What Does Clean Eating Mean to Dietitians?


Twelve experts share their takes.

By Melinda Johnson

As a college professor, I hear about diet trends fairly early and often. Many of my students love the idea of “eating clean,” but I find that most of them struggle to define what it actually means. Indeed, “clean eating” is a term that has no official definition, leaving it wide open for interpretation. Some of my colleagues dislike the term and avoid using it, because it implies that this way of eating is somehow more virtuous, or that some food is “dirty” (and therefore, bad). Dietitian Marsha Hudnall, who is president and co-owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run – a healthy weight loss retreat in Vermont – explains that her hesitation to use the term is because it ultimately sets a lot of people up for unrealistic expectations about eating. She finds that the term encourages an all-or-nothing kind of thinking about food, and sometimes even contributes to an overall fear of food, which stands in the way of being healthy.

Still, the idea of eating clean is a powerful one for many people, and some dietitians do embrace “clean eating” on their own terms. Here is how 12 different registered dietitians define it:

“Since there is no scientific consensus on the definition of clean eating, I define a clean eater as someone whose diet consists of 80 to 90 percent whole foods, 80 to 90 percent cooking and preparing their foods from scratch, using minimally-processed foods and including superfoods in their diets.” –Manuel Villacorte, MS, RD, author of “Whole Body Reboot: The Peruvian Superfoods Diet”

“Clean eating is about exploring and enjoying the amazing flavors our foods inherently offer. Authentic, traditional dishes with their signature flavors from herbs, spices and cooking techniques are a great example of clean eating that has been around for generations.” – Jennifer Ignacio, MS, RD, Nutrition Communications Manager for the Compass Group North America

“When I think of clean eating, I think of Sankofa. The African word and symbol Sankofa translates as ‘to go back and take.’ The symbol of a bird arching its neck to take an egg from its back symbolizes one taking from the past what is good and bringing it into the present. Clean eating aims to do just that, promoting positive progress in health by reaching back to a time when we ate more wholesome, minimally processed foods.” Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, author of The African American Guide to Living Well with Diabetes

“Clean eating = eating foods where nothing healthful has been taken away, and nothing harmful has been added.” – Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, author of “The Superfood Swap”

“Clean eating simply means eating with micronutrient and macronutrient goals in mind, with as much variety as possible, without restrictions. It’s not an extreme dieting technique; it’s a way of improving your eating habits so you are not over-consuming foods heavily processed and stripped of nutrients.” – Jim White, RD, ACSM Health Fitness Specialist, owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios, Virginia Beach

“Clean eating is when I can see all of the ingredients I am eating. For example, a lunch of grilled salmon over salad with lots of veggies as opposed to a bowl of processed macaroni and cheese where I can’t pronounce the ingredients on the label. Clean eating means the least processed fresh food that focuses on a rainbow of colors from fruits and vegetables, not from a cereal box.” – Jayne Newmark, MS, RDN, owner of Newmark Nutrition, LLC, Phoenix, Arizona

“It’s is my mantra, my go-to safety net. To me, clean eating means eating food I know will benefit my health, mind and body. It’s not all vegetables, whole grains, fruit and lean protein; sometimes it includes a small piece of chocolate or a glass of wine, when I have balanced it out with physical activity. It’s a state of mind and a way of life to remain as positive and as proactive as I can about my health as I approach … 60.” – Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, Author of “The Doctor’s Detox Diet: the Ultimate Weight Loss Prescription”

“For packaged foods, I consider a product to be ‘clean’ if I can look at the ingredient list and know I could have purchased all of the ingredients and made it myself in my own kitchen, but I didn’t have to because someone made it for me.”- Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD and author of “Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast”

“Clean eating is focused on reading labels to make sure there are fewer ingredients; but the best clean foods come with only one ingredient – and many have no labels: leafy green vegetables, berries, citrus fruit, tomatoes, nuts, seeds, wheat berries, oats, lentils, chickpeas and more.” – Sharon Palmer, RDN, author of Plant-Powered for Life

“Maybe I’m old fashioned and fact oriented, but I think the most important definition of ‘clean eating’ should be for foods chosen and prepared to minimize the threat of food-borne illness. For example, wash fresh produce, clean cutting boards to avoid cross contamination and cook raw meats to proper internal temperature. That’s clean eating.” – Carolyn O’Neil, MS, RD and author of “The Slim Down South Cookbook”

“Clean eating is buying, preparing, cooking and enjoying food that is both nutritious and delicious. Balancing food groups and never restricting. Life is too short and food too delicious!” – Ximena Jimenez, MS, RD, consultant dietitian in Miami

“Clean eating is about power washing your diet, to strip away the clutter and enjoy the clean taste of a crispy apple, a juicy tomato or nutty brown rice.” – Leslie Bonci, MPH, RDN, Director of Sports Nutrition at UPMC Center for Sports Medicine

Originally published: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2015/03/27/what-does-clean-eating-mean-to-dietitians

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Exercise Outside For Added Benefits!

There’s a benefit to any exercise you do.

If you certain activities outside, you can compound some of those healthful benefits. According to a past article in the New York Times, “outdoor exercise tends to be more strenuous than the indoor version.” This of course doesn’t apply to all forms of exercise, but more so to those, with origins that began outside the gym doors.

Running. When you run outside you flex your ankles more, than when you run on a treadmill. On indoor equipment there’s really nothing, which mimics running downhill. Running up, down or on level ground utilizes your muscles differently and if the terrain varies, say you take a trail, run on asphalt or grass, your energy demands are greater too.

Bicycling. There’s no wind in a gym, so the drag you get from the wind outdoors can give you a heartier workout than riding the same distance on a stationary bike. This means you will burn more calories and gain more fitness.

Walking. Being outdoors is more enjoyable to most people. In some psychological tests, individuals scored quite a bit higher in self esteem and in the areas of having more enthusiasm, and pleasure. They also scored lower for stress, depression and fatigue after taking a stroll outside.

So in addition to your fitness regime, you may want to consider taking your aerobic exercise outside, when it suits you.

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How to Keep a Workout Routine.


Most people who love to exercise have discipline, but they also practice giving themselves a bit of space. Their commitment to exercise is a lifestyle, but at the same time, they allow some slack in case of any obstacles they may face in getting to the gym at times.

If people are rigid with their fitness, they have a limit they come up against and burn out. The same thing with a strict diet, sooner or later the urge to cheat takes over and may destroy all the hard work.

The best thing to do is have a fitness plan and keep it moderate; it’s about making it work over the course of a lifetime, not just the short term.

Individuals can give themselves a certain number of days they want to workout a week.  For optimal results, they should commit to somewhere between 3-6 times a week. If they show up most weeks for their committed workouts, but miss a workout here or there, their world doesn’t fall apart.

It’s getting back in the saddle on the next one. Keeping fitness simple and manageable in the scope of one’s life, makes it easier to continue doing in the long run.



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Can We Drink Diet Soda and Not Gain Weight?





A recent study was written about in Time magazine, earlier this week. It stated that diet soda caused more belly fat. From the article:

“People who drank diet soda gained almost triple the abdominal fat over nine years as those who didn’t drink diet soda. The study analyzed data from 749 people ages 65 and older who were asked, every couple of years, how many cans of soda they drank a day, and how many of those sodas were diet or regular.”

According to Dr. Freedhoff, a doctor who is also an Assistant Professor at the University of Ottawa, Author of The Diet Fix and founder of Ottawa’s non-surgical Bariatric Medical Institute the study is flawed.

He states that linking diet soda consumption to weight gain and increased abdominal circumference was missing a few key controls in the study. He counters that the media and articles written about this study left out an important piece: the diet these people followed was not consistent, the only consistency was drinking the soda.

What does it mean?

Dr. Freedhoff explains how  these people could have gained weight by drinking diet soda, because, he estimates, they may also eat more high-calorie foods. Some of us think we can eat french fries or have something equally indulgent, as long as we have a diet soda. It could be that these people thought they were protected somehow from gaining weight, because the diet soda would cancel out those extra calories (since they are not indulging in full calorie soda).

Should we indulge?

There have been several studies conducted about the safety of the chemical ingredients in a diet soda. Some of them have been linked to the possibility of causing cancer, among other unpleasant affects. Many who drink diet soda find their cravings for sweeter foods also increases, which is not good for overall weight maintenance.

Prevention magazine claims there is an 11-year-long Harvard Medical School study of more than 3,000 women, researchers found that diet cola is associated with a two-fold increased risk for kidney decline. Kidney function started declining when women drank more than two sodas a day. The study concluded it was ‘more than likely’ the artificial sweeteners, which were the issue.

Nothing has been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that drinking diet soda is bad for anyone, but if we are trying to take care of our mind, body and overall health in the most optimum way, there are far better beverage choices we can all make. Choosing water or other beverages, which have no additives or possible health risks should weigh into our decisions.

Here are some links below, which talk about the risk of artificial sweeteners and studies on how it may affect risk of diabetes in men.

  1. Artificial sweeteners and cancer. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/artificial-sweeteners. .
  2. Use of nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2012;112:739.
  3. Nonnutritive sweeteners: Current use and health perspectives. A scientific statement from the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association. Circulation. 2012;126:509.
  4. de Koning L, et al. Sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened beverage consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2011;93:1321.
  5. Common questions about diet and cancer. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/Healthy/EatHealthyGetActive/ACSGuidelinesonNutritionPhysicalActivityforCancerPrevention/acs-guidelines-on-nutrition-and-physical-activity-for-cancer-prevention-common-questions.
  6. Water versus diet soda for best weight loss results. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/oby.20737/full


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Welcome to my new blog post.

I know you’re here to learn more about fitness, nutrition and a healthy lifestyle! I can help you to reach your goals.10302045_10153052327218648_3491970537823673509_n

I’ve been involved in fitness, since I came here when I was twenty, as a nanny from Sweden. I discovered aerobics and fell in love! We did not have anything like this back home, so when I moved back to Sweden I opened up an aerobics studio.

To me fitness is a part of having a whole life!

I ended up moving back to the United States in January of 1991, with my husband, who owned a fitness studio. A few months after I arrived, my life changed in an instant! I was hit by a car while walking across the street; I suffered a broken neck among other injuries. I was fortunate in that I did recover, but it took two long years of physical therapy, working out and massage to feel like my old self.

Did I just say massage and working out helped in recovering from my accident? YES!!!

It took about a few months for my fractures to heal, but I still suffered from a constant headache and tension after the accident. Massages saved my life! I worked out and had regular massages, which relieved and released the pain I was in. My accident taught me a lot about the human body and how to heal from injuries, which is why I work with so many people who have been through traumatic physical experiences! I can help them!

Once I was physically able, I started working with my ex-husband. We opened up another studio in Pasadena in 1993 and I am still in the same location 23 years later! I am so fortunate, as to have had clients who have been with me that long, and new ones joining me on a regular basis.

I have kept this business going, because it is my passion, even after the birth of my twin daughters in 1997. I love what I do and fitness is not just my job, but my lifestyle. You can see me out hiking and running the trails in the San Gabriel Mountains, several times a week, or riding my bike, walking or doing yoga.

My philosophy is that you must keep surprising the muscles and stay consistently working out. It’s definitely not about overdoing it in one session, but to work out consistently 3-4 times a week. Most of my clients come in to see me for semi-private training twice a week and do some other form of exercise to supplement.

Have you tried semi-personal training?

It’s an opportunity to receive your own training program, while in the company and support of a few other people. It’s a great way to be fit, get more competitive with yourself and make new friends too. It is a great way to train, rather than having one on one sessions with a trainer, and for a fraction of the price.

I also have six massage therapists, and a Pilates studio, because I know what a difference it makes in overall health and well being.

My keys that I offer to well being and total fitness are to have a sustainable program for the long run meaning:

  • No one is going to the ER for overdoing it!
  • This is a lifestyle change, not a quick fix!
  • It takes a commitment—something to stick with and see results!
  • To lose weight, maintain fitness it takes a combination of eating right, cardio and resistance training—there’s no shortcut!

Injury free is the way to go! Stay consistent and steady, it wins the race!

Please call me, so I can learn more about your goals and if you have injuries or any other obstacles to fitness. I will then have you come in for an in-person consultation. 626.799.7243.

In fitness and health,


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Last Sunday’s Climb For Heroes






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We hiked Mt. Baldy to support USMC Ssgt Charlie Linville. He lost his leg last summer in Afghanistan. Yesterday he left to climb Mt. Everest what a great accomplishment for him! Enjoy the pictures from our climb up!


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