Consider your meals part of a clean spectrum, instead of policing foods as "good" and "bad."

In the past few years, literally thousands of people have made the switch to clean eating, avoiding processed foods in favor of whole, unrefined ones. And we're all aware of the benefits of eating clean foods-more energy, better sleep, a strengthened immune system, and a decreased carbon footprint, to name a few. Still, not all processed foods are bad (technically, applesauce could be considered processed because it's mashed). And despite best intentions, it's pretty much guaranteed there's going to be a time or two when snacking on local, organic apple slices and raw almond butter isn't possible. (It's okay! There are other snacks that are still good.) If you want to eat cleaner without being obsessed, read on for some useful tips.

Don't overthink it.

Start by asking yourself, "How close is this food to its pure form?" Take fruit, for example. Fresh fruit-especially if it is grown locally and consumed at its prime-is a no-brainer. Fruit is a clean, healthy snack loaded with vitamins and nutrients. Canned fruit in pure fruit juice is still a good option, but it can have added preservatives and reduced nutrients like heat-sensitive vitamin C (which can be harmed during the canning process). Then there's canned fruit in syrup, which often has added sugar.

farmers market fresh food

This scaled approach can be applied to a variety of foods, so you can make choices that fit your preferences and your life. You don't always need to go with the "cleanest" option. For some foods, like bread, even just taking a step up from your usual choices can be beneficial. Buying a whole-wheat loaf from the bakery instead of preservative-laden supermarket bread is an easy upgrade. Fresh bakery bread generally has about five ingredients-whole-wheat flour, yeast, salt, water, and maybe a natural sweetener. (Compare that to most grocery store finds.)

A few more ideas:

  • Upgrade your morning instant oatmeal to rolled or steel-cut oats first, then add quinoa and chia seeds.

  • Whip up an omelet with organic, cage-free eggs from the grocery store or farmers' market.

  • Try whole-wheat pasta or "zoodles" instead of regular pasta.
  • Trade traditional mayo for mashed avocado, all-natural mayo, or vinegar and oil.
  • Swap sugary drinks for fresh-squeezed juice or naturally sweetened kombucha.

Worried these changes will wreak havoc on your wallet? Buying food in bulk, joining a co-op, taking advantage of lower prices on organic food at discount supermarkets, and buying straight from local producers can all help make healthy food more affordable.

Plan your meals-or let someone else do it for you!

One way to not obsess over clean eating is to delegate. A meal planning service can give you new food ideas as well as take the guesswork out of the process, plus it saves you time and money on groceries. We even developed a plan for eMeals, an app that creates customizable weekly menus. They'll provide a grocery list-and even deliver in some cities. And the recipes and videos make it easy for newbies to get it right, with zero research required.

A little recipe inspiration always helps, too. Hibachi-style teriyaki chicken with vegetables and cauliflower rice, for example, doesn't feel like a hardship-and it just so happens to be squeaky clean. There are also a million clean eating recipes on Pinterest, if you have time to spare and want to research your own clean eating recipes.

emeals meal planning app for clean eating

Give it a test run.

If taking a more moderate approach to eating clean sounds good, and you don't want to go it alone, give eMeals' 14-day free trial a try-or test out our 7-Day Clean Eating Challenge. With options like rosemary and zucchini flatbread, Greek salad with pita croutons, and sweet potato and chicken fajitas, you'll never feel like you're missing out.

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