what do you eat on a clean diet
Clean eating means focusing on nutrient-dense foods in their purest, most natural forms. Learn about what you can eat on this type of diet

If you’re trying to eat healthier, you’ve probably heard about clean eating. But what exactly does it mean, and what can you eat on a clean eating diet? Basically, it involves eating whole foods in their purest, most natural forms as opposed to highly processed products with added sugars, chemicals, and preservatives.

Although the specifics vary depending on how strict you are, the basic guidelines of clean eating are simple and incorporates foods such as:

  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi
  • Whole beans and legumes (soaked, drained, and cooked)
  • Soy products such as tofu, miso, and natto
  • Nuts and seeds, especially those that haven't been roasted or salted
  • Whole grains such as brown rice, barley, oats, quinoa. and farro
  • Cold-pressed cooking oils such as olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, and walnut oils
  • Unprocessed meat and poultry
  • Organic dairy and eggs (in moderation)
  • Herbs and spices
  • Plenty of water intake

Of course, not all types of processed foods are bad. For example, pasteurization is a process that makes dairy products safer for human consumption. Similarly, fermentation and freezing of certain foods can enhance or preserve the nutritional benefits for longer.

What are the benefits of clean eating?

When you're eating clean, you’re more likely to eat a balanced diet that consists mostly of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that provide your body with good fuel and sustained energy. It also encourages you to stay away from foods that contain unhealthy ingredients and other fillers that your body needs to filter out. 

Clean diet foods have high water content and balanced amounts of minerals and vitamins. Consuming these meals can improve general functioning of the body and maintain homeostasis (or ideal balance) in the body:

  • Weight loss: Typically lower in calories than junk foods, making it easier to maintain a caloric deficit.
  • Mood: High in antioxidants and other nutrients that help boost mood and promote overall mental wellness.
  • Gut health: Rich in fiber and antioxidants that aid in the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
  • Immune system: Rich in antioxidants and minerals can help your immune system function properly.
  • Disease prevention: Helps prevent chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
  • Anti-aging: Combats aging by countering oxidative stress.
  • Anti-inflammatory: Can reduce chronic inflammation, which is associated with the development of major chronic diseases.

QUESTION

According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

Which foods should you avoid on a clean diet?

  • Processed foods: Always read the list of ingredients on packaged foods and avoid purchasing products with excessive amounts of salt, fat, and sugar
  • Sugary snacks: Snacks with added sugars can wreak havoc on your health. If you’re craving sugar, opt for fresh or dried fruits to satisfy your sweet tooth. However, be careful about your portion sizes, since eating too much of even these healthier snack options can lead to weight gain and high blood sugar levels.
  • Alcohol: Moderate drinking is fine, but be careful not to consume too much. In general, men should consume no more than 2 drinks per day, whereas women should have no more than 1 drink per day. Drinking too much alcohol can counteract the benefits of healthy eating.
  • Caffeine: Experts recommend limiting caffeine intake to no more than 3-5 cups of coffee per day. Try to reduce or eliminate caffeine from your diet, or replace coffee with other healthy, low-calorie beverages.

How to sustain clean eating habits

Following a clean eating diet can be difficult, especially for beginners. It’s even more challenging if you don’t have a regular exercise regimen, since unhealthy eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle often go hand in hand.

However, it’s possible to succeed if you start slowly. Too many restrictions and trying to adhere to a new meal plan can be overwhelming and cause you to give up. So try to stay flexible, and remember that even if you may stumble along the way, the important thing is to focus on your long-term healthy eating and nutrition goals. Eventually, eating clean will be easier to make part of your lifestyle.

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Medically Reviewed on 9/1/2021
References
The Eat-Clean Diet Review: https://www.webmd.com/diet/a-z/eat-clean-diet

Clean Eating Diet 101: https://flo.health/menstrual-cycle/lifestyle/diet-and-nutrition/clean-eating-diet

Clean eating: What does that mean? https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/clean-eating-what-does-that-mean