The phrase “clean eating” has been rising in popularity these days. It’s such a vague phrase, so what does it really mean?
It isn’t a defined diet– there are many ways to interpret “clean eating”. Clean eating isn’t an necessarily a diet for weight loss, although it can have those effects. Clean eating isn’t about your food being dirty. It’s about avoiding the processed foods with a million ingredients. Here’s my short and sweet definition:
Clean eating: eating the healthiest options in the food groups, like fresh vegetables, fruit, dairy, whole grains and lean proteins, and avoiding processed junk food and fast food.
So basically, healthy, fresh, well-rounded meals. This is definitely a trend I can get behind! You don’t have to be a vegetarian to eat clean, and you don’t have to cook fancy meals or go on a cleanse.
The easiest way to eat clean is to shop the perimeter of your grocery store. Below are some tips for shopping each section.
Fresh Fruit & Veggies: Anything in this section is basically a free-for-all. Load up on anything and everything that you like. Kale, spinach, sweet potatoes, oranges and berries are delicious, nutrition-packed options.
Deli: Here’s where label reading will come into play. Look for meats that are nitrate-free, and lower in sodium. I like shopping for these at Sprouts or Whole Foods. They have a great line of nitrate free, low sodium turkey meat that we use on sandwiches. Buy cheeses with less than 150mg of sodium per serving.
Meat/Poultry/Seafood: Aim for grass-fed and pasture raised meats. Those without these labels were probably raised in filthy environments. It’s more expensive, but cutting down on your meat consumption can help the environment and your waistline.
Dairy/Eggs: Choose cage-free eggs and low-fat dairy products like milk, low-sodium cottage cheese, and light sour cream.
Frozen Fruit & Veggies: Make sure you’re choosing those without added sodium or sauces.
Fresh Breads: Check the labels and try to find those with less than 150mg of sodium per serving. Look for whole grain bread.
Center Aisles: Go in for the toilet paper and then GET OUT! Just kidding… you can stay in the middle for a little longer, for items such as low-sodium canned beans, canned tomatoes, plain pasta and rice, nuts and seeds, nut butters, high fiber/protein cereal, and of course any cleaning or household products you may need.
So how can you start eating clean?
First, reading labels is key. Check out the ingredient lists for everything with a label. Look at sodium, sugar, and how many ingredients the product has. Does it have a long list of ingredients with unrecognizable names? If foods have more than five items on their ingredient list, they’re probably not clean.
Second, PLAN! I cannot stress how important meal planning is to a healthy diet. It will make such a huge difference. If you don’t know what you’re eating for dinner, and it’s already 4:00, what are you more likely to do? Scramble together a meal at home, or just pick up food on the way home? Check out my meal planning page for a printable grocery list and meal planner.
Do you eat clean? What are some of your favorite clean eating recipes?
Hi! I’m Emily, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and self-taught intuitive chef. I firmly believe that cooking is the simplest and most important step we can take to improve our minds and bodies and build healthier communities. Join me and let’s bring food back to the kitchen!
Leslie @ With Love, Leslie says
I eat clean as often as possible! I live by the 80/20 rule. 80% clean, 20% cheat. My favorite “clean” things to eat are salads as big as my face and my roasted chickpea tacos. YUM! You’re right, one of the most important things to clean eating is planning… The only thing that sounds good at 5:30 after a long day of work is drive through..
Zen & Spice says
I’m going to have to make those roasted chickpea tacos again soon!
kristina @ love & zest says
I love your diagram! Great post!!
Gabrielle @ Health As A Lifestyle says
One of my favorite recipes is a Cinnamon Sugar Roasted Chickpea. Simply chickpeas, olive oil, cinnamon, and a sprinkle of sugar. I love clean eating but have to have my desserts!