What is Clean Eating? 4 Tips to Eat Clean Year-Round
February 16, 2022
Clean eating is more than a movement. It’s a holistic approach to food that can lead to supporting the immune system, increased energy levels, a stronger heart, improved brain health and more. So, what is clean eating, what does it look like for beginners, and what does it take to reap the benefits? Let’s take a closer look at the ins and outs of a clean foods diet.
Clean eating describes following a whole food diet, which consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats, while limiting the consumption of processed snack foods, sweets and other packaged goods.
Wondering why you should avoid processed and packaged foods? The clean foods diet emphasizes whole, natural foods since they’re full of beneficial vitamins and minerals and free from artificial ingredients, preservatives and additives that are often found in their packaged counterparts.
For some, a clean foods diet may mean simply forfeiting a 3 p.m. bag of chips, while for others it may mean buying organic vegetables instead of conventional. Here’s the thing, clean eating differs from person to person depending on what their current diet looks like. You may approach it by quitting processed foods cold turkey, or you may slowly eliminate them from your diet. It might also mean simply swapping the ultra-processed foods for less-processed alternatives.
This season, you should think French green beans over French fries—and for a variety of reasons. Medical News Today reports that clean eating can deliver significant health benefits, including:
Food blogger and author of “Anti-Inflammatory Drinks For Health” Maryea Flaherty knows quite a bit about the upside of clean eating. After her mother was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic cancer, Flaherty began researching the relationship between nutrition and disease—which ultimately inspired her to rework her approach to food and start a blog focused on nutrition and “natural living.” Today, Flaherty writes on a variety of food and wellness topics via Happy Healthy Mama.
While in the past she “never made the connection between food and health,” Flaherty says she now credits clean eating for contributing to the overall health of her family, including her two young children.
“I have healthy kids because they have a nutrient-dense diet,” says Flaherty. “When you eat a lot of processed foods, you eat fewer fruits and vegetables because there’s less room in your diet.” Her regular family meals now include eggs, oatmeal, chicken and vegetables.
Before we dive into our top nutrition tips, you should know that this isn’t a diet plan. Clean eating is simply an approach to nutrition. It’s recognizing what foods can support your body and which ones may not. There are no hard and fast rules for clean eating, but here are a few tips to help guide you in making the transition:
Flaherty has guidance for those aiming to eat clean not only during the holidays, and perhaps to adjust their habits more permanently. Consider these quick nutrition tips if you’re looking for healthy lifestyle diet changes.
“People have preconceived notions that eating a healthy diet can’t be tasty,” says Flaherty. But for the healthy food advocate, nutritious combinations can please the palate, too.
Many of her featured recipes include items such as pitted dates, nuts, cocoa powder, raw honey and unsweetened shredded coconut, for instance—ingredients that pack a flavorful punch without the added sugar and calories. For Flaherty, the trick is to dedicate some time to educate yourself about healthy alternatives to anything that’s fried, high in sugar or packed with trans fats. Incorporate those still-tasty alternatives into your daily diet, and the easier it could be to commit long-term to a clean eating regimen.
Clean eating begins in the grocery store, not your fridge. Ever heard the phrase “out of sight out of mind”? Here’s the thing, if you stock your home with wholesome foods, you’ll naturally reach for healthy snack options when hunger strikes. When potato chips aren’t there to tempt you, those carrots and hummus might not seem like such a bad idea after all. That said, you’ll want to make sure you make time to plan your groceries and prep your items so these healthier options are just as convenient as their processed counterparts. Consider these tips when you’re shopping:
There are plenty of advantages to eating organic foods—products that don’t contain any pesticides, fertilizers, solvents or additives. USDA-certified organic foods are grown and processed according to strict federal guidelines that cover everything from soil quality and pest control to animal raising practices. While not everyone can afford to limit their diet to organic food, it doesn’t need to limit healthier choices.
“If you can afford organic, that’s fantastic. Then you’re getting less pesticides in your food,” says Flaherty. “But non-organic foods are still nutritious. So if you can’t afford them, don’t let that stop you from eating fresh produce.”
If you’re ever heard clean nutrition defined as an all-or-nothing approach, don’t believe everything you hear.
Clean eating should be a life goal, not a daily obsession, says Flaherty. “There’s a fine line between being conscious and trying to eat clean and becoming obsessed with healthy eating.”
Cutting out sugar-laden and fatty foods can certainly improve your mood and boost your energy levels. But eliminating entire categories of food, such as carbs or grains, can be counter-productive. “I try not to demonize any food groups,” says Flaherty. “I just eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains rather than foods that are processed.”
Identifying how to start a whole food diet is all about finding balance: making smart, thoughtful choices about what to purchase and prepare while educating yourself and prioritizing self-improvement—not perfection.
Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge and tips on how to master clean eating, you’re ready to fill up your home with the healthy ingredients that will make up your clean eating diet. Feeling nervous about taking the next step? Pencil time into your calendar to plan. Choose one processed item to swap for a healthy alternative each week. Or, find a friend to make the switch with you. Small steps are still steps forward.
If you want to support your body even more, Nutrilite™ vitamins and supplements are an easy and convenient way to assist in reaching your daily nutrient goals and help your body feel its best. Still wondering how to improve your nutrition or how to start a clean foods diet? Check out our other articles to learn more and continue your journey to a healthy and balanced life.
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