There’s lots of talk about clean eating and lots of different schools of thought on the subject. I’ve found there are two general approaches to it, too- a more all-natural, crunchy kind of approach and a more eat clean, train mean kind of approach. (Then there are the people who say no one can really eat clean in this day and age and that it’s a stupid term with lots of stupid people jumping on the stupid band wagon!)
I like both approaches, but not the grumpy “clean eating is stupid” people. The all-natural approach has helped me learn a lot about whole foods, how things are grown, and seeing my relationship with food as part of a bigger picture.
The eat clean, train mean approach (while sounding a little silly coming from me maybe) has taught me how to look at food as fuel for your body. It’s taught me about eating certain combinations of food and eating at certain times of day.
There are many wonderful resources out there if you’re looking to learn more about clean eating. But here are the things that stick out in my mind:
- Eat whole, natural foods- vegetables, fruits, dairy, meat, whole grains, nuts, seeds
- Eat foods as close to natural state as possible
- Eat organic and local food when possible
- Stick to the perimeter of the grocery store
- When you eat grains, make sure they’re whole grains with no added junk
- No white flour, no white sugar
- No artificial sweeteners, dyes, etc.
- No “lite” “low fat” “reduced fat”
- For the most part buy things that don’t come in a box
- When you do buy things in a box, choose things with 5 ingredients or less
- Those ingredients should be familiar to you (no chemicals, things you wouldn’t have in your own kitchen)
- Use only natural sweeteners- honey, maple syrup
- Eat 5-6 small meals a day
- Eat every 2 1/2- 3 hours
- At each meal, eat protein and complex carb
Then there are some things that people have different feelings on…like sweeteners. As you read about sugar alternatives you’ll hear about honey and maple syrup; I haven’t heard anything bad about those. Then you’ll hear mixed reviews about other alternatives, like agave and stevia. I’ve tried sugar alternatives in baking- like turbinado (comes from sugar cane but is not processed like white sugar) and coconut sugar; then you hear that coconut sugar isn’t sustainable, or something along those lines. So…I’m still learning. I try new things, and I read as much as I can until I feel like it will make me crazy. I have coconut sugar in my cabinet now, but I’m not sure I should!
You’ll also find differing views on dairy. Some people are just completely against cows’ milk. For people that are ok with cows’ milk you’ll find people that think you should only drink unpasteurized milk. You’ll also find that some clean eating people say you should drink whole milk and whole milk products only- they’re less processed. The more fitness minded clean eaters seem to say low-fat more often. I buy whole milk for the family, which I use very little of for myself, and 2% greek yogurt for me. This is one of those points I’ve gone back and forth on…
Depending on how you are already eating, clean eating may require only minor adjustments or a complete overhaul. When I first heard the term I had already known a lot of the major points, so it wasn’t a major shock. I had already started baking more, for example, so my kids would eat less boxed cookies and things. I had made macaroni and cheese from scratch, instead of a box. I ate whole wheat pasta. But as time went on, I did more and more to clean up the kitchen. And it can be a lot of work! You get used to it, but clean eating isn’t always easy. I do believe it’s worth it, though.
You can read more about some of the things I changed here.
Clean Eating Resources
When I first heard about clean eating, there were two websites I visited often:
I also saw the name Tosca Reno a lot, and learned she is something of a guru in clean eating. I have read two of her books:
The Eat Clean Diet Recharged
The Eat Clean Diet Family & Kids
The Food Babe website is very informative, too. She does a lot of research into what goes into foods and has recently published a book!
Michael Pollan is a pretty famous author who has appeared in food documentaries like Food, Inc. He has been very influential in clean eating and food awareness. I read the following book and know he has written others:
The Omnivore’s Dilemma
There are also tons of recipes out there for clean-eating dinners and meal plans. If you’re new to clean eating don’t feel overwhelmed! Choose one thing to change at a time, and know that each change is a step in the right direction.
We still have a long way to go here…I eat clean most of the time, but I hate to admit I haven’t been as strict with my children’s diet as my own. But that’s a topic for another day!!