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What to Eat on a Clean Eating Diet

By Lillian Downey ; Updated August 27, 2018

Clean eating is a way of eating based on the idea that the best way to eat is to abundantly enjoy whole foods — that is, foods as close to their natural state as you can get them. This means eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins and less pre-packaged, processed foods or fast food, particularly those with large amounts of refined grains, unhealthy fats, sugar and salt.

Clean eating also means you're committed to replacing saturated fats with healthy fats. Many people who follow this eating plan don't count calories; rather they trust that cleaning up their diet and eating only good quality, healthy food is the best thing they can do for their bodies. Here's how to get started.

Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables

When you can, choose fresh and unprocessed process over canned, pre-cut or frozen. Clean eating enthusiasts believe that we were meant to survive on fresh fruits and vegetables, and that processing them reduces their nutritional value and fiber content while adding salt, fat, sugar and chemicals. Choose fresh fruit instead of fruit juice or dried fruit, and if you must pick a processed vegetable, frozen is typically better than canned.

Choose High Quality Protein

If you're a carnivore on the clean eating diet, make sure to stick to choose options that are humanely raised without antibiotics or hormones — things like organic and free-range chicken, 100% grass fed and finished beef and heritage breed pork.

If sourcing humanely raised and hormone-free protein is hard in your neighborhood, Butcher Box is an incredible resource. The Butcher Box team purchases direct from a collective of ranches (they even share the exact ranch your product comes from!), which helps them offer 100 percent grass fed, free-range and organic meat to you at lower cost. You can sign up for a monthly subscription that delivers direct to your door on dry ice (free shipping, y'all!), and have peace of mind that you're eating the healthiest and highest quality protein available. Head right this way for $20 off your first order and free bacon!

Balance Protein and Complex Carbohydrates

Incorporate whole grains like brown rice or millet over processed grains. And, as mentioned, choose organic and grass fed meats from a trusted source like Butcher Box, as these foods are usually clean of antibiotics, hormones and other additives. Grill, broil or steam your meats rather than frying.

Avoid Sodas and High-Calorie, Sugary Drinks

Follow the tenant of clean eating that aims to remove added sugars from the diet. Choose water or tea for your beverages, or juice your own fruits and vegetables and enjoy them without added sugars or preservatives.

Trade Bad Fats for Good Fats

One of the most important aspects of clean eating is removing saturated fat from the diet. These fats can raise your cholesterol levels and increase your risk for heart disease. You should also avoid trans fat (also known on nutrition labels as hydrogenated oil), a type of processed fat that your body cannot absorb. These fats then build up in your arteries and can increase your risk for disease. Lower your saturated fat and trans fat intake by avoiding fast food and processed foods; get your fat calories from foods like nuts, fatty fish and lean cuts of high quality meat.

Eat Several Small Meals

This will help keep blood sugar stable so you can avoid overeating. Choose snacks like nuts, low-fat or fat free dairy and fruits and vegetables. Note that some people who live a clean eating lifestyle don't eat dairy products while others adapt clean eating to a vegetarian lifestyle.

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