Monday, September 29, 2008

How Clean is Clean?

Of course I'm talking about food clean is clean? There's no denying food you pick out of the ground, or from a tree that hasn't been treated with chemicals, is as clean as a food can get, but we all can't, want or need to eat only raw natural foods. But let's say we could.....

What is the purpose of eating clean? Is it just about our bodies, and health, or is it about the health of our planet, and environment? So much about organic farming and local eating is about using less fossil fuels to transport unseasonal, unregional foods. So is a organic bell pepper shipped and then ground transported from Holland, to your local Trader Joe's, that's been wrapped in plastic for weeks, clean? What about that organic leg of lamb from New Zealand?

Until I write a blog post about the differences between commerically raised chicken (or should I say commercially caged chicken), organic chicken, free range chicken and pasture fed chicken, does eating any of these choices affect how clean a homemade meal is? Is a homemade roasted, un-organic chicken "cleaner" than a organic roasted chicken from Whole Foods, that has been brined or marinated in salt, un-organic spices, and sometimes sugar?

And since I'm on the subject of chicken..... Right now I have homemade chicken stock in my freezer, three kinds, one made with completely organic, pasture fed, chicken bones, and organic veggies from the farmers market, one made with industrial organic chicken bones, and some industrial organic veggies, and one made from chickens grilled at the Mexican market that had been marinated in who knows what, but for sure not organic chickens....(I just couldn't bring myself to not use the left over bones!) Is one homemade chicken stock "cleaner" than another, and would organic chicken broth from Whole Foods be better than my un-organic homemade stock?

And what about the homemade soup I make from my un-organic chicken stock. Is it still less clean if I use organic veggies? Or is my homemade soup made with organic stock, less clean if I use industrially grown veggies? What if I add meat to my soup? Is it less clean if I use anything but pasture fed, orgainic animal protein? (meat) How does any un-organic homemade soup compare to orgainc canned soups?

The difference between a processed dry cereal, no matter how "healthy" it is and oatmeal is obvious, but are highly processed"quick oats" better and cleaner than dry cereal? Quick cooking oats are more processed than old-fashioned oats, that are more processed than steel cut oats, so what level of clean do you choose? What if you pour un-organic milk over your oats, or God forbid use white sugar in your oats (one of my favorites, lol!) All are still better than a breakfast burrito, even most dry cereals!

What about juice? Can you buy an orange juice as clean as picking the oranges and juicing them yourself? Does it really matter that much, or does how much juice you drink more important for your health?

What is the difference between clean eating and healthy eating? Is there a difference? I, personally don't think using ingredients like real butter, or cream, makes a meal unclean, or unhealthy. Does the freshness of a food make a difference? Like I mentioned earlier, does storing or heating foods in plastic make a difference? For that matter does cooking food at all versus eating raw make a difference? How about the cooking method? Grilling, roasting, boiling, about using a microwave? Do unseasonal, unregional foods make a difference? How many levels of "clean" are you willing to break it down to before you jump on the "I only eat clean" bandwagon? What is your personal philoshoy or ranking system?

What ever it is, unless your standards are through the roof, then don't judge, less be judged, lol! I managed to lose over 100lbs without ever eating an organic veggie, much less a pasture fed chicken! Lets not forget what's really important. Eating fresh live foods. Making and preparing your own foods. Using quality ingredients, and eating healthy portions. If you move toward healthy foods, you also move toward cleaner eating practices, and visa versa! Whatever choices you make feel good about them.....we all do our best, until we learn to do better, then we do better.....right?


Unknown said...

I have a personal question for you, can you email me or IM me on yahoo if you don't want to give out email address. you can get my email from my blog. Please erase my im address once you respond. Thank you I'm vessels13 IM on yahoo.

Tracy Reifkind said...


My address is no secret!

I don't know how to IM! So shoot me an email, and I'll reply, no problem.

cathy b said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer said...

As usual, Tracy, this is beautifully said. I am one of the billions of women riddled with guilt about everything from not visiting my family frequently enough to not vaccuuming as often as I should (for that matter even having carpet in my abode at all). The whole "eating clean and organic" thing has potential to do me in. I live in the middle of nowhere and any fresh produce at all is difficult to come by in the cooler months, much less ever trying to get organic. And I pretty much have to raise my own meat if I want organic (or shop 70 miles away). I've had to settle to doing what I can and being satisfied with that. Thank you very much for affirming that for me.

Tracy Reifkind said...


Perfectionism is a dangerous thing, lol!

I felt myself getting out of control with all of the "clean eating" stuff, really it's just a catch-phrase. Healthy eating is what's important, and that is defined by much more than an "organic" label,

The first year and a half of my diet I shopped at the Asian and Mexican markets for my produce because of the freshness and value. Both cultures (especially Asian) eat more fresh veggies, so the turnover was always fresher....but not organic.

I then switched to buying produce exclusively at Whole Foods, until I found out the difference between true organic and "industrial organic", that's when I switched to using only my CSA veggies, supplemented with the farmers market.

Whole Foods is barely a step up from a regular market, but I don't beat myself up for buying limes and jalapenos (etc.) at a non organic market.

I'm most proud to say I mostly eat fresh, live, vegetable based homemade meals foods, than "I eat clean".

Unknown said...

I think you may be developing orthorexia nervosa. (Look it up)

Tracy Reifkind said...


I'm not developing it....I would be skinnier if I was, LOL!

The point of this post is that, yes, I care about the health of the foods I eat, but I try and stay realistic. I clearly write how I never ate an organic food for most of my life until recently, and I'm not bothered by it at all.

It's just a trend that I think is getting out of hand by the mis-informed and I'm not surprised in the least there's a eating disorder named for it!

I would much rather encourage everyone to cook and prepare their own foods, than whether or not those foods are organic.

LizLuvsCrochet said...

Tracy, I think you may be developing a healthy lifestyle. HOW DARE YOU! lol

(now look it up) LOL LOL

Tracy Reifkind said...


I see that you posted your comment @ 9:15am this morning.....where were you at 6:30am? I know where I was.....

fawn said...

I can see reading Michael Pollen's book has really changed the way you think of food. Maura is experiencing the same thing.

As a person who used to cook professionally I lived food, farms, organic, free range, food snobbery for over a decade. I have lots of strong feelings about food. I also believe how you eat is going to determine your health. If you are in bad health, you can change it with your diet.

For me, being educated about what my food choices are is the key... after that I can bargain for how "clean" I want to be. Here are some examples...

*I love corn chips... I certainly don't consider them clean, but eating corn chips makes me happy. Happiness trumps clean regarding corn chips.

*I eat triple washed salad mix. Not totally clean, but I have time limitations, and space limitations. Prewashed salad mix lasts longer and is easy to store.

*Storing stuff in plastic... I am trying to move to glass, but Pyrex makes stupid sizes and shapes. I have limited space in my freezer I have to use what works. Right now I have 50/50 plastic to glass.

I don't own a microwave because I never learned how to use one.

As I have more time, and my life changes... I am sure my diet will change. That is my input regarding food. Thanks for the message Tracy!

Tracy Reifkind said...


I only consider a judgey attitude as snobbery. If someone doesn't have the means...whether its money, time, or just plain knowledge and availability, then whos to brag about one thing or another?

As you know I highly respect your opinion, and that of anyone who's made the cooking and preparation of food their living.

It wasn't so much Michael Pollans book that created this interest in "clean eating", it was already a journey I was on, but "Omnivoires Dilemma" really defined the differences in grades of clean agriculture and processing of food (processing can also be how its prepared for packaging, and shelf life)

Really at this point I was ready to give it all up and only shop at the Vietnamese and Mexican markets, but I came to a middle ground...something like the "happiness" point you made about the corn use in driving yourself crazy over anything, lol!

fawn said...

Snobbery, this is the most difficult part for me regarding food. I spent over a decade of my life judging food. It is hard for me to enjoy a meal out because of it... even now, I am always judging food.

This is what goes through my brain when I dine out...

1. Not food. I can't believe I am eating this crap, and I can't believe someone wasted the earth's resources putting this on a plate.

2. I could have done that better.

3. I'm jealous, how was that done?

4. I have no clue how that food was made and I don't care... I simply enjoy it.

I am trying to move my thoughts toward #4, LOL!

I hate that I subconsciously analyzing everything I eat. It makes me wonder what is a "healthy" amount of time to spend thinking about what we eat? That is my beef with vegans (pardon the pun), being vegan is committing way too much time avoiding certain food. What is the cost and what is the benefit? Hmmmm.....

Beth said...

Tracy, thank you for this post...I had to laugh a bit, cause I was driving myself crazy with counting calories and decided to just eat small portions of healthy food and focus more on clean eating. Your post pointed out how I could obsess about the clean eating too... and thank goodness I read this before I began to do that! LOL! I also switched from worrying about the calories I expend in my workouts to just making my time quality and consistent.

Tracy Reifkind said...


I have the hardest time eating out, it kills me to spend good money on food I can make better!

Mark and I talk about spending the night at one of the local hotels, like the Fairmont, for a "date night" but just like eating out it kills me to spend money on a hotel stay, when I have a perfectly good bed at home!

Tracy Reifkind said...


Obsession and perfection aren't necessarily the same.. Perfection is what is not healthy!

You can obsess about good things....exercising and eating healthy foods, how about a clean house! I want that obsession, lol!

Trying to be perfect doesn't make you happy, because we all no there's no such thing as perfect!