Since I’m often asked what I mean when I say “eat clean,” I put together this handy list. Note: this is what I, Meridith (non-RD), personally mean. 85% of the time, this is what I eat. So many delicious natural foods out there that work in so many yummy combinations, what’s not to love and crave!?
The short explanation of “eating clean” is staying away from packaged, processed foods. If it comes in a box and has more than two or three ingredients, run away—even if it has the word “organic” scrolled across the front. It’s all processed junk made by man and perfected by chemicals to give it a long shelf-life. Easiest rule of thumb: if it was grown in the earth or produced on a farm, it’s good.
More specifically, eating clean means (in no particular order):
- Nuts (including nut butters IF it’s just nuts & sea salt. No JIF or Skippy!)
- Seeds (note: quinoa is technically a seed!)
- Meat (including bacon. Seriously.)
- Fish (wild-caught only. Frozen is fine, but skip if you can only afford farm raised.)
- Cold-pressed virgin oils (primarily coconut and extra virgin olive oil)
- Legumes* (purchased dry and then soaked chick peas, black beans, and pinto beans. No junked up beans though, like Bush’s, baked in heavy syrups.)
- 100% natural sweeteners (organic 100% maple syrup, raw organic honey, stevia, fruit.)
- Flours: coconut flour, almond flour, chia seed flour, flaxseed flour, and any other nut or seed that’s been grounded into a flour.
- Full fat Greek yogurt*
- Full fat cheese (high quality, not Kraft Singles.)*
- Dark chocolate (high quality, 60%+ cacao only.)
* allowed in an ‘eat clean’ lifestyle but not accepted in paleo, which is why I call myself “paleoish” or lactopaleo.
Eating clean does NOT mean:
- Processed “food”
- Refined grains (which unfortunately is pretty much the only way they come nowadays.)
- Refined oils (particularly stay away from canola, vegetable, and soybean oils.)
- Chemicals (if you can’t pronounce it or don’t recognize it, don’t eat it.)
- Cold cereal (see ‘refined grains’ above.)
- Refined sugar
- Artificial sweeteners (say NO to Truvia, Splenda, aspartame, agave nectar, and syrups like Mrs. Butterworth and Aunt Jemima which only contain 2% real maple syrup.)
Many may argue that dairy shouldn’t be on the “approved list”, but I argue that if it’s full fat, high-quality, cheese and Greek yogurt, then it’s an excellent way to get in protein. Stay far away from marketing buzz words like “low-fat,” “skim,” “fat free,” it means it’s been tampered with and it’s no longer a byproduct of nature—it’s sugary, chemical laden junk. And of course, if dairy effects you negatively, stay away from dairy; just as I have to stay away from gluten.
As I always preach, 15-20% of the time eat whatever you want to prevent negative “diet” associations or feelings of deprivation. Don’t get caught up in calories or guilt. This is a lifestyle, not a diet, be in it for the long haul and take it one day at a time.
If you have any questions or need clarity, please leave a comment below!