What does it mean to eat clean?

There is never a shortage of new fad diets and recommendations for how we should be eating. Every year, there seems to be new research or a new approach to food choices. Keeping up with all of the recommendations is impossible, and it’s easily to start to get cynical when we hear of something new.

But every once in awhile, an idea turns out to be a good one, and it sticks. Clean eating seems to be in that category. Clean eating, or eating clean, is more than a way of eating. It is an approach that includes a lifestyle choices that move in a broad way toward overall wellness.

According to Mayo Clinic expert, Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.:

“Clean eating is in essence a diet — just a way of eating. But it is also a way of a way of living that lends itself to improving one’s health and wellbeing.”

The ideas behind eating clean are fairly simple:

Eat real food: Michael Pollan, the best-selling author and authority on nutrition and health, has a clever seven-word reminder about food choices. He says, “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Eating clean means choosing food that includes real, natural ingredients.

Eat local, in season, plant-based foods: Clean eating involves eating foods as close to their source as possible. When we store or manipulate foods, the nutritional value can go down. Eating clean is a choice to take in foods at their healthiest possible point.

Prepare most of your meals yourself: Clean eating includes an awareness of what you are putting in your body, so those following this method will usually eat at home and prepare and pack their own meals for when they are eating away from home. When going to a restaurant, clean eating will usually involve careful choices of mostly whole foods.

Embrace fresh, eliminate toxins: Whenever possible, clean eating involves taking in fresh, whole foods and eliminating anything artificial or toxic. Clean eating is about taking in foods that are close to their natural state, and washing foods gently to remove pesticides.

Eating clean has many, many benefits including significantly lowered costs due to preparing one’s own food. It is sustainable long-term (unlike a fad diet). It helps you avoid illness and allergies, and unlocks the body’s own detoxification and self-healing attributes. And finally, the ingestion of more and more wholesome foods builds overall health and wellness in the body and mind.