Clean Eating Basics

I’ll start by saying there are no hard and fast rules to clean eating. The general idea is to eat only real food with minimal processing, but there are many interpretations of which individual foods or ingredients should be eaten. This following is a summary of the research I have done on the topic and the ingredients and foods I feel comfortable eating. Since I am not a dietitian, I encourage you to do your own research and decide what you feel comfortable feeding your family.

Eat foods as close to their natural form whenever possible. This includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and beans. As Michael Pollan says “If it came from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t.

Choose meat that is hormone and antibiotic free. Pick organic and/or local when possible. Avoid additives, including nitrates and nitrites.

No refined sugars/sweeteners. This includes white sugar, corn syrup and all these other names it hides under. Natural sweeteners are okay. This includes honey, maple syrup, fruit juice concentrate, dates and raw sugar. Some clean eaters recommend sucanat or coconut sugar, but I have not had experience with those items yet.

No refined grains. Choose whole grains like whole wheat, brown rice, whole grain cornmeal and oats.

Avoid all artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, artificial flavors and preservatives. A good rule of thumb is that if you cannot pronounce pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t eat it. When choosing pre-made foods stick to foods with simple ingredient lists like this:whole wheat flour, water, yeast, salt and honey.

Choose dairy products free from additives and hormones. rBST is the most common growth hormone cows are injected with. Avoid it. Choose full-fat dairy when possible. Many low or no fat dairy products have additives and artificial sweeteners to make them taste better.

Also check out these mini-pledges from our month of clean eating:

#1 Cut out sugary drinks
#2 Cut out fast food
#3 Switch to whole grains
#4 Increase your fruit and veggie intake
#5 Choose a better meat

And this post on stocking a real food pantry.