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CLEAN EATING: How to get started & its benefits

Updated: Mar 24, 2022

One way to think of clean eating is in terms of different levels of processing of foods:

LEVEL 1 (More Processed):

The ingredient list can be covered with the width of your thumb (less than an inch). You can pronounce all the ingredients and recognize them as foods (not chemicals)

LEVEL 2: Five "real food" ingredients or less

LEVEL 3: Foods that are minimally processed and as close to the source as possible


Good (or sometimes just OK): 100 percent apple juice; kettle-cooked potato chip (not ideal)

Better: Unsweetened, natural #apple sauce; mashed potatoes

Best: apple; baked #potato

LEVEL 4 ("Cleanest" or Least Processed): No ingredient list - the item itself is the one and only ingredient (think #fruits, veggies, and whole grains)


More gut-friendly and digestion-boosting fiber - processed, stripped-down foods give you all the sugar and none of the fiber to help with blood sugar absorption and promote gut health and good digestion. The same is true for whole grains as compared to refined grains.

Less sugar, salt, and saturated or trans fats - the amount of salt, sugar, and fat we add as flavorings to our food when we cook with whole, minimally processed real foods pales in comparison to the amounts added by food manufacturers to packaged, processed foods.

More Energy - from better blood sugar regulation and more crucial #vitamins and minerals


Include more fresh fruits and veggies - and other "more clean" foods rather than packaged, processed foods or snacks.

Look for cleaner versions of your favorite foods - maybe a #granola bar you eat regularly and slowly, make replacements - or better yet, make your own!

Slowly work your way to simple, fresh, whole foods - start from Level 1 working up to Level 4.


Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied.

It is being able to choose the food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it - not just stop eating because you think you should.

Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food.

Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad, or bored, or just because it feels good.

Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way.

It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful.

Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more.

Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating.

Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention but keeps its place as only one important area of your life. In short, normal eating is flexible.

It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food, and your feelings.

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