September 17, 2020

What is Clean Eating?

Show Notes

On this episode, Chuck Gaidica is joined by Susan Okonkowski, registered dietitian for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Together, they discuss what is clean eating.

In this episode of A Healthier Michigan Podcast, we explore:

  • What does it mean to eat clean?
  • The positive and negative aspects of clean eating.
  • What happens when clean eating becomes unhealthy.
  • Clean eating myths.
  • How viewing foods as clean or dirty could demonize the way we look at certain foods.

Transcript

Chuck Gaidica:
This is A Healthier Michigan Podcast, Episode 63. Coming up we discuss what is clean eating anyway.

Chuck Gaidica:
Welcome to A Healthier Michigan Podcast, the podcast dedicated to navigating how we can improve your health and well-being through small, healthy habits we can all start implementing right now. I’m your host, Chuck Gaidica. Every other week, we’ll sit down with a certified health expert from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and dive into topics that cover nutrition and fitness and a whole lot more. On this episode, again, we’re demystifying what it means to eat clean. With me today is a registered dietitian for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Susan Okonkowski. Good to have you back.

Susan Okonkowski:
Thanks so much, Chuck. It’s great to be back.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, I know you’re a registered dietitian. You’ve got a master’s in Public Health and a bachelor’s in Dietetics. You’re a teacher, you’re a mom, you’re a wife. You’re a traveler. You’re a great cook, I’m told. You’re probably a good dancer too, which just makes you a quadruple threat, but you got to be on the move all the time right now, huh?

Susan Okonkowski:
We are. We are very busy. My daughter just started kindergarten as well. Big year for us. And my son turned two. And with work between my husband and I, there is always something going on in the house.

Chuck Gaidica:
Are you doing the virtual kindergarten?

Susan Okonkowski:
No. Actually, my daughter is in a private program so she is in school five days a week, which is great for her. She’s really enjoying it.

Chuck Gaidica:
Good, good stuff. Well, we hear this, I guess, talked about in so many different ways. Eating clean. It sounds like we should know what we’re talking about. And then, again, I still wonder when I hear about it how does that influence… Everybody’s got a different context, I guess. Can you just start at the beginning what does it mean to eat clean?

Susan Okonkowski:
Eating clean is kind of this vague term and it’s not very scientific. To me, the problem is there is not one universal definition for what it means to eat clean. And tactically, it really is a diet concept. It’s more of a fad trend that someone started about five, six years ago that consists of someone avoiding certain kinds of refined, processed foods and also avoiding foods that have artificial ingredients. But, eating clean means so many different things to everyone, which is kind of where in lies the problem with true, clean eating.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah, and I would think that other things have sort of… They’ve been peaking their head from behind the curtain and sort of come under that category. I’ve talked to people who say, “I’m all organic. I buy organic veggies and I only get certain kinds of eggs. And I eat clean.” Oh, okay. And then there are people who are juicing, and they think they’re eating clean because they’re on a juice fast. Like you say, it’s a bit confusing because I think there are all these inputs from various different directions.

Susan Okonkowski:
There is, and that’s exactly the problem, because on the surface you hear about, oh, someone’s eating clean. Sounds great. It’s probably beneficial. Maybe they’re adding some more nutrient-rich types of foods into their diet. However, at the end of the day, there’s also a lot of downfalls because we’ve never classified food as dirty or clean. This whole concept of “clean” doesn’t really make the most sense either to me as a dietitian I have to say.

Chuck Gaidica:
It’s funny you used that word dirty. I mean, I’m the guy who goes out of the way to eat the skin on the potato. I can’t tell you why I’ve always loved it. I know it’s not the cleanest part even after I’ve scrubbed it, but I know I’m getting a lot of minerals and vitamins out of it. So it’s kind of funny that some of the “dirty foods,” if it’s really dirt like you got an apple, you picked it, you washed it, and you ate it, are actually some of the healthier foods you can eat, right? Some of the cleanest eating you could find.

Susan Okonkowski:
Right, and that’s exactly the problem where some individuals become so restrictive. Like you said, they’re not eating the skin of an apple because they’re taking it off. And unfortunately, there’s a lot of fiber in that particular skin of the apple. Or same with some individuals, they think, “Well, I can’t have any foods that necessarily have additives.” Well, there’s good and bad additives. And this gets dangerous where like if someone is drinking milk and any kind of milk, plant-based or animal-based milks. Vitamin D is typically always added to milk to enhance the uptake of calcium, which is really good for your bones. So you start to think about all the different ways that people are “clean eating” and they’re missing out potentially on some really good vitamins, nutrients, and minerals for the body.

Chuck Gaidica:
Mm-hmm (affirmative) And so I guess there is a downside to that, right? That you’re skipping some of the good stuff. In Michigan, we’ve learned with vitamin D, especially as we now enter the season of clouds that sometimes doesn’t go away until next March or April, that vitamin D is important for so many reasons. Some people supplement with a lot of it as we head into winter in the Great Lakes.

Susan Okonkowski:
It is very critically important especially for kids, adults. It doesn’t matter your age and how you’re going to get it, but a lot of people really depend on foods, and vitamin D is one of those things that truly is added into a lot of foods that people are consuming. So going back to the clean eating philosophy, if people are restricting these foods, they’re not getting that essential vitamin D to help themselves out.

Chuck Gaidica:
Let me back up a minute and let’s go from clean eating. And I guess I never did ask you as the expert. Do you have a definition, or is it broad even in your mind as to what clean eating is?

Susan Okonkowski:
It’s really broad because the whole philosophy in and of itself is to eat more nutrient-rich types of foods that are whole. So you think about whole grains and fruits and vegetables and legumes. That part of clean eating is healthy, but in artificial ingredients, of course you don’t want to be eating things that have food colorings and food dyes and added sweeteners and added sugars into them. That’s a very good part of the clean eating movement, let’s call it. But when it comes to this someone include organic foods or non-organic, some people eat gluten or they avoid gluten. And so there’s just such a wide variety of how someone does a clean eating approach. There is no one definition, which is difficult essentially at the end of the day.

Chuck Gaidica:
But you can compare food stuffs within the same category, I mean, tightly compare, and you can see this difference. Here’s a for instance in my life. I love oatmeal. I don’t know how we got it, but we got a few of those packets of instant. Now, I don’t eat it all the time. As a matter of fact, I don’t even eat that stuff that’s in the packet because I happened to look at the ingredients. Well, I don’t want the sugar. I don’t want all the added sodium. I don’t want whatever else they threw in there that make it palatable. And someone would then argue, which one of my kids said to me, “Yeah, but dad, it’s instant.” I said, “Yeah, but I can make oatmeal in a bowl in the microwave, or throw it in the pot, on a pan. And I’m done in two minutes so I can have the real stuff.”

Chuck Gaidica:
So when you compare even those two items, one is cleaner and one is not. And even if I want a little sweetness, I could add honey or whatever it is I want to stay healthy with my oatmeal. So right there it’s still… Right in that category, I can find something that’s cleaner. To me, that’s not confusing. That’s just an easy way to make a decision.

Susan Okonkowski:
Exactly, and oftentimes, a little bit more nutritious. That’s kind of how I think of foods that are in a clean eating program or someone who’s following a clean eating type of diet. They’re oftentimes having more nutritious foods for the most part. I know we talked about the vitamin D with milk, but again, for the most part, it can be very beneficial because the individuals who are trying to follow this clean eating approach, like you said, you’re eating more of the real foods, not something that has been changed. So you can quickly heat it up in a minute versus two minutes, which with oatmeal is not that big of the difference.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. Right, right. Especially when you use the frozen blueberry trick to cool it off. Well, now, I’m telling you, this is one of my favorite go-to breakfast all the time, and it’s just so easy. It really is easy stuff. Are there myths, are there things that you can shoot down that you hear from people a lot from your side of a conversation, being a registered dietitian, that people will say, “Well, I’ve heard this is bad for me. I really shouldn’t do it?” What are some of the myths that are associated with clean eating?

Susan Okonkowski:
So a similar to a myth, I would say really kind of focus on what is the mentality of someone who is following a clean eating approach. Because a lot of people say, “Well, it could promote this dieting mindset,” which with some individuals, it might. With other individuals on the very flip side, it might actually promote them to start eating a lot healthier. Maybe now they are including more fruits and vegetables, whether they be organic or not, they are adding fruits and vegetables into their daily routine whereas before maybe they only got one or two vegetables per day. Now they’re eating six or seven, which in the long run is going to benefit your overall health and well-being.

Susan Okonkowski:
There are some positive aspects of someone who is following this clean eating approach, but there is also just be careful of the, I would say, dieting mentality that could go with clean eating because it kind of fits in that category of a fad diet. Like I said, on the surface, it’s encouraging people to eat more nutrient-rich types of foods that are nutritious and good for the body. So just kind of step away from… Don’t spiral in and get too crazy around fixating on what exactly these foods are that you’re eating every day, because that’s the danger when it comes to kind of the clean eating approach.

Chuck Gaidica:
I think you’ve talked about this before in so many different ways about balance, right? Obviously, all of us are going to have a cheat day or a snack during the pandemic. I can’t tell you how many times my Susan has made chocolate chip cookies. It’s like, “Oh, just stop. Just stop the baking,” but it doesn’t affect her like it affects me because I don’t have the same willpower, but balance is really critical here. You can overeat, I guess, cleanly and you could also go the other direction, right?

Susan Okonkowski:
Right. Balance is very key. Remember, we’ve talked about this before too where nothing should really be a “restriction” because that’s where a lot of individuals especially if they’re predisposed to any sort of eating disorders or they start to develop any sort of obsession around food, which is unhealthy. Balance and moderation is key because at the end of the day, we have to remember our overall emotional, mental, and physical well-being all fit together.

Chuck Gaidica:
And there is a name for this obsession with healthy eating. Go figure. I never would have thought there was such a thing.

Susan Okonkowski:
There is, and it’s called orthorexia. It’s kind of a newer term that has come out in the past decade and it fits with individuals who really have this dieting mentality that fixate around, follows along disordered eating. And what happens is they develop this obsession around what are the benefits of eating pure, clean foods. They look at every single ingredient in every food. They are planning hours and days of what their day is going to look like with foods. And it gets dangerous because they often tend to isolate themselves from social situations because they are so focused on their food intake and they spend such a huge amount of time thinking about, “Well, I can’t have even that simple package of instant oatmeal while I was at my kid’s soccer game in the morning because I couldn’t grab anything else.” They’ll say, “Well, I can’t do that.” And it just kind of creates this really dangerous mindset.

Chuck Gaidica:
If you come back to that word balance again, so in that same line of continuum, there’s a guy like me who’s using an app on his phone to track food. It’s been a good thing for me. I wouldn’t say I have an obsession, but it’s something that keeps me honest, it’s something that even sends me little messages. It actually will tell me. It’s something like, “I noticed when you eat oatmeal and a banana, you actually do better in your week.” And I’m like, “How did you know that?” It’s got a little bit of a function of being your coach along with being an app. I’m not crazy about it, but I guess you could go down that path where you just have to be careful.

Susan Okonkowski:
Right, and that’s absolutely the point that you made is you’re not crazy about it. It’s not impacting your every hour of the day, because oftentimes, individuals who do have orthorexia or this disordered eating type of patterns get into a vicious cycle where there will be not one hour that goes by that they don’t think about, “Well, what did I eat? And then what am I going to eat next?” That’s the unfortunate part of the vicious cycling that can happen versus you’re just someone who is extremely healthy and curious in tracking what you’re putting into your body, which is good. It fits into that overall healthy eating plan about how you’re approaching your overall diet.

Chuck Gaidica:
And if there’s one thing that I’m kind of hearing from you so far in this, that if I were trying to run this through a funnel and whatever drips out the bottom is what is sticking with me right now, the word processed is something I’m thinking about. Maybe that’s for me, what I’m hearing about clean versus dirty foods, because this idea that it almost sounds like dirty versus clean is good versus bad and we’ve already discussed that’s not the case. But is processed a word that we should maybe be avoiding more than whether we’re having an apple or whether we’re having oatmeal in a bag versus oatmeal out of the tub that we make ourselves? The less processed, the better?

Susan Okonkowski:
I would absolutely say that. Less processed, less artificial ingredients, less sweeteners are key factors that if someone does approach this clean eating movement and they’re trying to change their behaviors, focus on those couple of things. Less artificial ingredients, less sweeteners, less processed foods. And at the end of the day, oftentimes, they will come out on the other side eating foods that are more whole and more nutritious for them.

Chuck Gaidica:
Let’s have a little fun with a kind of a lightning round. I’ll throw a little statement at you or a couple of words, and then you tell me if I’m off, if I’m right, if I’m wrong, or something, okay?

Susan Okonkowski:
Okay.

Chuck Gaidica:
Let’s see if we can get some of these. Eating fat will make you fat.

Susan Okonkowski:
No. No, no, no. Eating trans fat is not very good for your body, but the body needs fat, good fats.

Chuck Gaidica:
And that could be everything from olive oil to fish oil that you’re getting from your piece of salmon, right? There are a lot of good fats that we should be having in our diet.

Susan Okonkowski:
Exactly. Almonds, olive oil, avocado. Those are all examples of really healthy fats that you can be consuming and many of them fit within this overall clean eating approach as well.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. Let me just point out there, again, this drop in the bucket philosophy that I have and it seems to have worked. When I’m trying to work out more, I won’t use the word diet, it’s a lifestyle change. When I’m watching what I’m eating, a little pat of butter, a half of a pat of butter, it’s a drop in the bucket as long as I’m not eating a bucket of butter. You know what I mean? They’re all the healthy fats, but yet if I don’t pay attention to every once in a while having something that satiates my palette, then I may overeat and overcompensate. And that’s just me. I’m not saying that’s everybody’s thing. But if you’re tracking your food and you’re doing pretty well, a little bit of this or that in balance probably isn’t so bad.

Susan Okonkowski:
Exactly, because you don’t have all of the limits and restrictions, and it is okay. A little bit of butter that has maybe a little saturated fat or maybe a red glass of wine here or there. Those things are okay in moderation. Absolutely.

Chuck Gaidica:
Okay. I’m going to send you a piece of paper if you could write me a note so my wife knows all that. That’d be perfect.

Susan Okonkowski:
Yes.

Chuck Gaidica:
Okay, good. Eating carbs is bad for you.

Susan Okonkowski:
Oh no. Eating carbs is healthy, especially because your brain is fueled from glucose. Glucose comes from carbohydrates. The type of carbohydrates you choose to consume is what you need to watch out for. Whole grain, more complex types of carbohydrates versus simple sugars that you might find in jam or candies, or “Can we go back to these foods that aren’t really that healthy?” A whole grain piece of bread with some peanut butter, there’s carbs in there, and it’s healthy carbohydrate though.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. Fruit has too much sugar. You shouldn’t eat it.

Susan Okonkowski:
Oh no. There is antioxidants in fruit. Fruit is healthy. You shouldn’t be eating fruit all day long like my kids like to do sometimes. Limit your amount of fruit that you’re consuming. However, fruit is very healthy. Those are natural sugars, natural types of carbohydrates that are going to help your body. They have nutrients like fiber and all kinds of other vitamins and minerals in there that are good for your body. Fruit is healthy.

Chuck Gaidica:
That’s good to think about it that way. I know when I was just at the beginning of the pandemic and I thought I want to get a little more vitamin C naturally, not just taking a supplement. I thought, “Well, I could either drink juice,” and I’m not a big juice guy, “Or I could eat a real orange.” And it’s so much more fun and much better tasting to just go for the orange because you’re getting all the other stuff that they haven’t ground out somehow maybe. There is a way to have fruit and you know you’re doing something good for yourself, right?

Susan Okonkowski:
Exactly. There is. And it is good for your body. It has antioxidants which technically helps to fight those free radicals and in the long run helps fight against any sort of free radicals that could potentially develop into cancer in the body. So don’t cut out fruit because there’s sugar in there. It really is something that your body needs.

Chuck Gaidica:
And we’re up to, what is this? Episode 63, so we’ve got a lot of great episodes you’re included in many of them. And in the past, we’ve also learned that heart health, which I would say a lot of the things you’re discussing that are good for us, qualify as healthy heart eating. Heart health = brain health. In other words, if we’re doing this balanced approach in life, it’s not just good for the heart. That’s good, good for lowering your cholesterol and all that stuff, but it’s good for your overall body. It’s not just about cardiovascular health, which is important. It’s why somebody may run et cetera, but we’re really helping ourselves from the top of our head to our toes.

Susan Okonkowski:
Exactly. You’re fueling your brain. You’re hydrating your skin. There’s so many things that nutrients in foods do for our overall body to help it just maintain normal functionality that oftentimes we don’t even think about, and good foods will do that. They will help kind of keep the engine running as so to say.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. Before we leave fruits, lightning round question is back. Frozen fruits and vegetables are not as nutritious. True or false?

Susan Okonkowski:
Definitely false, as long as they have been what I would call flash frozen, it is absolutely healthy. Like you said, you love to add those frozen blueberries into your oatmeal in the morning, and there hasn’t been any sugars added to those blueberries. I’m sure that either maybe you’ve frozen or maybe you’ve bought some at the store. They really are a healthy alternative when we can’t get those beautiful, fresh summer types of fruits in Michigan specifically because oftentimes, you missed the high quality produce that we have access to. But if you’ve happened to have frozen some from summer or you picked them up at the grocery store, frozen fruits are okay too.

Chuck Gaidica:
You know what I’m missing right now and I don’t really think about getting them frozen? I miss cherries. That run from the spring into the summer where, I don’t know, it seemed like cherries were the best ever in previous years. And it’s just such a great thing. You’re right, and they weren’t all from Michigan to be fair, but just a wonderful supplement of fresh produce that comes in. And if you don’t get that stuff in the waves when it hits and if you’re not freezing it yourself, sometimes you miss out. But that’s what I miss. Boy, they were good this season.

Susan Okonkowski:
They were. They were so juicy too. They were sweet. Absolutely. Yeah, when it comes to even November, December, January, you just craving some of those. It’s absolutely healthy to pull a bag of those frozen fruits out and add them into something you’re consuming.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. I guess in defense of the frozen food industry, I think a lot is now flash frozen, right? I think that’s kind of where the whole industry is migrated. So the idea of opening up a package of spinach and maybe that’s all you could do today because you’re playing teacher at home and you’re a mom and you’re a wife, if that’s the way it works out, well, that’s fine. It’s okay.

Susan Okonkowski:
It is okay, because you’re still eating some really healthy vegetables.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. What about… You’ve mentioned processed food a couple of times we’ve come back to that. Is all processed food bad for you?

Susan Okonkowski:
Not necessarily. People kind of use the word processed differently. For example, again, whole grains, sometimes there are things that are added into a whole grain bread. Maybe there are some quinoa added in. Someone could say, “Well, that grain has been processed,” but it’s not a bad type of process. You got to be careful of what kinds of processed foods. And I wouldn’t say go eat processed cheese. That’s probably not the most healthy thing. Or, a lot of the refined types of packaged foods that have been processed. Be careful in that space. But overall, when you think about processed, again, it has a varying definition, varying meaning for different kinds of foods.

Chuck Gaidica:
So processed cheese and processed meat sticks are not a good lunch? Is that what you’re saying?

Susan Okonkowski:
I would definitely avoid those. That’s correct.

Chuck Gaidica:
Okay. Well, all of that makes perfect sense to me when we’re talking about it, but there’s one kind of food that comes to mind. And I don’t know if you and I have talked about it specifically, this meat alternative stuff that’s out there now. If you look at it and you just dig in one layer on Google, you don’t have to go deep, it’s highly processed plant-based meat alternative that’s supposed to help you steer away from meat. But yet when you read it, it’s like, “Wow, this is quite a concoction.” Where do you stand on that?

Susan Okonkowski:
It is highly processed. And I would say, my personal thought on it is that either eat the meat or eat some sort of other plant, more natural plant sources like eat legumes, eat some nuts, eat some vegetables that have not been all processed together in that meat alternative hamburger. That’s my personal opinion, obviously, because it has been processed and you have to think about it. And sometimes when you look at the amount of saturated fat even in those meat alternatives, it is not any better than a regular Angus type of burger.

Chuck Gaidica:
By being the label reader that I am, I think to be fair, it’s actually got more saturated fat and it’s derived from coconut oil, which if I’m not wrong, that’s not the best on the list of healthy fats, right?

Susan Okonkowski:
It’s not the best. At one point in time, people were really thinking, “Oh, coconut oil is the answer,” but it’s really not because it’s very solid at room temperature. So you have to think about that when you’re putting these types of foods into your body, it’s how are they going to break down at the end of the day too.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. You know what I call meat alternative burger? A falafel. I will drive… My wife too, we got hooked on them years ago. Neither one of us have Middle Eastern descent. I would go out of my way 10 miles to get a good falafel sandwich or a salad. It’s just the best.

Susan Okonkowski:
Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, let me continue here with the game show. There are no parting gifts by the way so I’m sorry I can’t give you a new car at the end. But here’s another one. Egg whites are healthier than eating the whole egg with the yolk.

Susan Okonkowski:
Not necessarily. There is a lot of healthy vitamins that are inside of an egg yolk. I will say if you’re someone out there who is really trying to watch your cholesterol, limit the amount of egg yolks that you eat per week. However, I think about small children who can really benefit from those fat-soluble types of vitamins that are inside of the egg yolk. And it’s not that bad to consume it. Again, it’s all about balance. It’s about moderation. So don’t have three egg yolks every day, but having one egg yolk every couple of days during a week time period is definitely not unhealthy for your body.

Chuck Gaidica:
There is a hybrid to so many of the things you’re pointing out, all the good stuff, eggs in particular. You can do one regular egg with the yolk. And if you’re looking to add more protein, adding two egg whites to that one egg so that there’s still a little bit of color, taste, I guess there’s fat that I’m not even thinking about that I must notice when I taste it, you are able to do that, and you’re still not having two or three eggs at one time. It actually works out okay.

Susan Okonkowski:
It does. You’re exactly right. And you’re still getting all of the benefit of the protein and the benefit of the fat-soluble vitamins in there too.

Chuck Gaidica:
One of the last ones in the lightning round here is about being gluten-free. It was a thing for a long time in our family. We have a son who’s developed, it’s related to his auto immune disease, gluten intolerance. He’s got true celiac. So in our household, even at Thanksgiving, we have shifted so nobody can mess up what spoon is used in the stuffing. Everything is shifted to gluten-free at that moment when we’re trying to make sure everybody’s cool. But for the most, everybody, do we really need to worry about going gluten-free?

Susan Okonkowski:
No. For those individuals who have celiac, absolutely need to be concerned. And there are some folks who like myself are gluten intolerant, I have also avoided gluten for almost 20 years now.

Chuck Gaidica:
Wow.

Susan Okonkowski:
Yes. We get the similar rash and itch, but especially celiac disease, those individuals need to avoid gluten. For the rest of the population, there is a lot of benefits of complex carbohydrates that come in foods that contain gluten. And it’s not something that you need to avoid in your diet because, again, you go back to glucose and carbs fuel the body. So it is an important aspect of an overall healthy diet.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. And for you, are you able to navigate the world, 20 years is a long time, but it just my anecdotal evidence, there is more and more good gluten-free stuff available from frozen food sections to the local stores that may sell it. It just doesn’t seem like it’s as hard as it was even five years ago to navigate that space, huh?

Susan Okonkowski:
It has become so much more easy to find products out there. I remember 20 years ago, even before I had left the house, my mother had to special order certain things because we lived in a small rural area. There was no grocery store gluten-free types of foods. It has changed so many times over in the marketplace of what’s available for those individuals, again, who truly do need to avoid gluten.

Chuck Gaidica:
It’s really good to see that too, especially when you’re the people that have to go out and shop for it. As we start to wrap things up, let’s talk about coming back to a good perspective of clean eating. What is it that is your suggestion to all of us, the takeaways that we can start to think about so we are not demonizing certain foods and throwing them out the window and yet we’re trying to find this balance? Help us out here as we think about this whole idea.

Susan Okonkowski:
I will say a kind of a parting thought. If you are going to try clean eating, don’t think of it as a fad diet. Think of it as a change in how you are approaching what your diet is comprised of. You’re adding healthier, more fresh flavorful foods that are whole foods. They’re nutritious. And again, at the end of the day, you’re avoiding more of those dangerous foods that have artificial ingredients and sweeteners and have been highly processed. Just think about balance, think about the overall moderation, and also remember, your emotional, mental, and physical well-being at the end of the day depend upon moderation.

Chuck Gaidica:
If I were going to add one thing to my diet today that you would classify as part of clean eating, what’s the one thing that when I get to the grocery store I should really look to put in the cart? One thing today.

Susan Okonkowski:
Spinach.

Chuck Gaidica:
Really?

Susan Okonkowski:
Yes. I always say spinach is one of those powerhouse foods. It is right up there. Kale and spinach, and oftentimes I think kale has a little bit of a pungent taste. So I always say spinach is one of my favorite food because it is so packed with all kinds of really rich vitamins. You can saute it with a little bit of garlic and give it some flavor. Add it into smoothies, add it into dishes that you’re baking like pasta dishes for kids. It’s one of those things you can sneak in here and there, but at the end of the day it’s really healthy food that has lot of bang for its buck.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah, and that’s good in omelets. And by the way, it’s cheap. It’s not free 99, but look at how big of a container bag you can get. It’s really not expensive.

Susan Okonkowski:
It’s not.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, Susan, it’s so good to talk to you again. Thanks for all the wisdom. It’s always nice to connect with you and to have you steer us in the right path. I like spinach, I guarantee I’ll get more because that’s a really great tip.

Susan Okonkowski:
That sounds good. It was so great to talk to you today, Chuck. Thanks again for having me.

Chuck Gaidica:
Oh, sure thing. That’s Susan Okonkowski. She’s a registered dietitian with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. So many good takeaways from this, I hope you learned a little something, and you’re encouraged you can eat clean and yet you don’t have to go over the edge about the whole idea, right? Thanks for listening to A Healthier Michigan Podcast. It’s brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. If you like the show, you want to know more, you can jump online. You can check us out at ahealthiermichigan.org/podcast. You can find all of our great episodes there. You can leave us reviews or ratings on Apple Podcast or Stitcher. You can get new episodes, take them for your walks. That’s good for us too, right? On your smartphone or your tablet. Be sure to subscribe to us on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. It’s always there for you. We’re up to episode 63 now. We’ve got lots of great episodes on all kinds of things from breathing, meditation, nutrition, good foods. And this was one of those episodes today. Stay well. I’m Chuck Gaidica. Bye for now.