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Clean Eating: How You Can Take Easy Steps to Clean Up Your Diet

Updated on November 4, 2011


Picking strawberries.  Our fresh fruit of the early summer season.
Picking strawberries. Our fresh fruit of the early summer season. | Source

My Eating Makeover

My wonderful, health conscious sister introduced me to clean eating about a year ago. I had known most of its basic principles and tried to practice many of them but had not heard this term before. There were several things in my life that had caused me to take a good look at my eating habits.

Phase One:

First was the birth of my daughter. When you are young or single, you might not think about how eating that bag of chips for dinner isn't such a good thing. I had always been somewhat health conscious. I worked out when I could fit it into my schedule and I am a big fan of fruit and vegetables but I never shied away from those cheesy nachos that you might find at a sporting event or the double scooped hot fudge sundae, loaded with everything. All that changed when I got pregnant with my daughter. It had taken us a long time and was a great struggle to become parents and I was not about to let any sort of crazy eating take a toll on my pregnancy. I did indulge in my occasional sweet and salty treats but my focus was healthy eating. What I didn't realize was that I was still not really eating in the best manner for myself and my child. I would often opt for those boxes rices and potatoes. After all they are fairly inexpensive, quick and easy to prepare. I read the nutrition labels and they weren't full of sugar and the carb count wasn't out of control, so how bad can it be? What I didn't realize at the time was how harmful all of the processed filled boxes and cans of food really were.

Phase Two:

The second major event that really caused me to examine my eating was my husband. About a year and a half ago he had a massive heart attack that caused him to go into cardiac arrest. Thankfully he is still with us but it made me realize that with all that I was doing with healthy eating in our home, we needed to do more. I knew that what I did would be a model for my children and at 1 and 2 1/2 at the time, I knew it was not too late to teach the best way to cook and eat food. So that began my quest to bring the healthiest possible eating into our home.

Picking our own fruit.

Blueberry picking
Blueberry picking | Source
If you know where there are wild fruits that you can pick, it not only gives you fresh fruit for free but provides for a great family activity.
If you know where there are wild fruits that you can pick, it not only gives you fresh fruit for free but provides for a great family activity. | Source

What is Clean Eating?

Let me start by saying what clean eating isn't.  It isn't vegan or vegetarian and it isn't a trendy diet.  It is a way of living your life by making long term changes in the food choices you make to cook with and eat.

Clean eating is eating food in their most natural, purest state. Some definitions that I have heard are that you don't eat anything with a label. In my opinion that is not realistic, especially if you are a busy working mom like me. Think of clean eating as eating the way nature intended. In other words eat fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and hormone free, free range, or organic meat. Clean eating isn't as hard as it may sound.

So How Does Organic Fit into This?

There has been a lot of buzz these days about eating organic.  I for one try to eat and serve as much organic food as I can for my family.  Sometimes it is not possible to find things that are organic, especially if you live in an area that does not have more specialty type of stores that cater to that type of lifestyle.  So is organic the same thing as clean eating?  Not exactly.  Eating organic is definitely part of eating cleanly.  If you are choosing organic foods then you are eating foods that are in their purest state (have not been processed) and are pesticide and hormone free. 

Our apple bounty.
Our apple bounty. | Source

Ten Easy Ways to Eat Cleanly

Here are some easy tips that you can start doing right now that will start you down the road to clean eating. They are very doable and are things that will

  1. Be conscious of what you are eating.  It seems like a really simple thing to do but it is the biggest, easiest start that you can make. Many people are not aware of what they put in their mouths.
  2. Eat lots of FRESH fruits and vegetables.  I try to purchase as much organic fruits and vegetables that are available at my local market or farmers markets. We also try to go out and pick fresh fruits that are in season. My kids love to do this and we reap the benefits all year long. I freeze the blueberries to use in muffins throughout the year and I make and can applesauce with the apples that we pick. When we had peaches, I canned them with their natural juice and added a cinnamon stick to add some extra flavor.
  3. Choose organic foods.  When the opportunity is available, choose foods that are marked organic. As you make these selections, you are ensuring that the foods are "clean."
  4. Read Labels.  As I mentioned earlier, it is virtually impossible to eat things without a label so READ what you are buying. Steer clear of anything you cannot pronounce as well as words like "refined, bleached, and high fructose corn syrup."
  5. Make your own food.  Again this is one that seem so easy and silly but life is busy. As a full time working mom of two young children, it is hard to think about cooking food for my family after working all day. However I will tell you that it makes a huge difference both for your health and the taste. The purer your ingredients are, the more you will enjoy your food. Studies also show that cooking your own food assists in weight loss. Why? Well because you are moving around while your food is being prepared rather than just sitting and waiting for it to be served to you.
  6. Avoid foods in boxes and most foods in cans.  I grew up on condensed soup casseroles and cans of vegetables. Although vegetables in the can are real vegetables, if you have a choice, opt for frozen ones. They are much closer to fresh than their canned counterparts. Boxed and canned soups, rice, and potatoes are highly processed and are far from clean eating.
  7. Choose lean proteins.  Lean proteins are foods such as chicken and fish. Try to avoid red meats. My husband is a meat and potato guy. We compromise by eating red meat one to two times a week but I choose then leanest cuts such as sirloin or tenderloin. We also eat lots of chicken and fish. Another great source of protein is yogurt. I eat Greek yogurt which has no high fructose corn syrup and has about 14 grams of protein compared to regular yogurt. I like to choose the kind that has fruit added to it so that it cuts the tartness of the yogurt.
  8. Spices.  Instead of opting for those pre-bottled spice blends or the envelopes of gravies and mixes, try using fresh herbs and spices. It is amazing the flavor that it will add to your food. Be brave and try some new ones. I had always used the more Mediterranean blends but did not use much of the others. I recently started to use coriander and cardamom and it has brought several dishes to new heights!
  9. Water, Water, Water.  Drink lots of water. It truly is the cleanest drink that you can find.  If you need to add a little flavor, squeeze some lemon.  Another option black coffee or tea.  If you absolutely must add a little sweetness to it (like I do) then opt for agave nectar.  It is much better for your body and helps to control blood sugar levels better than white sugar.
  10. Plan ahead.  This is one of the hardest parts.  I try to make a menu with a grocery list on the weekend and then shop for the meals at one time.  By doing this I am able to cut costs because I am not impulse buying.  I am also able to prepare things ahead of time in order to cut the cooking time down during the week when I know that we will be very busy.


BBQ Sauce

This is the longest part of the meal but you can make this ahead of time and store it in the fridge.


  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 small white onion, diced small
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
  • 2 tsp. ground mustard
  • 1 can (28 oz.) tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses (you can substitute this with dark agave nectar or organic molasses)
  • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbsp. white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground pepper


  1. In a medium saucepan, heat canola oil over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook until completely soft, approximately 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook about 1 minute.
  2. Add the tomato paste and mustard. Stirring constantly, cook until paste turns a bright red in color, approximately 5 minutes. Add 2 cups water, tomato sauce, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, salt and pepper. Stir until smooth.
  3. Bring mixture to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and cover partially. Stirring occasionally, simmer for 2 hours. You can thin the sauce down with water if it becomes too thick. Add more vinegar, salt and/or pepper to taste (if desired).
  4. Let completely cool before using.

Note: Can be refrigerated up to 1 week or frozen up to 4 months

A Simple Clean Eating Meal

I made this meal for my family one night when I didn't know what to do with the Salmon that I had in the fridge. My kids' response to it was "Mom, make this for dinner every night!" No I did not make that up. In fact whenever I make the rice my daughter says, "Look Mom it's the rice we like." (She must have thought our personal chef cooked the meal!)

Maple BBQ Glazed Salmon


1 lb. of fresh caught Salmon

1/4 cup of bbq sauce (see recipe below)

1 Tbs. of pure maple syrup

salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season salmon with salt and pepper. Mix the maple syrup with the BBQ sauce and spread evenly over the salmon. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.

Brown Rice Pilaf


a small handful of whole wheat vermicelli or thin spaghetti

1 Tbs. of real butter

1 cup of brown rice

1 1/2 cups of organic low sodium chicken broth


Melt butter in a pot over medium head and break up pasta into pieces that are about 1 inch long and brown. Then add the rice and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 50 minutes (according to package). DO NOT lift the lid. It will cause the rice to remain hard.

Steamed Broccolini

This one is very easy. Heat a pot of water to boiling and place the broccolini in the steamer. Steam until the color turns bright green and the vegetable is tender but not mushy. This is a nice alternative to broccoli. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper after you have finished steaming the broccolini.

Clean Eating Resources

My Challenge to You

I challenge you to open your refrigerator or pantry and choose one item. Read the label. What do the ingredients say? One of my favorites to pick when talking about this is peanut butter. Most people do not realize how much sugar is actually in peanut butter but it is one of the first ingredients. I choose brands that are "natural" even if they are not organic. There should be nothing else in peanut butter other than peanuts and peanut oil. If you buy natural peanut butter and then try the stuff that you used to use, you will most likely not be able to stomach it. It will taste like a piece candy rather than peanut butter. Eating cleanly brings out the true flavor of foods.

So what steps are you willing to take for your health? Try just one or two things on the list above and gradually add to it. You will find that it is not as hard as it may seem. I am still learning and am definitely not perfect at it. However we are on our way to great things in our house and you can do it too!

Don't worry, I'm not that much of a mean mom that I don't allow my children to indulge in the occasional processed sugar treats. In fact we are planning a trip this summer that will bring us to Hershey, PA where we plan to not only tour the factory but make our own candy bars. I hope to teach my children that it is important to live a healthy life style on a daily basis and to choose the fruit over the candy and chips. It is a lifestyle that promotes well being and I want my children to learn that early so that is a natural part of themselves.

Clean Eating Commitment

How likely are you to try to clean up your eating?

See results


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    • Hendrika profile image


      4 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      A lot of good advice here. For a while now I have been trying to clean up our eating a little. For Us in South Africa organic is out unless you are very rich!

      Except for my comment below I totally agree with the concept of clean eating.

      There is only one thing about the ideas of clean eating I do not agree with. Red meat, fat (animal) and butter is actually good for you. From that no one will be able to change my mind. A very interesting thing happened to me. My doctor stopped my cholesterol medication as it was making me ill. For 6 months I ate butter in my veggies, all cuts of read meat etc. After these 6 months she tested my cholesterol gain and it was normal! I am scared of the tendency to eat low fat as I have seen it resulting in many problems in later life, not least of all Alzheimers. Another thing to keep in mind is that 50% of people having heart attacks and strokes have normal cholesterol! Than says something to me.

      O yes, in South Africa fish only features in your diet infrequently as it is also too expensive except for tinned tuna and pilchards. The pilchards as such are healthy, I know, but unfortunately it is tinned with all kinds of things added.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      You're welcome Rebecca. Funny how I've never thought to use it on chicken. Thanks for the ideas! :)

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      7 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks so much for the salmon recipe. I like eating healthy and salmon is so healthy. Now if I can just find some fresh caught salmon! That sauce might be good on chicken breast too!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      So glad that you found them so useful MPG Narratives. Clean eating is a way of eating that has become much more popular in the last few years. Thanks so much for your visit.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks so much for your visit and comments Marcy. It is so important for kids to learn this early on in life. I see the poor choices that kids make with their food every day at school and it really is concerning. Unfortunately the school systems don't support healthy eating for the most part.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      Yes Cyndi, he was 36 and our son had just turned one. It was a crazy time for us but we have made some positive changes in our household so that our kids can learn early how to live a healthy lifestyle. Thanks for your votes and share!

    • MPG Narratives profile image

      Marie Giunta 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Some of the best tips I've read about healthy eating although I hadn't heard the term either. Great hub!

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      7 years ago from Planet Earth

      Really useful tips about how to eat better and how to teach children to pay attention to what they eat. Clean eating says it all. I love the photos of your kids learning to pick fresh fruit!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      7 years ago from Western NC

      Yes! I love it when I come across a great hub and there is so much in here that I've been doing for a long time. I'll have to link to it in an upcoming hub. I had no idea your hubby had a heart attack! WHOA! Ya'll are so young! I'm glad the change to more healthful food has made a difference and based on your other awesome hubs, I'd say all these habits stuck. I've tried to do the same for my own health reasons. I'm not above the occasional indulgence in some bad-for-you ice cream, but I promise it's not ALL the time. ;) Many votes! Shared, too!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      Yes Free2seethemoon, kids have a knack for putting life in perspective! Thanks for your comments.

      You're welcome frugalfamily. It is a lifestyle change, not just a trendy diet. Glad you stopped by to read.

    • frugalfamily profile image

      Brenda Trott, M.Ed 

      7 years ago from Houston, TX

      Great tips but this is the first I've heard the term. Thanks for the hub!

    • Free2seethemoon profile image


      7 years ago from Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean

      Great hub! It's funny how having kids makes you think seriously about their ( and your) diet. Voted up!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Michigan

      Sometimes a diet change can help the hyperactivity and sometimes you end up needing medication. My sister did that with her kids but still ended up with the meds. Either way it is so important for parents to be aware and proactive. Sometimes I feel like a mean mom but it is for their long term good.

      Thanks Frannie Dee, glad it gave you some food for thought.

    • Frannie Dee profile image

      Frannie Dee 

      8 years ago from Chicago Northwest Suburb

      Great hub...lots to think about. :)

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 

      8 years ago from Western New York

      We were trying to cut out the artificial dyes because our older son (Matt) has trouble focusing and can be really hyper - we thought a more natural diet was worth a shot. We were appalled that even our jam had artificial dyes in it! Fruit roll-ups are considered a "pectin-derived candy" by the industry, and nearly everything is loaded with preservatives and high fructose corn syrup. My only problem now is that I'm out of fresh produce to can - perhaps I need to convince our family to move out here and start farming!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Michigan

      Leah, you are my canning inspiration! I have bookmarked your canning hubs and plan to start those projects this weekend. My inlaws have a farm so we have great produce throughout the season. I have always tried to can or freeze the bounty of each harvest to last throughout the winter. Reading the labels really make you sick, literally and figuratively. It is really an important step to healthy living. I'm glad you and your family are taking those steps!

      My pleasure Deborah, thanks for reading and commenting.

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 

      8 years ago from Iowa

      Great hub; full of really good information. Thanks for sharing.

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 

      8 years ago from Western New York

      This is a great hub. We've been trying to eat locally grown, fresh food for the past year or so. We have our own garden and I started canning this year to preserve fresh jams and other foods (canning uses no artificial ingredients). We have been reading labels at the grocery store and are appalled at the amounts of artificial dyes/colors/flavors and other chemicals in the processed foods. We want our kids to have healthy diets, so we've started to clean up our food supply!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Michigan

      Exactly Lesleysherwood! This is why I am trying to teach my 3 and 4 year olds about healthy eating and incorporating these ideas into their diets now and not wait until they are older. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks RTalloni, I hope that they do as well. It really is better for our bodies, thanks for reading and commenting.

      We also have always eaten lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately it is the processed foods that are really affecting our health. I hope that you are able to incorporate some of the easier steps into your diet. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I love this information. It is amazing the experiences in our lives that make us re-think what we put into our bodies. Which is good because as we age we cant abuse ourselves like we used to when young.

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 

      8 years ago from New Jersey

      Thanks so much for this article! I have slowly been changing the food in my pantry and am more conscious about labels on food. But my husband and I already eat a lot of good food and cook a lot with fresh vegetables. But clean eating is a new term for me, and I appreciate your seamless incorporation of definition, examples, and recipes. Great hub. Voted up

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Such a neat hub with important information. Your balanced approach makes it easier to make the needed changes. Hope clean eating is embraced by many due to your work!

      Voted up!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Michigan

      Great, thanks!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi-it worked. I linked my hub: Soup for the Writer's Soul to this one.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks K9 for the read and comments. Glad you found some of it useful. I hope to post some more recipes that follow the clean eating way of life. Thanks for the compliments on my kids. They are my models for everything!!! Good thing they like having their pictures taken. :)

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Michigan

      Aunt Danette, I know what you mean with the sweet and salty temptations. It's hard and a daily challenge for me but we're working on it. My kids don't even like the other kind of PB.

      Prairieprincess, thanks for the feedback I'm glad you found it useful. It is a work in progress for us but we are taking steps each day. Give it a try, baby steps!

      Thanks mom. Don't worry, I forgive you for the cheeseburger casseroles! LOL Yes, you know my little fashionista girl. No one can tell her what she's going to wear.

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 

      8 years ago from Northern, California

      Nice job here! Loads of great heathy information. Really cute kids in the pictures. Salt is my true weakness, trying to cut back. Your pointers may well be the answer. Thanks for sharing your work.


    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Cara-great hub. You really did an outstanding job with presenting the information and using real experiences. I voted it up. The tips are great. Lots of guilt here from your childhood 'canned food' experience, LOL

      I also thought the recipe additon was very good. I bookmarked for it later. (Where's the acorn sq recipe, LOL?) AND, last, but never least, the photos of those darling children are priceless. I cracked up seeing the colorful combination that Grace was wearing, LOL

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 

      8 years ago from Canada

      Wow! This is a great article! I try to eat as natural as possible, and have been interested in eating clean, but not fully committed. This is wonderful information. Bookmarking this one, for sure! Thanks!

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 

      8 years ago from Illinois

      Great hub with lots of tips here. I practice most of them - switched to natural PB, which even my husband likes; eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies and belong to an organic garden; drink lots of water; not that much meat. My down fall is the sweet/salt cravings that run in my family. I've noticed I seem to be eating more salty snack foods (b/c I'm packing a lunch now and chips just seem to go with a sandwich) but as you said, being aware is the first step to making changes and I plan to cut down on the salt.

      Cooking your own meals (as much as possible) saves money, and is healthier b/c you can control what goes into making them.

      voted up and useful.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks for your feedback Manny, I really appreciate it. I tried to become a vegetarian and just couldn't do it. So now I'm vegetarianish. I have cut way back on my meat intake and eat mostly vegetables and fruit.

    • mannyrolando profile image


      8 years ago

      Very informative and great hub!

      I can say that I have been 'clean' eating since I became a vegetarian. It has forced me to do a lot of the things that you recommend in this hub, such as cooking my own food, using more fresh herbs to flavor my food, and eating more fruits and vegetables. I also stay away from fast food restaurants since they don't usually have any good options for vegetarians.


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