Clean eating is a lifestyle change, not a diet

By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
Connecticut - posted Fri., Feb. 21, 2014
Terry Walters is an author, educator and consultant. She has written two books on clean eating. Photo contributed by Gentl & Hyers. - Contributed Photo

When it comes to eating healthy, Terry Walters has a simple, yet direct motto she likes to live by. “I tell my kids, we can pay the farmer or we can pay the doctor,” said Walters. “I’d rather pay the farmer.”

Walters, a mother of two teenagers, says paying the farmer ultimately pays dividends back to you in the form of a healthy lifestyle.
Walters is an author, educator, consultant and an advocate of clean food. She has penned two books on clean eating and is currently working on her third book, titled “Eat Clean, Live Well,” that is scheduled for release on Nov. 1. 

In the simplest form, Walters said clean eating is, “just the foods that we all need more of." She said that means foods are as minimally processed as possible, "and I call that close to the source.” These foods include a variety of produce such as dark leafy greens and non-animal sources of protein.

Walters said eating clean has always been a passion of hers, a part of her lifestyle and a way of addressing health issues that are in her family. When her children were younger, Walters said they had digestive issues, so she practiced clean eating. This, in turn, piqued the interest of other people who were curious about that she was feeding her children because it was different than what they were feeding their children. “So they asked me to show them, and 14 years ago I started teaching cooking classes and it was all of these super-nutritional foods,” said Walters.

“It happened to be vegan. It wasn’t vegan because it was a diet, but people who ate chicken pretty much knew what to do with it,” explained Walters. “People who had dairy knew what to do with it, but everybody needed more ways of bringing in dark, leafy greens and a variety of whole grains and non-animal sources of protein, so that’s what I taught.”

One important fact to note about clean eating is it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. “There’s no deprivation, but the more clean we can bring in, the more minimally-processed, in-season produce, even locally-grown, if at all possible, the more of the foods that don’t serve us fall by the wayside and we end up tipping the scale to a healthier life,” said Walters.

Clean eating, according to Walters, is just good, fresh food that we all should be enjoying. These are the foods packed with nutrition to support healthy metabolism, and to support as little inflammation as possible. But clean eating doesn’t mean you have to limit your food choices. Walters says you should always have a variety if you are eating clean and look to bring in a rainbow of color. 

“I want to get all five tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent,” said Walters. “That’s going to direct your choices towards healthier options and it’s going towards a healthier you.”

The concept and value of eating healthy is something that nobody will debate, but actually taking the first steps towards incorporating clean eating into your lifestyle can be a challenge for some people. Walters said it’s never too late to start eating clean, and offers a few tips to getting started.

First, she said, make slow changes because these tend to be more lasting changes and are easier on your lifestyle, your finances and your body. Walters advises starting in the produce section and selecting items that aren’t packaged and committing yourself to trying one new item a week. The Internet is a great resource for recipes, as well as her two books, and even if you only like half of the new recipes over the course of the year you will have 26 new foods in your diet.

If you’re still stuck with what to do with a new food item you want to try, then Walters suggests mixing old friends with new. So for example, if you want to try kale and you enjoy minestrone soup, then she suggests chopping up one leaf of kale and adding it into the soup. Over the next few weeks you can increase the amount of kale to a couple of leaves.

Another tip is to examine what you’re eating and see if you can move closer to the source. “So in other words, if you eat instant oatmeal that you add the water and all the seasoning is already in it, try moving to quick cooking oatmeal where you add your own chopped apple and nuts,” said Walters. “It’s less processed.”

“Take out things [our of your diet] that sound like they are made in a test tube,” added Walters. “Really just start to pay attention to what you’re eating and think I want to just recognize that all of these things I’m putting in my diet are food, is a great way to go.”

Becoming more aware of what we’re putting into our diet is an important tip for everybody, but especially for adolescents who sometimes chose taste over nutrition. To help bring more awareness to high school students, Walters teamed up with Michele Saulis and the Connecticut River Academy (CTRA) in East Hartford last school year for their Earth Day celebration.

The CTRA is a magnet school focused on early college and environmental studies. Saulis, an environmental studies theme coach at CTRA, said the magnet school defines environmental studies as, “an interdisciplinary approach to nature, health and quality of life.”
Food has direct ties to all three of the above-mentioned points, and was something that Saulis wanted to focus on for Earth Day last school year. As part of the Earth Day festivities, the CTRA students created a food garden and 50 students cooked fresh food on the grill – all vegetables, no meat. A few organic food distributors attended the event to showcase their products, as well as ShopRite. Walters gave a speech in the auditorium about clean eating.

Saulis said she can see the impact of clean eating on the students and the overall message of leading a healthier lifestyle on a daily basis, as evidenced by students selecting salads at lunch.  Even the students who haven’t totally bought into eating healthy are at least considering the message. "I think if we did not challenge it, they would just go along their merry way and think that everything is fine and this is the way to eat,” said Saulis. 

Lori Sullivan, a registered dietitian/nutritionist based in South Windsor, says poor eating can lead to a number of health problems such as obesity, diabetes, cardio-vascular disease and putting yourself more at risk for cancer. Sullivan said out of the top 10 diseases in the United States, over half of them have a “huge link to nutrition.”

A good source of nutrition that many people may not realize, says Sullivan, is frozen vegetables. “A lot of people used to come to me and say, 'I heard frozen vegetables are bad for you,'” she said. Not so. “They’re almost always salt-fee, they’re extremely convenient [and] they’re usually very economical,” she said.

For more information, contact Lori Sullivan at or visit 

The following clean eating recipe is from "Clean Food" Revised Edition, by Terry Walters, copyright 2012, Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.:

Tuscan Bean Soup

This soup has it all – protein, calcium, minerals and more. If you’re short on time, use canned beans. For a heartier meal, serve over pasta or grilled polenta. Add some garlic bread and you have a delicious feast.


1 thumb-size piece kombu
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
14 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 cups cooked chickpeas
2 cups cooked white beans
2 cups cooked aduki beans
4 cups canned chopped tomatoes with their juices
1 bunch kale or collards, chopped into bite-size pieces
2 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup red wine
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
14 cup chopped fresh parsley

Place kombu in bowl with enough water to cover and soak 10 minutes or until soft. Drain, mince and set aside.

In Dutch oven over medium heat, sauté garlic and onion in olive oil 3 minutes or until soft. Add basil, oregano and rosemary and stir. Add chickpeas, white beans, aduki beans, tomatoes, greens, kombu and stock. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer. Stir in vinegar and wine, season with salt and pepper to taste, cover and cook for 45 minutes. Remove from heat, garnish with parsley and serve.





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