What Exactly Is Cleaning Eating? Tips For How To Eat Clean

If you’re confused about clean eating, you’re not alone. In the last few years, the #cleaneating movement has brought lots of interpretations of what clean eating is. 

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While there’s no universally accepted definition of clean eating, and the description itself conjures up right vs. wrong, or clean vs. dirty, people are as confused as ever. Does dairy count? What about meat? And do you have to avoid gluten to eat clean?

So many people have the picture of a piece of chicken or fish over steamed greens, a big salad or an Instagrammable smoothie bowl, but clean eating doesn’t have to be any of those things. It’s time to lay down some sensible rules about clean eating.

You don’t need to eat paleo to eat clean.

You don’t need to be a raw vegan to eat clean.

You don’t need to eat low-carb to eat clean.

The bottom line is that no matter what ‘diet’ you follow, you can still eat clean. That is to say that the principles of clean eating can be applied to the way you eat, whether you’re vegan or vegetarian, paleo, an intermittent faster, low-carb, or a proponent of the 100-mile diet.

Clean Eating: What To Eat

Think of clean eating as a sensible approach to eating – an approach that emphasizes whole foods in their natural state. Start with the quality of the foods that you’re putting into your body and choose foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Don’t eat packaged foods with additives that you can’t pronounce.

Limit foods that are packaged, processed, or made in a lab (I’m looking at you, margarine!).

Vegetables And Fruits

  • These guys form the majority of what you eat (as I like to say #eatmoreplants) – aim for different colours and eat them in as natural a state as possible
  • Buy organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible, as they are grown without pesticides, and are not genetically modified. If it isn’t possible to eat all organic, follow the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen list
  • Don’t be afraid of frozen fruits and veggies – having frozen produce on hand means that it’s more convenient to eat well

Read More: Clean Eating Snack Recipes That Taste Just Like Junk Food

Meat And Fish

  • Seek out lean sources of protein and limit red meat and pork.
  • Choose pastured, free range and organic meats whenever possible (when in doubt, check with your butcher).
  • Buy fish and seafood that is wild caught or is sustainably farmed (when in doubt, check with your fishmonger).

Bread, Pasta, Grains And Legumes

  • Ditch the white! Avoid white bread, processed wheat bread, white pasta and white rice whenever you can. Instead buy sourdough, 100 per cent rye or sprouted grain bread instead of the regular store-bought – these guys are easier to digest and generally contain more nutrients (like energy-producing B-vitamins and protein).
  • Instead of bread, eat the whole grains, like rice, quinoa, amaranth, millet, steel cut oats, or even wheat berries in their whole state for more nutrients and fibre.
  • Take it to the next level by replacing your regular pasta with zucchini (or squash) noodles, or replacing your wraps with a collard leaf or rice paper.

Fats And Oils

  • Ditch trans fats, margarine, and unhealthy oils like vegetable and canola, and replace with coconut, extra virgin olive and hemp oils, ghee and pastured butter.
  • Get your healthy fats from nuts and seeds, avocados and olives.


  • Dairy can still have a place on a clean eating program, just make sure that you are choosing organic dairy whenever possible and that you are careful of the quantities.
  • Instead of cow’s milk, switch to an alternative milk like almond, coconut or cashew.
  • Choose easier-to-digest yogurt, kefir and cheese over regular milk.

Read More: Tips To Eat Clean Over The Weekend


  • Drink water when you’re thirsty.
  • Limit alcoholic drinks to five to eight per week, or none at all.
  • Instead of soft drinks, have kombucha or a glass of mineral water with a splash of fresh citrus.


  • Limit white sugar, high fructose corn syrup and any products containing them.
  • Use natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, molasses and dates in small amounts.
  • Get in the habit of eating a homemade, naturally sweetened energy ball or reaching for a piece of fruit when you’re craving something sweet.

Clean Eating: How To Eat

Be Mindful

Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Yes, you can even have too much of a good thing.

Eat At Home

Aim to eat more home-cooked meals than restaurant or convenience meals. Restaurant meals are loaded with fat and salt. Cook your own food at home using healthy fats, a little sea salt, and plenty of fresh herbs.

Listen To Your Body

What feels “clean” to one person may not feel clean to the next. For example, dairy can wreak havoc on your tummy, while your friends have no trouble with it. Pay attention to how the food that you eat makes you feel and seek out foods that make your body feel good. Remember, you don’t have to be paleo, low-carb, or raw vegan to eat clean, but you could also explore any of the above diets in a clean way.

Don’t Take It Too Far

When your eating philosophy separates clean foods from dirty foods, it’s possible to become fixated on the “cleanliness” of food. Nutritionists see this all the time – clients want results and go all-in on a restrictive “clean” eating regime, only to fall off the wagon a few weeks later.

The most sensible approach is to follow the 80/20 rule, that is, eat clean 80 per cent of the time and leave room for indulgences 20 per cent of the time. This is what makes clean eating a lifestyle, not a diet.