You’ve probably heard of clean eating before, but what exactly is it? In simple terms, eating clean simply means avoiding processed and refined foods and basing your diet on whole foods. It’s great for those looking to lose weight, remove toxins, and overall feel better. Creating a clean eating plan, or a guide, will really help you achieve these goals. Plus it will give you the proper nutrition your body may be lacking from eating too much processed foods. Please use this post as a guide to jump start your own healthy eating plan today: It will tell you the basic principles of this diet, the benefits of this diet, and exactly what you need to get started. There are tons of eating clean recipes out there (which I encourage you to look up), but I will be sharing one at the end of this post to get you started.
What is clean eating?
Clean eating is about avoiding junk food and instead eating real, whole foods. Unlike other diets, it is relatively simple to emulate and not too complicated. Here are three basic principles to follow:
Eat whole foods
Whole foods are as close to their natural form as possible. In other words, they’re foods that have not been tampered with in a manufacturing plant or lab. These are considered “real foods” that come straight from a farm (preferably a local one). Some examples include whole vegetables and fruits, whole grains, low fat dairy products, grass-fed and free-range meats, seeds, and unsalted nuts.
Stop using refined sugar
Refined sugar is unhealthy for you to begin with. It doesn’t provide you with any nutritional benefits what so ever, and may even lead to breakouts. Other, more natural sweeteners can be used such as raw honey, agave, cacao nibs, coconut palm sugar, dried fruit, pure maple syrup, stevia, and molasses. While these are certainly better than refined sugar, please use them sparingly, as too much of any sweetener (natural or not) can be a bad thing.
Eliminate processed foods
Guess what? Processed foods are any food that has a label (yes, even if it’s organic). The good news? Not all processed foods are bad: It’s the ultra-processed ones you have to be on the look out for. Foods like doughnuts, cakes, cookies, and brownies are ultra processed foods. Other foods like pizza, white rice, and white pasta are also refined foods, so it’s not just desserts to watch out for. These are the ones that contain no significant nutritional value and have been turned into refined foods. While shopping, make sure you avoid overtly processed foods and instead reach for the processed foods that aren’t as bad, like organic pasta sauce, whole grain pasta, and natural cheese. Just avoid the ones with additives and strange chemicals in them. Make sure to read ingredient labels: If you cannot pronounce it, avoid it!
The benefits of eating clean
There are so many benefits to this wonderful diet. The best part is, it’s not just good for you, but the planet too!
- It helps the environment: Processed foods are packaged in pollution-causing factories, whereas non-processed, whole foods grow straight on a farm.
- Whole foods will help keep you feeling satisfied longer so you’re less tempted to eat junk food.
- Diets heavy on fruits and vegetables can curb or prevent certain life-threatening diseases and conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure.
- Whole foods keep your digestive track regular – if you know what I mean *ahem, bathroom breaks, anyone?*
- A diet high in fruit and veggies is linked to healthy weight management and beautiful hair and skin.
- Eating a good variety of real foods ensures you get adequate amounts of essential nutrients.
- Eating this diet will give you more energy and help you stay active and more energized for longer periods of time.
- Some processed foods are also usually packaged in un-recyclable materials (think candy wrappers and chip bags), so not buying them also reduces your waste.
How to eat clean
So, how do you start eating clean? You think about portions, not calories. In this diet, vegetables reign supreme, so make sure to get those in the most. If you’re a math person, think in fifths: Three-fifths should be fruits and vegetables, one-fifth should be protein, and one-fifth healthy carbs.
I recommend shopping at the farmers market as much as possible. They have a bunch of whole foods there to choose from, and the best part is, it’s all local! You know exactly where your food is coming from and get to see the people who helped make that happen. If you must shop at the grocery store, stick to the fresh, package-free fruits and vegetables they have for sale.
As far as what exactly you should be eating, here’s a handy list of un-processed and minimally processed foods you should include in your daily meals:
Unprocessed foods include:
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Minimally processed foods include:
Unrefined grains (whole wheat bread and pasta, popcorn, steel-cut oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice)
Frozen fruits and vegetables
Unprocessed meat; wild over pastured, pastured over grain-fed
Here’s a clean eating grocery list I highly recommend checking out to help you learn more about clean eating. As far as actual cooking goes, opt for stir-frying and steaming. This is considered a flash-cook method that helps preserve a food’s nutrients. Avoid deep-frying at all costs.
Also, don’t forget the importance of meal prep: It can really help you on this journey. For some inspiration on what exactly to cook, here’s a list of 100 eating clean recipes to choose from (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert included!).
Bonus recipe: Healthy Whole Food Salad
This is my literal go-to lunch as of late. I totally recommend it, because it is delish. I’ve also included the DIY salad dressing I use with it as well. You can rest assured this is a great salad, filled with clean eats worth devouring. Enjoy!
Whole Food Salad
This salad tastes best with produce fresh from the farmers market. If you cannot get your hands on heirloom tomatoes, regular tomatoes work well too. Please try to always buy organic too, as this will reduce your exposure to pesticides.
- 4-5 big leaves of romaine lettuce, shredded
- 3-4 heirloom cherry tomatoes (or 1/2 heirloom tomato), chopped
- 1/2 cup of fresh blueberries
- 1/2 carrot, chopped or shredded
- 4-5 strawberries, chopped
- 1/2 cucumber, chopped
- Wash off all the produce with water, then chop them as needed. If you plan on eating it right away, add it to a big bowl, make the dressing below, and mix it all together.
- If you’d rather save the salad for later, place it in a sealed container of some sort. My mom and I love to make this salad at night and eat it the next day for lunch. We seal it in reusable Tupperware, but you can use anything you like (mason jars work too).
- Make sure you don’t mix it with the salad dressing yet if you intend on eating the salad later: This will cause it to get soggy. Only apply the dressing when you’re ready to eat it. Enjoy!
DIY Strawberry Dressing
This dressing is a bit thick, just so you know. It doesn’t make too much either, but it certainly makes enough for at least two servings. If you’d like to make more, just double or triple the recipe. It’s perfect for those who like sweet dressings too.
- 1 cup strawberries, rinsed and sliced
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- ½ teaspoon natural sweetener (raw honey, coconut sugar, agave)
- 2 tablespoon coconut (or sunflower) oil
- Place strawberries, vinegar, and sweetener in a blender until pureed. Add 2 tablespoons oil and process until smooth. To store, keep in the refrigerator.
And that’s a wrap, folks. I hope this post inspires you to think of your own clean eating plan. Feel free to share any clean eating recipes you have below!