains.

Recommended daily grain amounts: 2 to 6 per day depending on calorie needs.   ½ cup cooked grain or 1 oz bread are = to 1 serving.

NOTES on GLUTEN (the protein component of wheat and other grains): Those with celiac disease MUST avoid all gluten-containing grains. (Those with “gluten-sensitivity” may want to avoid gluten, or at least do a rotation diet, re: gluten-containing grains).

AVOID: ALL wheats and wheat flours, including semolina and Eikhorn wheat, wheat berries, barley, rye, spelt, farina, farrow, kamut, triticale, rye and barley. (Avoid all products made from these ingredients– or where gluten is listed on a label)     (Corn is gluten-free).

Some folks with celiac disease tolerate oats grown under gluten-free conditions (i.e., no wheat fields close by–to contaminate the oats).

ALLOWED: Amaranth, arrowroot, brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat, quinoa, tapioca starch, teff. Wild rice also allowed.

12. Eat Less Meat (beef, pork, lamb, highly processed meats, deli meats, high nitrate bacons and sausages)

Choose more fish (see recommended lists below); organic chicken and turkey.

  • Eat less meat in order to limit excess saturated fat. (saturated fats–heart health link).
  • Some meats have other troubling attributes. It is common to treat livestock with antibiotics and steroids, and raise them on corn feed—which they would not normally eat.   Some research groups believe antibiotic-treated meat is increasing antibiotic resistance in humans who eat this meat.

  • Research shows a clear and convincing link between diets high in red meat and some cancers. Red meat itself contains compounds that break down into possible carcinogens (cancer-causing chemical) when cooked at high heat.
  • Processed meats like hot dogs, bacon, sausage, and cold cuts contain nitrites and nitrates–which have been likened to increased cancer risks.
  • The IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) recommends limiting red meats to no more than 18 oz. per week and totally avoiding processed meats.

  • Some sources consider beef an “estrogen disrupter” (a hormonal issue).
  • If you eat meat: choose grass-fed, steroid-free beef or bison and/or free range chicken and turkeys, raised on organic feed.
  • FISH CHOICES: Seek recommended fish from sustainable fish categories. “Sustainable fish”   refers to choices best for the ecological health of the ocean, as well as acceptable food.

Examples of BEST sustainable choices: Arctic char, bass, bluefish, farmed scallops, Canadian swordfish.   GOOD choices: haddock (from Georges Bank, Atlantic Ocean), blue crab, halibut, deep sea scallops, white albacore tuna. AVOID: Atlantic cod, Canadian pollock, Atlantic farmed-raised salmon.

NOTE: Atlantic COD is on the avoid list partly due to the fact that cod has been over-fished and the stock is depleted.

For more information on sustainable fishing, see: (MA and Northeast GUIDE).

Avoid/limit some fish due to high mercury content.

Some types of tuna and swordfish may be on the best choice list of “sustainable fish”; but may be high in mercury content and should be limited to consumption 2x/week.

Atlantic cod may be acceptable for eating safely–4 servings per month–mercury-wise; but as noted above–cod is over-fished. (In New England we are asked to eat less cod to replenish the codfish population.)

For information on mercury content of common fish, see:  (EWG)

Pregnant women should avoid all HIGH mercury fish.  However, fish, in general, is still recommended as a good food and nutrient source for pregnant women and the developing fetus.

Rules of Thumb: No raw fish. No undercooked fish

Avoid:   Shellfish. High mercury fish like shark, swordfish, King mackerel, tilefish (golden or white snapper); refrigerated smoked or pickled fish that’s unpasteurized.

Tuna: No more than 6 oz per week of canned solid white or albacore tuna

DO EAT up to 12 oz cooked, low mercury fish per week. For ex: salmon, pollock, trout.    (“10 Low Mercury Fish Safe for Pregnancy”)

  • Sara Gottfried MD’s protein recommendations for helping BALANCE HORMONES: fish like cod, salmon, halibut, mackerel, sardines; free range chicken, organic eggs
  • Recommended daily protein needs/day: 60-80 grams per day. A serving of meat, fish or poultry is ~3-4 ounces cooked (size of a deck of cards). 7 oz cooked protein per day provides 49 grams protein. Smaller amounts in dairy, grains, beans and even vegetables can complete remaining protein needs.
  • Eggs:   Recent advice is that we should not worry about eggs so much. Egg yolks DO contain cholesterol. But the idea that eggs, therefore cause heart disease, is blown way out of proportion. General inflammation is of more concern.   Eggs could contribute to inflammation due to the component: pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid, an omega 6 fatty acid.    (typical in eggs from chickens fed soy and corn—not a natural diet)

Organically fed eggs– from free range chickens and “barn chickens”– have more OMEGA 3’s; and arachidonic acid is less of an issue.

EGGs DO have a place in the diet. They are high in quality protein, choline, B vitamins, Vitamin A, lutein (good for eyes), Vitamin D, potassium, folate, and calcium.

ADVICE:   Buy eggs from, chickens who are free-range, organically fed, vaccine-free. Rotate eggs in your diet; don’t have them every day. Some people have allergies and gut intolerances to them and would be better to have them only 2-3 times per week vs daily

  • Proteins for vegans who eat no animal proteins: quinoa, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds: hempseed, sunflower, sesame, nut and seed butters, chia seeds, (GMO free tempeh, tofu, edamame if soy is tolerated) leafy greens Vegans need to put time into choosing foods wisely to ensure adequate protein intake.
  • Each week, serve some plant-based meals.
    • Garnish vegetable dishes with clean proteins, such as: grilled organic chicken strips or salmon.

13. Drink enough fluid and hydrate

  • In GENERAL: Drink 8-12   8 oz cups of water/fluids per day.
  • RULE of THUMB: Take your body weight in pounds, divide by 2 for total ounces recommended. Ex: Fluids for a 150 lb person = 150 divided by 2 = 75 oz, which translates to: ~ 9.5 glasses of water/day.
  • Besides water—we consume fluids from tea, soups, smoothies, and yogurt. Those who eat more vegetables and fruits, consume more fluid automatically—as these foods contain a higher % of water.

If you don’t like water—try flavoring it with lemon, lime, and grapefruit wedges, fresh mint leaves, fresh grated ginger, cucumber slices, and/or berries. Create your own favorite combinations!   Fill a pitcher with water and chosen ingredients, keep in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. (more detailed “recipes” in Part 3). For more flavored water ideas, check out:


  • Test Well Water 1 time per year (more often, if known contaminants).

  • Tap Water Tips (see references)   (re: Brita pitchers)

For more information on how to filter your water, check out:


14.  Make Your Food Attractive!

We ENJOY our meals more when foods appeal to us!  Attractive can mean simple, cut-up “naked” apple slices, OR a “clean meal” of many rainbow colors and textures. Stay tuned for Eating Clean Part 3.

We will cover Food Shopping Tips; Meal, Snack and Menu suggestions, as well as include several “cleansing water” recipes.

“You are what you eat.  So don’t be fast, cheap, easy or FAKE!”    –Author unknown”

Be Well!  

The Wellness Shifter Ladies

Deb and Wendy








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