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Living in New York has provided me many amazing experiences and exposure to equally as many amazing people, Jared Koch being one of them. I'd like for you to meet the man behind the book and website, Clean Plates. What Jared believes in is simple - that eating healthier does not have to be challenging, and in fact it can be an easy, pleasurable and sacrifice-free adventure. With that testimony, he founded Clean Plates in an effort to help you and me make better, more informed decisions when it comes to what we are putting into our bodies.

Read the interview that I had with Jared below to learn more about what motivated him to start Clean Plates, what gets him excited to start each day and his take on eating healthy.

Tell me about Clean Plates. What motivated you to start this company?

When I started studying nutrition ten years ago, I was immediately transfixed by the topic and the lack of knowledge (both my own and society's) on the subject. It became clear to me that nutrition is the foundation of many problems we face today (including personal and environmental health as well as economic stability). I spent the next five years studying and eventually became a nutritional consultant and health coach certified by the Teachers College of Columbia University, the Global Institute for Alternative Medicine and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. About six years ago I began my own practice working with individuals in helping them to eat healthier and improving their lifestyles. That's really where Clean Plates began. I was getting great results working with people in my practice, and I discovered that while education and supporting my clients was important, simply giving them practical resources in the form of product and restaurant recommendations was the most useful tool. I would tell them to try a restaurant I knew served good quality and delicious food, and they would report back two weeks later raving about how much they loved it, that they had eaten there several times already, and planned on continuing to do so. Simply put, they were now putting better food into their body.

I decided that a book and website would be a great way to not only preserve my recommendations but also to reach a greater audience while recognizing restaurants for responsible sourcing and delicious food (and hopefully inspiring other restaurants to follow suit). I wanted to combine an informative book of nutrition content with a restaurant guide. As I did more research, I realized that this model was unique; of course my entrepreneurial instinct kicked in, and I began to view it as a business venture.

What advice can you share with Shape readers about eating healthy?

In Clean Plates, I break down my advice into "Five Precepts for Eating Healthier"- guidelines on how to build a better relationship with food. My underlying philosophy is that there is more than one right way to eat. We are conditioned to look for the perfect diet but ultimately, each person needs to pay attention to their individual body and find out what works best for them. That being said, it is extremely important for everyone's diet to consist of a large majority of real, whole and nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and herbs/spices. If you consume animal foods then you want to eat the best quality possible: think pasture raised, grass-fed animals free of hormones and antibiotics. Of course, reducing your intake of artificial and processed foods (especially refined sugar and corn syrup) will significantly help you be healthier. If you do only one thing to improve your diet, I would suggest adding more vegetables.

Are you vegan? If not, what diet do you follow and why?

Presently, I am not vegan. I was vegetarian and vegan for approximately three years and experimented with a lot of different ways of eating. I never felt quite right as a vegan, and keeping with the concept of bioindividuality, I began experimenting (carefully) with my diet. When I started adding high quality (grass-fed and naturally raised) meat into my diet, I felt a lot better. I am very happy with the way I eat both in terms of health and enjoyment. I don't feel like I sacrifice anything. I eat a lot of vegetables and fruits and a moderate amount of well-sourced animal foods. I use a lot of herbs and spices when I cook, and in general I limit my intake of dairy and grains. I eat very little processed food and consume almost no refined sugar (I use some natural sweeteners). If there is something I want to indulge in, I will. Since I eat very well most of the time, I just really enjoy the indulgence and have no guilt about it.

What makes you excited to get out of bed every morning?

I love what I am doing with Clean Plates. I spent a long time trying to find something to do with my career that could be both financially successful and contribute to positive change on a broad scale. With Clean Plates, I feel like I have found it. (And seeing my dog ready and waiting for me to play with her in the morning doesn't hurt either!)

Can you share with us some of your favorite "clean plates" restaurants and dishes that you adore?

There are so many. Reviewing the restaurants is definitely not the toughest part of my job. I just had a great meal at Jonathan Waxman's Barbuto. The organic chicken was the best chicken I've ever had. I also love the kale salad at Northern Spy Food Co., and the raw desserts at One Lucky Duck, and Pure Food and Wine.

Any insight into what's next for Clean Plates?

I feel like we are just getting started. We are developing a mobile app, expanding our website presence and working on some other cities. In addition, I'm working on a book that expands upon my healthier eating philosophy and includes a lot of simple and delicious recipes. A lot of them are inspired by the great chefs I've come across while reviewing restaurants.

Where can we buy your book?

Online, you can go to www.cleanplates.com or www.amazon.com, and in NYC and the surrounding areas you can find it at Barnes and Noble, Whole Foods, Duane Reade, and many other great retailers.

Win a copy of Clean Plates

As a special treat Jared will be providing 25 Shape readers a copy of his book "Clean Plates" for free. All you have to do is share this story on Twitter by Friday, June 24, and include @Shape_Magazine in your tweet. @Shape_Magazine will choose 25 winners at random.

In Good Health,


Renee Woodruff blogs about travel, food and living life to the fullest at Shape.com. Follow her on Twitter.