“Clean eating” is hot, with the term being at an all-time high on Google search. While clean eating doesn’t refer to the cleanliness of food from a safety standpoint, it points to nourishment in its most whole, natural state, free of added unpleasantries. It’s a lifestyle, not a short-term diet, and one that I’ve been following for years. To help you on the path to your healthiest and happiest body yet, follow these simple clean eating dos and don’ts.
Do: Choose foods in their purest state, such as an orange.
Don’t: Select foods manipulated and processed beyond recognition, like diet orange juice drink.
The less processed foods are, the more naturally occurring vital nutrients and the fewer harmful ingredients they contain. If you can’t pronounce an ingredient on the label, you probably shouldn’t eat the food. Instead of components that sound like things from lab experiments, opt for foods with ingredients you find in home kitchens.
Do: Enjoy foods at their peak season, such as raspberries in June.
Don’t: Purchase foods that traveled from far away countries—think strawberries in December.
Most foods taste better and contain higher amounts of nutrients when they are eaten during peak season and haven’t been sitting in warehouses for months. The better foods taste naturally, the less you have to manipulate them with added sugar, fat, and salt, which means fewer calories and less bloat. Start by reading signs next to produce and labels on the backs of packages. Ideally choose foods from your country rather than the other side of the world. Even better, choose foods from within your region.
RELATED: Kick-start your clean eating diet with our seven-day non-juice detox.
Do: Enjoy a colorful array of foods.
Don’t: Limit yourself to your comfort zone.
Dark green, blue, red, yellow, orange, purple, and even white vegetables deliver a range of phytochemicals for fighting inflammation and stopping invaders dead in their tracks to keep you healthy. The better you feel and more energy you have, the more you can commit to butt-kicking workouts. Bonus: The better you nourish your skin, the more glowing and elastic (read: fewer wrinkles) it will be.
Do: Be a mean, clean, shopping machine.
Don’t: Assume that you don’t have enough time to cook.
In the time that you would call in your takeout order, drive in traffic, wait in line, and drive back, you could have prepared a fresh meal, provided that you had the needed supplies standing by. I use weekly, monthly, and quarterly shopping lists, breaking buying groceries down into manageable pieces to provide healthy meals. Keep a piece of paper stuck to the fridge where you can jot down things you need from the store so your list is ready when you are. A thought-out grocery list will produce nutritious meals and snacks so you don’t have to resort to drive-through, vending machine, or gas station cuisine.
RELATED: Don’t worry about blowing your budget. With our tips, healthy food doesn’t have to break the bank.
Do: Enjoy every bite.
Don’t: Feel guilty.
Food not only nourishes and fuels our bodies and minds, it also provides entertainment, invites togetherness, and rejuvenates the soul. Food should taste good first and then be good for us also. A variety of flavors, including salty, sweet, sour, pungent, and bitter, paired with different textures makes for the most satisfying meals. We should feel free to savor flavorful foods until satisfied, rather than eat around cravings and long for something else minutes later. As often as possible, enjoy food seated at the table.
Portions of this post have been adapted from Clean Eating for Busy Families: Get Meals on the Table in Minutes with Simple and Satisfying Whole-Foods Recipes You and Your Kids Will Love (Fair Winds Press, 2012), by Michelle Dudash, R.D.
Michelle Dudash is a registered dietitian, Cordon Bleu-certified chef, and cookbook author. As a food writer, healthy recipe developer, television personality, and eating coach, she has spread her message to millions of people. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook, and read her blog for clean eating recipes and tips.