January 22, 2019

What is Clean Eating?

As we rounded the corner to the New Year, I decided I did not want to make another New Year’s resolution about weight loss and exercise. I have spent the last 25 years of my life making these types of resolutions with varying degrees of success and inevitable failure. I would get a goal weight and slowly the Sunday afternoon cheeseburgers, fries and 2 craft beer luncheons would creep back in. Exercise plans and early morning wake up routines would be very hard to stick to in January when the sun didn’t rise until after 7am.

Clean eating seemed like a much better focus for me in 2019. What if I focused on the foods I could have and not so much on the things I couldn’t have? What about foods that were not a part of y past eating habits. Was oatmeal really healthy? Quinoa? How about all the other grains I limited in my diet when I was “on plan” and counseled my friends and family against.  As I started to think about what exactly this type of “Clean Eating” meant I realized I needed to rethink some of the notions I had about food as I preached healthy, clean eating as my new lifestyle of eating.


What does clean eating really mean? Generally, there are a few rules.

  1. Cook your own food. When you prepare your own food, you control what’s in it and the fats used in making it. There are so many hidden fats in fast foods or restaurant foods, and many convenience foods are filled with preservatives.
  2. Eat whole foods and eat foods closest to their original source IE: apples not sugar laden commercially packaged apple sauce. Whole foods can also contain grains such as brown rice, quinoa, barley, oats, farro or millet which are primarily one ingredient.
  3. Avoid processed foods. Processed foods are anything in a box, bag, can, or package. Read your labels however as many grocery chains are bagging vegetables and preparing them for convenience with no added preservatives.
  4. Eat well-balanced meals. Each meal should include some protein, some carbohydrate, and healthy fat to keep you satiated. Think about your plate and compose 2/3 of it with colorful vegetables.
  5. Limit added salt, fat, and sugars and opt for clean sugars like honey and maple syrup. There are many new sugars and hidden sugars on the market so again, read your packaged ingredients carefully.
  6. Don’t drink your calories. Fruit juices, coffee drinks, and energy replacement drinks are all sources of hidden calories.
  7. Move your body every day. If you are not used to daily exercise start with 20-minute walks. Slowly build up to 30-45 minutes of daily movement and if you can add. Strength training in at least 2 x a week to keep your bones healthy.
  8. Allow yourself some flexibility. One or two days a week consider a cheat meal, a glass of red wine or some dark chocolate. For many people committed to clean eating having a set meal or day of the week where they can be less disciplined actually allows them to stay on a clean eating plan more consistently.


Some other tips I have for Clean Eating, based on my own personal experience, are here as well – remember, we are trying to create habits for life that are long-lasting and sustainable.

  1. Clean Eating is not necessarily a diet plan though you may lose weight. Clean Eating is a balanced way of eating that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, healthy grains, and protein. If people focus on nourishing their bodies by eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats and then also enjoy the occasional ‘choice’ meal a few times a week, that is good for health, mood, mind, and body
  2. Not all Carbohydrates are bad carbohydrates. Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, barley, oats, farro or millet can all be considered clean, 1 source proteins. I had largely stopped eating most grains due to my fear of Carbohydrates and Glycemic indexes, and it felt good to add these back into my diet.
  3. Protein does not always need to come in the form of meat. Nuts, seeds, and beans are all great choices for plant-based proteins and can be used as a healthy snack option.
  4. Eat the Rainbow. Look for unique forms of produce or fruit to keep your diet interesting. Salads do not always need to be lettuce. Consider using shredded Brussel sprouts, cabbage or kale as a base for your favorite salads. No noodles? No problem with zucchini or butternut squash zoodles. You can zoodle at home with a spiralizer or look in your packaged salad department for pre-made zoodles. Mangos make great salsas, and grilled pineapple can satisfy most sweet tooth’s.
  5. Wraps can be more than flour tortillas. Consider blanched collards or Butter lettuce leaves as wraps for spring rolls. Plaintain tortillas are easy to make, freeze well and can be used to wrap all types of foods. See my favorite Plantain Recipe here by my friend Stephanie Meyer. http://www.freshtart.com/blog/plantain-tortillas-aip-grain-free-gluten-free-paleo-vegan-delicious/30509600:
  6. Cauliflower can substitute for rice in just about everything.
  7. Soup is your friend. Vegetable soups with chicken, beef and barley or beans are helpful to always have on hand as a quick, clean meal. I make large batches of soup each week and freeze them in pint Mason jars for a perfect lunch that I always have on hand.
  8. A squeeze of Lemon makes everything better. Soups, meat, bean bowl, sautéed or steamed vegetables or hot tea are always improved with a few drops of lemon or lime.
  9. Condiments are generally full of sugar so make the most of nut butter, soy sauce, hot sauce, and pesto’s. Consider making chimichurri (recipe, here again, compliments of Stephanie Meyer: http://www.minnesotamonthly.com/Blogs/Taste-Blog/February-2011/FreshTartSteph-Recipe-Chimichurri/ as a way to spice up proteins. Always have fresh herbs on hand and use them in wraps or to add flavor to salads or bowls. Top soups with fresh herbs like parsley, mint, cilantro or grated ginger or lemon zest and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt.
  10. Eggs, Eggs. Hard-boiled, deviled, chopped as a garnish or mixed with turmeric, curry, and mayo as a salad. I am always eating a ton f eggs as I think it’s the world’s most perfect food. I also top leftovers with a fried egg for breakfast.