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December 2020

What is Clean Eating?

There is no official definition for “clean eating”; however, it generally refers to food that is whole or minimally processed, organic, natural, local and fresh. Some advocates of clean eating eliminate entire food groups. This is not recommended unless it is medically necessary. Clean eating doesn't mean that all foods must be consumed in the raw state. Cooking, pasteurizing and preserving, are fine, as this can aid in keeping food safe. Focus on whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats while limiting highly processed snack and packaged foods. Choosing to eat clean can make a positive impact on your health.


  • Focus on Whole Foods – The food we eat ranges from whole, minimally processed to highly processed. Whole and minimally processed foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. They also contain phytonutrients which are health protective compounds. Identifying a whole food is simple. It is food in its most natural form. It is easy to pick whole foods at your local farmers market and the produce aisles in the grocery store.
  • Limit Highly Processed Packaged Foods – To determine the degree of processing, check the ingredient label. The fewer the better. Ingredients should be identifiable. Processed foods are generally higher in sodium and sugar and are not nutrient-rich.
  • Minimize Foods that are Drastically Altered from their Natural Form – Processing can remove nutrients while adding in other ingredients. Choose fresh vegetables vs vegetable chips. Pick whole chicken or fresh chicken breast vs chicken nuggets. Choose whole fruit over juice when possible.
  • Eat for Nourishment – Eat regular, balanced meals and healthy snacks that are nourishing and not too rushed. Start with Greek yogurt and berries for breakfast. Have a sandwich on whole grain bread with roasted turkey, lettuce and avocado for lunch. For dinner try baked fish with fresh or frozen vegetables and brown rice.  Snacks can include fresh whole fruit, nuts, Greek yogurt, or fresh cut veggies.
  • Prepare More Foods at Home – Rely less on processed, store-bought prepared foods. A roasted chicken or frozen vegetables and packaged salad greens can be part of a clean eating pattern and provide healthier store-bought convenience.

The Bottom Line
Clean eating is not a diet. It is a healthy way of eating that can maximize nutrients and reduce sugar and salt. It aligns with the dietary guidelines and the foundation for building a healthy eating pattern.

Try to also adopt a “clean” lifestyle. It can contribute to overall health. This includes being physically active, getting enough sleep and managing stress. Go for a walk, play a game, or connect with people you enjoy via social media or the telephone.


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