Skip Navigation

Clean Eating for a Healthier Body

September 2020

Karen Ensle EdD, RDN, FAND, CFCS
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

Clean eating is a catchy term for eating mostly whole foods -vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy proteins and fats. It limits refined grains, additives, preservatives, animal fats, sugar and salt.

Take small steps to follow these clean eating tips:

  • Read ingredients on food labels. If the ingredients are not available in the grocery store, or at a farm market it probably isn’t considered clean.
  • The rule of thumb for fruits and vegetables is fresh over  frozen, frozen over dried and dried over canned. Look for items without added sugar and salt.
  • Limit animal fats (butter, lard, high-fat bacon, sausage, and limit whole milk dairy, cheeses, fatty meats).
  • Choose plant-based fats from nuts, avocados, olives, and olive oil.
  • Limit sugar and artificial sweeteners. Use small amounts of cane sugar, honey or 100% maple syrup.
  • Limit sodium. Buy foods with “no salt added” and learn to eat foods without adding salt. Season food with herbs and spices instead.

The eating-clean lifestyle has some good points. It's a balanced diet that focuses on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and protein. It also encourages you to control portion sizes. And it doesn't ban any food group.  Clean diet plans range from 1200-1800 calories, which is the low end of calories to sustain energy and satisfy hunger.  These diets may help adults to lose weight.  

The Eat-Clean principles are: (1) Eat six small meals a day.(2) Eat breakfast every day, within an hour of getting up.(3) Eat lean protein and complex carbohydrates at every meal.(4) Have two or three servings of healthy fats every day. (5) Get fiber, vitamins, and  nutrients from fresh fruits and vegetables. (6) Control your portions and (7) Drink 2 to 3 liters of water (about 13 8-ounce cups) every day.

The foods to avoid:

  • Overprocessed foods, especially white flour and sugar
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Sugary beverages, such as soda, juice, and sportsdrinks along with alcoholic beverages
  • Foods with chemical additives like food dyes, sodium nitrite and preservatives
  • Artificial foods, such as processed cheese slices
  • Saturated fats, trans fats and animal fats and calorie-dense foods with no nutritional value

Planning can save you time grocery shopping, Make a shopping list and stick to it. Keep in mind that foods without preservatives may not keep long, meaning more frequent trips to the grocery store.

Before starting on this plan, check with your doctor and a registered dietitican/nutritionist (RDN)
Remember, this dietary plan may be hard to follow for a long time. If you like to eat frequently from a detailed meal plan and can eat six times a day, you may enjoy this diet. If you travel a lot, are not comfortable cooking, or like more flexibility with your meals, you might find “eating clean”  difficult to  maintain as part of our hectic lifestyle of today.