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What Does "Clean Eating" Really Mean?


The phrase “clean eating” has been thrown around quite frequently in the media the past few years. It’s such a vague phrase, so what does it really mean? Clean eating isn’t a defined diet. There are many ways to interpret “clean eating.” It isn’t necessarily a diet for weight loss, although eating clean can help one lose weight. It’s not about your food being dirty. It’s about avoiding processed foods with a million ingredients.

Clean Eating: Choosing the healthiest options in all five food groups, like fresh vegetables, fruit, dairy, whole grains and lean proteins, and avoiding processed junk food and fast food.

When it all comes down to it, clean eating is basically eating healthy, fresh, well-rounded meals. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to eat clean, and you don’t have to cook fancy meals or go on a cleanse. The easiest way to eat clean is to shop the perimeter of your grocery store. Below are some tips for shopping each section:

  • Fresh Fruits & Vegetables: Anything in this section is basically a free-for-all. Load up on anything and everything that you like. Kale, spinach, sweet potatoes, oranges and berries are delicious, nutrition-packed options.
  • Deli: Here’s where label reading will come into play. Look for meats that are nitrate-free, and lower in sodium. Buy cheeses with less than 150mg of sodium per serving.
  • Meat/Poultry/Seafood: Aim for grass-fed and pasture raised meats. It’s more expensive, but cutting down on your meat consumption can help the environment and your waistline.
  • Dairy/Eggs: Choose cage-free eggs and low-fat dairy products like milk, low-sodium cottage cheese, and light sour cream.
  • Frozen Fruits & Vegetables: Make sure you’re choosing those without added sodium or sauces.
  • Fresh Breads: Check the labels and try to find those with less than 150mg of sodium per serving. Look for whole wheat bread.
  • Center Aisles: ​Go into the aisles for items such as low-sodium canned beans, canned tomatoes, plain pasta and rice, nuts and seeds, nut butters, high fiber/protein cereal, and of course any cleaning or household products you may need.

Check out the ingredient lists for everything with a label. Look at sodium, sugar, and how many ingredients the product has. Does the item have a long list of ingredients with unrecognizable names? If foods have more than five items on their ingredient list, they’re probably not clean.

Did You Know?

Free range, cage-free eggs have 1/3 less cholesterol, 1/4 less saturated fat, two times more omega-3’s, three times more vitamin E and seven times more beta-carotene than the commercially produced variety.