Clean eating focuses on consuming whole foods that are minimally processed and as close to their natural form as possible.
Adopting a clean eating plan can be a simple and effective way to lose weight and boost your overall health.
Additionally, eating clean means relying less on processed, store-bought items and preparing more meals at home, which could save you money.
Here are 24 clean eating tips that can help you be healthier and more energized.
Eating too much added sugar has been linked to a wide array of health issues ranging from obesity to heart disease (1).
When transitioning over to a cleaner eating pattern, foods and beverages with added sugar should automatically be phased out.
When cleaning up your diet, using healthy substitutes for your favorite sweet treats can satisfy cravings and keep you on track.
For example, swap your nightly bowl of ice cream for a clean treat like Greek yogurt topped with berries, unsweetened coconut and cinnamon.
Many people depend on fast food and other quick, unhealthy foods to get them through busy days.
However, making a habit of buying meals and snacks on the run can lead to unhealthy choices and behaviors.
Although it’s not practical for everyone to cook all meals at home, preparing fresh, healthy food for yourself should be a priority whenever possible.
When eating clean, knowing what’s in your food is important and cooking for yourself is the easiest way to control what goes in and what stays out of your body.
Shopping the perimeter of the grocery store is one of the most popular pieces of nutrition advice.
This is because the perimeter of the grocery store usually contains fresh produce and healthy protein sources like eggs, yogurt and poultry.
Although the interior aisles of the grocery store do contain healthy items like canned beans and nuts, they also tend to be where most of the unhealthy items like chips, candy and soda are located.
Making it a priority to fill your cart with foods from the perimeter, including vegetables, fruits and proteins, before moving on to the interior of the store can help you stay on track and avoid tempting treats.
Clean eating revolves around knowing your food and where it comes from.
There is no better way to honor this principle than to form a relationship with local farmers who grow or raise the food that you eat.
Purchasing food directly from small farms means that you can be informed about the methods used to grow produce and raise animals for meat, poultry, eggs and dairy.
Supporting local farms means building a connection with your food while supporting your local economy.
Plus, buying food directly from local farms means that you are guaranteed to enjoy the freshest in-season food available.
When trying to lose weight, many people reach for “diet” foods like low-fat dressings, diet soda, meal replacement bars and weight-loss drinks.
These foods can be loaded with artificial sweeteners, preservatives and added sugar.
For example, low-fat yogurts can contain as much as 23 grams (6 teaspoons) of sugar in a half-cup serving (2).
When following a clean eating program, choose whole, non-diet foods like unsweetened, full-fat yogurt and natural peanut butter with no added sugar.
Leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale and arugula are easy and nutritious ingredients that can be added to almost any meal.
Adding a mixed green salad to your meal, incorporating sautéed spinach into an omelet or tossing fresh kale into your favorite smoothie are easy ways to eat more healthy produce.
Greens — especially dark, leafy greens like kale — are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that help your body thrive.
Try experimenting with different types of greens to narrow down your favorites.
Filling up on white rice, bread and pasta won’t do you any favors when it comes to health.
This is because these foods lack the vitamins, minerals, fat, protein and fiber that your body needs to function.
Swap refined grains for whole, fiber-rich grains like oats, barley, brown rice and farro for cleaner, more nutrient-dense carbohydrate options.
Foods that are considered “nutrient-dense” contain an impressive amount of nutrients but are relatively low in calories. They’re perfect for those looking to shed pounds.
Nutrient-dense foods include broccoli, berries, eggs, red bell peppers, seeds, wild-caught salmon and sweet potatoes.
On the other hand, foods that are considered nutrient-poor, like candy and fast food, are packed with calories yet contain few nutrients.
Choosing meals and snacks that are loaded with nutrient-dense ingredients is a smart and delicious way to get healthier.
As long as you know what to look for, eating clean can be a breeze no matter where you are.
Choose meals that focus on fresh produce, complex carbs, healthy fats and lean proteins.
Although it’s perfectly healthy to indulge in a treat once in a while, make it a point to limit heavy dishes like creamy pastas and fried foods as much as possible.
Additionally, swap the breadbasket for a healthy salad before your meal to increase your vegetable intake while filling up on fiber.
Prepping bulk meals for the week ahead ensures that you will have fresh, healthy options every day. It also keeps you from making poor food choices out of desperation.
For example, knowing that you have a delicious meal already prepared and waiting for you in your refrigerator can deter you from stopping at a fast food restaurant for a quick bite.
Try investing in a dry erase board for your kitchen where you can jot down recipe ideas, grocery lists and plan meals for the week ahead.
Eating mostly whole foods in their least processed form is a great way to eat clean.
A smart way to make the transition to a whole-foods diet is to focus on one meal at a time.
For example, if you’re used to eating a sugary oat cereal for breakfast every morning, switch to a bowl of rolled oats topped with fresh berries and natural nut butter.
Start transitioning out meals and snacks that contain processed ingredients and replace them with whole foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, healthy fats and proteins.
Even healthy-sounding drinks like smoothies can be loaded with sugar, which isn’t good for weight loss or overall health.
To keep your added sugar intake to a minimum, hydrate with healthy options like water, water infused with fresh fruit and unsweetened green tea.
One of the best ways to make your diet healthier and cleaner is to eat more plant-based meals.
Vegetables can be added to almost every meal or snack, upping the nutritional content and taking the place of less healthy items on your plate.
Start by eating at least one plant-based meal per day, whether that be breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Reading nutrition labels lets you know if an item contains limited, clean ingredients or if it’s filled with sugar, unhealthy fats and artificial additives.
Focusing on eating whole foods that don’t need a label is always the best choice, but packaged foods can be added to your diet as long as they contain healthy ingredients.
A rule of thumb when shopping is to purchase foods that contain only whole, natural ingredients and are low in added sugar.
Although cutting out energy-dense, unhealthy items is crucial to weight loss, it’s more important to pay attention to food quality and ingredients than calories.
For example, although avocados and nuts are high in calories, they are packed with nutrients like fiber and healthy fats that can promote weight loss by keeping you satisfied between meals (8, 9, 10).
Plus, picking foods based on what will nourish your body rather than obsessing over which foods are “good” or “bad” can help you develop a healthy relationship with all foods.
Clean sources of protein like eggs, poultry, fish, tofu, dairy, nuts and beans can be easily added to any meal.
What’s more, combining protein sources with high-fiber foods makes for filling snacks that will keep you satisfied between meals.
For example, dipping sliced vegetables in a few tablespoons of hummus or topping flax crackers with egg salad provides a winning combination that’s sure to keep hunger in check.
Adopting a clean eating pattern that involves trying new foods is an excellent way to get healthier and expand your palate.
Trying out a new vegetable or spice every week can help keep meals interesting, too.
Before you know it, you will have a wide variety of ingredients to use in your recipes to make cooking enjoyable and fun.
Including a wide variety of nutritious vegetables, fruits and spices in your diet is an important part of eating clean.
Colorful options like berries, greens, sweet potatoes, red peppers and turmeric are packed with powerful plant compounds and nutrients that are essential for health.
One of the easiest ways to eat more brightly colored produce is to enjoy a large salad of mixed vegetables every day.
To up the nutritional content even more, top it with a homemade dressing of olive oil, turmeric, apple cider vinegar and fresh ginger.
When transitioning to a healthier diet, it’s essential to be prepared. This way, you always have the ability to make healthy meals and snacks.
Set aside time every week to go grocery shopping, which will ensure your kitchen is stocked with the ingredients necessary to keep you on track with your wellness goals.
Keeping a supply of healthy canned, frozen and bulk ingredients on hand can make last-minute meals a breeze.
Canned beans, frozen vegetables and grains like quinoa and oats are affordable, clean ingredients that can be stored in the freezer and pantry to be enjoyed at any time.
Although fad diets that drastically cut calories can be tempting, especially when trying to lose weight fast, they aren’t the best choice for healthy, long-term weight loss.
The most important factor in choosing a healthy method of weight loss is sustainability.
The good news is that clean eating is a weight loss method that can be followed for life, without depriving yourself or using unhealthy tactics to reach a healthy weight.
By simply cutting out ultra-processed foods and following a diet of whole foods, your health will improve in numerous ways, including losing excess pounds.
Limiting your intake of sweets and unhealthy snacks is important when trying to lose weight.
Fortunately, there are loads of delicious alternatives that can make clean eating easier, especially for those used to eating lots of sweets.
Some healthy sweet treat ideas include:
- Dipping strawberries in dark chocolate
- Making energy balls with nut butter, oats, coconut, cocoa and dark chocolate
- Preparing chocolate pudding with avocado, coconut milk, dates and cocoa powder
- Baking apples stuffed with chopped nuts, oats and raisins.
Although coffee is a healthy drink on its own, additives like sweetened syrups, artificial sweeteners and whipped cream can negatively impact your health and waistline.
Popular coffee drinks like frappuccinos, mochas and sweetened lattes can pack in hundreds of calories.
In order to keep your coffee healthy and avoid flooding your body with excessive amounts of sugar, keep your drink simple and opt for unsweetened items.
Intuitive eating is a technique that teaches you how to make healthy choices and promotes a positive relationship with food.
It involves paying attention to hunger and fullness cues, which can decrease chances of overeating and help you overcome unhealthy habits like overeating.
Intuitive eating is a tool that may improve your mental health, as well.
One study found that women following an intuitive eating program experienced significant decreases in binge eating behaviors, as well as significant improvements in mental wellbeing (14).
Incorporating organic, local foods into your diet can boost the nutritional value of your diet and decrease your intake of contaminants like herbicides and pesticides.
The Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list is an excellent resource that advises consumers on which foods contain the highest pesticide residues.
Making a point to buy organic versions of the foods on this list, such as strawberries and spinach, can help reduce your intake of potentially harmful substances.
Purchasing local, organic food isn't only good for your health — it also benefits the planet by promoting biodiversity and reducing environmental contaminants.
Clean eating isn't a diet — it’s a healthy way of eating that can be followed for life.
By increasing your intake of whole, clean foods and eating fewer unhealthy, processed items, you can positively impact your overall health and wellbeing.
Plus, eating clean can help you reach your weight loss goals in a healthy, sustainable way.
Try incorporating a few of these tips every week. Before you know it, you will be living a healthier, happier lifestyle.