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What Is 'Clean Eating' & How Do I Get Started? (Includes Food List)

Many people who want to eat better and clean up their diet, turn to clean eating as a healthy approach to choosing foods that are more nutrient-rich, and minimally processed. While not a diet per say, eating clean is a wholesome way to nourish your body and improve your overall well-being. By prioritising clean foods over processed choices, you can enjoy the many benefits of a healthier, more nourishing diet. Grab yourself a green tea, and come learn how its done!

As I mentioned above, clean eating is not just a diet; it's a lifestyle focused on consuming wholesome, unprocessed foods for better health. Adopting clean eating way of planning meals can help to revitalise your energy levels, improve gut health and your digestion, and in many case, help to regulate and rebalance your body weight. In this post, I am about to teach you what clean eating is, its benefits, and provide a week-long meal plan featuring wholefoods.


What Is Clean Eating?


Clean eating means planning healthy meals by choosing minimally processed, wholefoods and steering clear of any and all highly processed, refined options. This dietary approach is about making nutrient-dense choices and focusing on fresh fruits, high-fibre vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats to build your plate. Many people use this style of eating to help detox, lose weight, or to reset their appetite, and it can be very effective.


Clean foods are typically higher in dietary fibre than processed choices, and contain less sugar, meaning the food quality is higher and more satiating. This means you will satisfy your hunger with less food, potentially eating less and making it easier for your body to digest, assimilate and absorb nutrients. Within a short amount of time eating clean, you'll notice a difference in how you look and feel.


Benefits of Clean Eating


Nutrient Density

Wholefoods are naturally rich in essential nutrients, providing your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to function its best. A diet made up of a well-balanced array of colourful, nutrient dense foods and clean protein sources is one of the quickest and easiest ways to improve your health and balance your body weight without dieting.


Weight Management

Clean eating often leads to more balanced body weight since it requires you to focus on more natural, satisfying foods. Foods consumed with minimal processing or cooking, are typically higher in digetsable nutrients and dietary fibre. If you are trying to rebalance your body weight, a high intake of fibre and balance of lean, clean protein is key.


Improved Digestion

Wholefoods that are consumed in their raw or minimally processed form, help to feed your gut microbes, the natural bacteria that colonises your digestive system. These good bacteria are essential for good health and help make it are easier for your body to digest food, reducing the risk of digestive, immune and elimination issues.


Steady Energy Levels 

Clean eating works well to stabilise your blood sugar levels, preventing energy spikes and crashes that you might see if you were to consume a more processed, sugary diet. This can help those with insulin resistance issues to reverse Type II diabetes and stabilise their A1C simply by cleaning up their diet and adding in more daily exercise. Foods from naturally clean sources are usually digested slower due the higher fibre content, making the energy harvested from the food you eat, slow release over a quick hit like you might find from sugary choices. Instead, you'll get a steady release of natural energy, fewer energy crashes, and less brain fog.


Reduced Inflammation

Wholefoods are nutrient dense and have many anti-inflammatory properties, contributing to a lower risk of chronic diseases. The more natural you can make your diet, the better. Clean eating is a great way to overhaul your diet and improve poor eating habits as you work towards building a healthier, more naturally energised body.


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Getting Started: Clean Eating Food List


To get started with clean eating, begin by adding more wholesome, unprocessed foods into your diet and gradually reducing your intake of processed foods. Experiment with new recipes, explore local farmers markets for fresh produce, and read food labels to make informed choices. Clean eating is not about restrictions, dieting, or deprivation, but rather about nourishing your body with more nutrient-dense foods.


Focus your clean eating meal planning efforts on using clean foods such as:

 

  • fruits and veggies in their rawest or least processed form

  • whole grains with all the fibre goodness still intact

  • clean meats and proteins from organic, plantbased and hormone-free sources

  • include nuts and seeds, clean cooking oils like avocado, coconut and olive oil

  • simple ingredients that don’t have long labels or difficult names

 

The biggest challenge for most people when starting an clean eating diet, is learning to shift away from eating foods that are partially (or fully) prepared, to raw recipes and those with more natural ingredients. So, let me share a easy few hacks to help you make the transition easy.

 

3 Simple Hacks For Clean Eating


When you first started cleaning up your diet, it is not about eliminating food or restricting yourself, but rather switching to more nutritious and natural ways of eating. This might look like choosing a few set days per week to make 'clean eating days' and focusing on preparing healthier meals on the those key days. If you are feeling more ambitious, you may want to clear out your cupboard and fridge to start fresh with only clean foods in the house. There is no right or wrong here, just progress--however that looks for you!


Stop Eating Pre-packaged & Processed Foods


This might seem like an obvious starting point, but when pretty much everything you eat is processed in some way, it might feel like I am asking you to just stop eating altogether. Ditching processed foods does not have to be dramatic or frightening, in fact it can be quite liberating once you get going with it.


Here are a couple of tips to remember when you are grocery shopping:


  • buy fresh or frozen. Many people assume frozen is subpar to fresh, but in most cases, frozen is flash frozen at harvest making it a cheap and excellent way to start eating clean.

  • fresh foods and less processed foods are generally refrigerated or kept in more open space so stick to the produce section, and outside edges of the store as much as possible.

  • look for simple ingredients you recognise. Packaged foods (even if they say its healthy) are usually full of hidden sugars, sodium and fillers; avoid them, and make it fresh yourself.

  • learn how to read labels. Make sure you know what you're actually buying by learning how to read food labels.


The only hard and fast rule I have for clients when grocery shopping, is to focus your meals on the foods found in the outside edges of the shop. This is typically includes shopping primarily in the fresh produce section, the deli for raw cuts of meats and seafood (exclude all processed deli meat), the freezer section for frozen fruits and veggies, and the chilled sections for dairy and eggs. A limited amount of ingredients can be found in the main aisles such as wholegrains, nuts, seeds, canned beans and lentils, and pasta or brown rice.


Ditch The Sugar

Sugar is the equivalent of a hit of cocaine; it's so addictive, meaning your body will crave it, and will experience a hard crash after consuming it. Unfortunely, it is hidden in just about every pre-packaged food item, especially those pre-made food items like baked goods, bars and biscuits, dips, frozen meals, and sauces. Don't be fooled by swish-bang marketing claims on boxes. Flip it over and read the nutrition label; its all there in plain sight. A big part of clean eating is helpful in stripping the processed sugars from your diet and replacing them with wholefood alternatives.


My best hacks to cut down on sugar is to:


  • swap colas, energy drinks and store-bought juice for sugar-free, herbals tea or water

  • switch sweeteners from table sugar and syrup to dates, raw honey, monk fruit, or stevia

  • stop using sugar and milk in coffee and tea, instead go without or use a stevia product

  • replace sugary cereal with homemade granola or oatmeal topped with fresh fruit

  • switch store-bought sauces for ones you've made yourself and freeze in batches

  • make your own biscuits, muffins, and granola bars and ditch pre-packaged options


If sugar has been a big part of your diet up until now, don't fear giving it up. The health benefits that will greet you on the other side, I promise you, well out weigh the effort required to strip it from your diet. If you'd like hand with this, click here and let's chat a sugar-free strategy that works.


Focus on Wholefoods (Not Restrictions)

Eating clean, as mentioned previously, is not about restrictions or going on a diet. Instead, it focuses on enjoying meals made with wholefood ingredients from pure and natural sources. This doesn't mean you have to eat organic all the time, but rather that your food is made using minimally processed and raw ingredients. Create delicious meals from a balance of wholefood macros like the following:


  • high protein muffins made with eggs, spinach, ham, avocado adn tomatoes

  • half a plate of salad paired with baked fish or organic chicken and half an avocado

  • zucchini noodles topped with homemade lamb bolognaise sauce

  • BBQ skewers made with seasoned meat, fresh veggies and fruit

  • lettuce leaf wraps filled with shredded beets, carrot, cabbage and roasted chicken

  • roasted vegetables paired with lean protein like grilled salmon, steak or lamb

  • Greek yoghurt parfait with fresh fruits, nuts and seeds or a little granola topping

  • green smoothie made with almond milk, kale, spinach, banana, and berries

  • a berry smoothie made with coconut water, berries, mango, kiwi and banana

  • chia pudding or overnight oats topped with fresh berries or chopped fruit


Try a few of these recipes or browse my recipe blog for more ideas and recipes for clean eating. It is important that you also remember to keep fully hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Clean eating provides heaps of wholefood-based fibre in your meals, which if you are not used, can cause temporary constipation. Drinking adequate water is the key to a smooth transition.


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Emma Lisa, Nutritionist & Women's Practitioner

Emma Lisa, Nutritionist at Eat Nourish Glow

Emma Lisa is a Nutritionist & Women's Health Practitioner with over 12+ years experience in wholefood nutrition, meal planning and health coaching. She is a published cookbook author, passionate food recipe creator and lifestyle blogger, and an advocate for women's health and anti-diet culture. When she's not in clinic, Emma is mum to five kids, in her test kitchen and a wellness digital creator. She lives in Sydney, Australia.
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Healthy + happiness,

Emma Lisa xx

HEALTH & NUTRITION PRACTITIONER
IICT Member, International Institute for Complimentary Therapists




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