Clean Eating

Clean Eating: What is it and why do it?


Even though Registered Dietitians (RD's) reported clean eating as one of the the top nutrition trends in 2016, a specific definition for it does not seem to exist. Many RD's have provided their own personal definitions of clean eating, but nothing specific is found in the dictionary or at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

When searching for information, you will find the subject listed as Clean Eating or Eating Clean. There are a multitude of resources such as a Clean Eating magazine , Clean Eating cookbooks, and many articles about it in various sources ranging from body building websites to the Eating Clean For Dummies book.

Recently in the news, comments about what clean eating means to RD's included the following:

  • Avoiding highly processed foods that contain added sugar and unhealthy fats
  • Only consuming whole foods that have been minimally altered or processed to provide full fiber and nutritional value
  • Purchasing packaged foods that contain five or less ingredients
  • Consuming foods that include quality ingredients in any quantity, not only five or less
  • Avoiding ingredients that some consider unhealthy such as GMO or high-fructose corn syrup
  • Avoiding foods with added sugar, salt, unhealthy fat, chemicals or unnatural flavorings

Becoming part of the Clean Eating Club is really easy. Here's how to get started! 


Consume more whole foods, which are minimally processed and have few ingredients added to them. For example, nuts without added salt or saturated fat, peanut butter without added sugar and unhealthy fats. 

Only use healthy fats such as olive oil, canola oil, natural nut and avocado fats, and omega-3 fat found in fish such as wild Alaskan salmon.

Avoid or strictly limit the use of saturated fats that are solid at room temperature such as butter, lard, full fat cheese, and full fat dairy. 

Avoid all trans fats such as hydrogenated or partially- hydrogenated fats due to the negative health effects they produce.  

If your budget allows, purchase organic versions of foods that have been identified as having high amounts of pesticide residue or absorption such as strawberries. Link to CBS article of foods list

Look for labels that have a “free from” label on them such as “GMO Free”, “High-Fructose Free”, "Gluten Free."

Don’t get caught up in the amount of ingredients on the label, but verify that you can identify each item in the list to know that it is a quality product. For example, a healthy lentil soup with two types of lentils, several types of vegetables, natural seasonings, low amount of healthy fat, and negligible salt, has more than five ingredients but is a great nutritious product.

Avoid package bias about how foods are sold. For example, frozen fruits and vegetables with their skins and without added sugar, salt, fat, or sauces are an excellent product to use anytime. Another example is the boxed tomatoes from Italy that only contain tomatoes on the ingredients list. They are a great staple for the pantry and are as good as they would be if you picked them from the vine yourself.

Increase your intake of other healthy lean proteins such as beans, legumes, soy, and low-mercury fish/seafood.

Avoid highly processed ingredients or foods that have lost much of their nutritional value and fiber such as white flour, white pasta, and refined grains.

Avoid unnecessarily added sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats. For example, look at yogurt, tomato sauce, and cereals for added ingredients, especially sugar.

If your budget allows, choose grass-fed beef because it provides a much higher amount of healthy Omega-3 fat than grain-fed beef does.

There are many clean eating resources on the internet and I would caution you to simply verify that the source you choose is valid. For instance I feel comfortable viewing the following source because it is written by a RD (Registered Dietitian)