We hear a lot of nutritional noise surrounding the idea of clean eating. It’s normally associated with dieting, and though that can certainly be a part of dieting, weight loss is not the definition of, or purpose behind a clean, whole foods lifestyle. The premises of clean eating are simple: fresh, local, and real whole foods as much as possible. While none of us are perfect and most of us all grew up eating junk food in one form or another, we have the power to change our minds and bodies through what we eat. Think of it this way: run water down a drain and you get no clogs or issues, but try pouring a thick, greasy wax down the chute and you’re going to run into issues. The pipes of our bodies and cells work a lot like this.

To eat a clean diet, keep things simple. Here’s are some things to keep in mind:

Always Choose the Whole Version of a Food

Avoid processed versions of food, which simplifies things greatly. For example, go for olives instead of olive oil when possible, use real coconut meat (butter) instead of coconut oil, eat fresh kale instead of kale chips, eat whole grains instead of whole grain cereal. These foods in their whole form aren’t only usually cheaper, but also better for your body. Your body breaks them down more slowly and will benefit your health due to the fiber found in whole foods. Oils aren’t necessarily evil, but it’s always best to go for the whole food version of anything, oils included.

Ignore the Trendy Marketing Hypes

While many like goji berries come with awesome nutritional properties, this isn’t the case for them all. For example, ignore all the gluten-free labels on everything from breads to chips. If you don’t eat gluten, why not just enjoy wild rice, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and roasted root vegetables instead? Those foods don’t need marketing hype to make them desirable or healthy. They’re rich in enough in nutrition to speak for themselves.

Pretend Processed Foods Don’t Exist

This not only prevents you from overspending but also keeps things simple. Some whole foods can be found in the aisles like nuts and seeds, flax seeds, packages of whole grains like oatmeal and rice, herbs, and spices, but for the most part, the produce section is where you’ll want to spend most of your time (and money.)

Kick the Sweet Stuff to the Curb

Avoid sugary additives in foods like oatmeal, non-dairy yogurt and milk. Nut butters are also usual suspects, along with some frozen meals. If you’re eating frozen foods, that’s okay. Just always choose whole frozen foods like plain beans, greens, legumes, berries, etc. instead of frozen food burgers, stir-fries, and desserts.

Make Some Room for Healthy Exceptions, But Know What to Look For

Be okay with some exceptions to whole foods. Some exceptions that make life easier that also won’t undo your health progress are: unsweetened non-dairy milk (or make your own), fresh hummus and guacamole found at the store, unsweetened coconut yogurt or kefir, plain and unsulfured dried fruit without added sugars and oil, and simple and plain raw trail mixes with no added salts or sugars. These foods may not be in 100 percent original form, but they can help fill the gaps and fill our meals and snacks. If they’re free of sugar, aren’t rich in heavy oils and salt, then more than likely, they’re not too harmful. As long as your diet isn’t comprised of these foods and only make up for a small percentage, they do have a place in a clean foods lifestyle.

Learn to Love to Your Kitchen

If you don’t like to cook, there are simple meals you can make that don’t require a lot of time or even cooking at all. Making your own foods will ensure that your meals are clean and don’t contain excess sodium, oils, and even contaminants used in restaurant foods or boxed meals at the store. Even beginner cooks can choose from easy, meatless meals that are made of clean, plant-based fare.

Go with Organic and Non-GMO When Possible

The benefits of choosing organic fruits and veggies are limitless, but choosing all organic and non-GMO products help ensure even more nutritional benefits. These foods don’t contain toxic chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, and genetically modified foods. If you’re on a budget, use the Dirty Dozen list to do what you can and support local organic farms which can also save you money.

Don’t be Afraid to Experiment

Experiment with new whole foods so you’re never bored. This will inspire new recipes, provide your body with nutrients, and keep things exciting. For instance, if you’re tired of kale and spinach, try some arugula and chard instead. Sick of almond butter? Tahini and walnut butter make a great change-up. Blueberries are great but don’t ignore cranberries and raspberries either. And if you’re tired of oatmeal, quinoa and wild rice make great substitutions. Also try some of these non-boring vegan dishes that prove a plant-based diet is full of variety.

Check out our recipes for further inspiration and also to see how easy it is to live a clean, vegan lifestyle. Remember that plant-based foods in their whole form provide 100 percent nutritional support when consumed the right way. Certain foods may work better for some than others, but a plant-based diet has something for everyone looking to live a cleaner foods lifestyle that naturally supports health.

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