What Does It Mean to Eat Clean? (And How Can I Start?)

what does it mean to eat clean

Sometimes we’re asked, “What does it mean to eat clean?”

Eating clean is a lifestyle choice as much as a dietary one.  Natural, organic, raw foods can make a massive difference for your overall wellness—mentally and physically—if you’re committed to making health-conscious choices in a balanced diet.

But the term “clean eating” itself is a bit misunderstood!  Let’s break it down:

What Does It Mean to Eat Clean?

Clean eating is focused on the belief that food is healthiest in its most natural state. The basic idea is to eat more whole, real foods, like whole grains, sprouted nuts, and raw, organic fruits and vegetables. These kinds of foods are densely packed with the vital nutrients, proteins, and fiber that your body loves.

At the same time, cut down on (or completely cut out) processed foods that have been modified from their natural form.  Super refined and processed foods lose a lot of the healthy fibers and nutrients that they had when they were whole and raw.  They might also gain a concoction of added salts and sugars, chemicals, preservatives, and other things that your body doesn’t need.

“Clean” eating doesn’t just mean washing the dirt off of it (but definitely do that too). It also doesn’t mean that refined foods are somehow “dirty.” Food can be free of dirt and germs, but still have an unhealthy, chemical-packed ingredients list that looks like alphabet soup.  Think of “clean” more in the sense of eating “simple” or eating “real.” 

Raw, organic ingredients can combine into totally delicious foods.  Dig raisin cookies or chocolate brownies? Grab some cacao goji squares. Like pizza goldfish?  Try pizzalmonds (yes, those are a thing—you’re welcome). 

How Can I Start?

The clean eating basics are super easy to pick up.  Here are a few habits to get you off on the right foot:

  • Drink a Lot of Water: Water is the healthiest, most natural liquid you can consume.  Staying hydrated might be the most underrated, beneficial, and easiest part of a healthy lifestyle.
  • Check Labels! Clean eating is all about knowing what goes into your body and being mindful of your choices.  Buy more real foods. Look for a short ingredients list, free of refined ingredients, chemicals, additives, and preservatives.  You want food in the most natural state possible.
  • Load Up on Plants: Many people don’t eat enough healthy, plant-based foods for a well-balanced diet. Greens are great, but this also includes nuts, seeds, fruits, and whole grains.  Plant-based protein sources are also free of the harmful cholesterol in fatty meat proteins. Go for high-protein plants like beans, peas, lentils, brown rice, and quinoa.
  • Eat at Home More Often: It’s easiest to control what goes into your body when you’ve picked the ingredients yourself.  When you do eat out, be mindful! Ask questions about menu items. Go to places with healthy options.
  • Go Light on Sweeteners and Oils:  Just because you’re making your own food with clean ingredients doesn’t mean it’s automatically healthy. Coconut oil has amazing health benefits, but it’s also a high calorie, fatty oil.  A little goes a long way! Agave nectar and fruit juices are natural, but be careful about overloading on plant sugars.  Make meals with a proper balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fiber, natural sugars, and healthy fats. Clean ingredients benefit you the most when they’re used in the right moderation.

If you’ve ever wondered, “What does it mean to eat clean?” these tips are the perfect place to start. Check out our blog for more ways to kick off a healthy lifestyle and start feeling great!

Clean Eating Basics An Introduction to Plant Based Nutrition