The Clean Eating Movement is Building Momentum

The idea of clean eating goes all the way back to the way our great-great-grandmothers ate, long before foods were shipped, processed and distributed to neighborhood grocery stores. Clean eating means awakening consumers to consider the path their food has taken between its origin and their plate, and eating foods that have been minimally processed and are in their most natural state, short of living on a farm. Natural Awakenings spoke to some local experts about how to incorporate clean eating into a healthy lifestyle.

Too many ingredients

Clean eating is more nutritious, says Sharan Tash, of Tash Fitness (, a woman-only concierge fitness facility in Skokie that helps clients reach their health, fitness and weight-loss goals. “All of the processed foods take out the good nutrients and then your body can’t digest those chemicals. Besides, food tastes better when it’s a more natural state. I stay away from corn and anything with corn in it.” Tash suggests reading the labels of packaged foods carefully. “If you can’t pronounce the names, do you really want that in your body?” she asks clients.

Tash doesn’t believe in diets, but in lifestyle changes. When it comes to protein, she prefers grass-fed beef and free-range chicken, as well as organic or brown eggs. Tash recommends to clients that they keep a journal to really see what they’re eating. “One of the most important benefits of clean eating is that people tend to eat more of the good calories, while helping eliminate cravings for chocolate and carbs,” she says, and also notes that cooking at home is an easier way to control the way the food is prepared.

Take it slow

Charlotte Hammond, ( is a nutrition consultant who tells her clients, “Shop the perimeters!” That’s a solid strategy for finding the clean food. One thing she suggests when moving to a clean eating lifestyle is to take it slow. “If you shift to clean eating too quickly, that may wreak havoc on the body. It takes a while for your body to adjust. While there is one philosophy of eating clean, there isn’t a single diet for everyone. You have to find the balance of what will work for you.” 

Hammond suggests that health-conscious consumers check out the Environmental Working Group ( in Washington, D.C. They have lists called the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 that rate the level of pesticide residue found in fruits and vegetables. Apples, strawberries and blueberries are notorious for the residue, while avocado, pineapple, cabbage and eggplant are the cleanest. “Go organic as much as possible, but always with the top 12 offenders,” she says.

Eating clean does not have cost a fortune, either. Hammond recommends eating what’s in season and going to a local farmers’ market, which reduces the cost and cuts back on the distance the food travels. “Hit the market at the end of the day, when the producer may want to sell what’s left at a lower cost,” she advises.

Healthy cells equal better health

Clean eating helps avoid nutritional deficiencies, says Stephanie Torba (, a nutritional therapist and independent fitness professional. “Without sufficient nutrition, the energy producers in our body are compromised, causing a malfunction in energy production and waste in our cells,” says Torba. The body’s ability to replenish and create healthy cells is what leads to physical health. Eating a diet close to the earth, in as natural form as possible, will ensure that your cells are getting their best chance for healthy survival.”

She notes, “Processed foods are deficient in vitamins, minerals, fiber, beneficial fats and phytochemicals, and often contain rancid oils, chemical preservatives additives and colorings. To make them more palatable, sugars, low-quality fats and salt are added in large amounts. Processed foods rob our body of optimal health, because it must use its own stored resources to process these foods and rid the body of toxins.” 

Gluten-free, dairy-free and organic

Clean eatingRenee Barasch, (, a digestive health specialist at Nutritional Health Solutions, in Highland Park, describes clean eating as gluten-free, dairy-free and organic. “Gluten and dairy can cause great reaction in the body,” she states. “By avoiding these, you could experience less joint inflammation and other digestive issues. What’s more, gluten and dairy can cause a leaky gut.” Barasch’s practice helps those that suffer from Crohn’s disease, colitis, acid reflux and constipation. By performing a digestive workup, she can determine what’s causing the problem and add a regime of digestive enzymes. Barasch believes that cooking foods is one of the reasons the enzymes go missing, but short of eating everything raw, her recommendation is balance. “A balanced diet is critical. Incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables with cooked chicken, so the body is able to absorb the nutrients and eliminate waste.”

Toward a clean eating lifestyle

According to eat clean expert and bestselling author of the Eat-Clean Diet series, Tosca Reno ( recommends that an eat clean lifestyle should start with an evaluation of what food lives in the kitchen, pantry, purse or office. This may well result in a pantry overhaul, because most North Americans consume far too much sugar. “Today, 70 percent of the population is either overweight or obese, and one reason is because we each eat 147 pounds of sugar a year,” says Reno. “Much of the problem with weight management can be managed by understanding what sugar is and removing it from the diet. After that, I recommend replacing processed foods with natural, whole, nutrient dense, well-sourced and well-prepared foods. Increase your water consumption. Water is the number one nutritional deficiency, because we are consuming far too many dehydrating foods and beverages.” She encourages people to pay close attention to their water intake, with three liters or more per day as ideal.

She believes the eat clean lifestyle is not a diet, but a way of managing weight and increasing nutritional intake so that people learn how to eat for a lifetime. “However, most people do lose weight, as I did when I founded and embraced Eating Clean,” she says. “I lost 80 pounds 15 years ago. The point is to learn how to eat for a lifetime of wellness, health and vitality.” 

Exercise is also significant in order to achieve the height of wellness. Health professionals recommend 30 minutes of exercise, performed at 70 percent maximum heart rate, five to six times per week, to enhance brain function, wellness, hormonal balance, mood and more. “Although eating clean does most of the heavy lifting, you must lead a physically active life, too,” adds Reno.

Eliminating sugar

Reno believes processed, refined sugars and foods are the most dangerous public enemy. “They are ubiquitous, in everything we eat,” she says. “But sugar is not labeled as such, so we blithely consume it, unaware of its grip. Now is the time to give up the white stuff. Strike sugar!”

Clean eating may be the latest trend in nutrition, but in its powerful wisdom is here to stay.

Mira Temkin is a freelance writer based in Highland Park. Email her at

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