What is Clean Eating Anyway?

I have often heard this term of clean eating and wonder if I am eating that way, and if not, does that mean I am eating dirty? After all, who wants to say that they eat dirty?! What does this clean eating really mean and is it something that I should be concerned about? Well, after a good amount of reading, I have to admit that I do indeed eat dirty most of the time and I definitely need to clean up in many ways.

According to Mayo Clinic, clean eating refers to more than eating healthy foods. Clean eating encompasses, eating real foods, eating plant-based foods, eating for nourishment, and adapting clean behaviors to maintain relationships, stress levels and personal fitness.

First of all, what is a “real” food and does that mean there is fake food? Well, yes there is fake food, it is the food that we alter through chemical processes and additives. In other words, I like to think of real food as closer to nature whereas fake food is closer to the manufacturing industry. Real food is found in nature and it nourishes our body far better than any supplement. It is the food that has been passed down through generations and has fed mankind long before processing foods were invented. We feel good after eating this food, not lethargic or upset to our stomachs. Some of the best real food that we can eat comes from plants. This part of clean eating is vital because this is where we will find the majority of vitamins, minerals, and proteins needed to nourish our bodies.

All this being said, I understand that this may all seem like an overwhelming task. I understand it because I too have the voice in my head that makes excuses about not having time, money, or energy to make these significant changes. So, I am taking it one step at a time. I have first educated myself, and hopefully you as well, about what clean eating entails. Now, the next step is to find out how I can slowly incorporate real foods into my diet. The site; https://rootandrevel.com/what-is-real-food/ has a great list of what to look for in a food to know if it is real or not. I have shared it here:


  • Fruits & Vegetables: local, seasonal and/or organic when possible.
  • Meat & Seafood: wild, grass-fed, pastured and/or humanely-raised without hormones or antibiotics when possible.
  • Dairy & Eggs: full-fat, grass-fed, pasture-raised when possible (raw and/or unpasteurized preferred).
  • Whole Grains: must be 100% whole grain; ancient, gluten- and wheat-free grains preferred.
  • Beans & Legumes: including green beans, snap peas and lentils; soaking helps with digestion, BPA-free cans when possible.
  • Seeds & Nuts: raw, unsalted, unsweetened and/or organic when possible (sprouting helps with digestion).
  • Spices, Herbs & Seasonings: fresh/dry/ground; minimally processed and organic when possible.
  • Unrefined, Virgin, Cold-Pressed Oils & Fats: coconut oil, olive oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, palm shortening and rendered animal fats, like tallow and lard.
  • Natural, Unrefined Sweeteners: honey, maple syrup, coconut palm sugar and dates (raw when possible).


In addition, some other sites gave me ideas about where to find real foods on the budget of an intern. As spring approaches, taking a look at the local papers (e.g., The Patch) of neighboring towns, many places have small farmer markets that I was unaware of. Also, some grocery stores such as Trader Joe’s, Aldi, Kroger, and Mariano’s can offer real foods for a fairer price. Especially, when using the above list as a guide so we know what to look for.

As mentioned earlier, clean eating also means adapting to healthy lifestyle choices outside of food. This includes; getting the right amount of sleep, drinking enough water, learning to handle stress, and maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships. While each of these items could easily hold their own set of issues, it is important to remember that balance is key. When we start with the food and proper nourishment to fuel our bodies, our minds will follow. Eating clean is an integral part of emotional well-being as is maintains health and defends against disease. When we eat good, we feel good, and when we feel good, we venture into the world with a positive out-look on life. Happy Clean Eating!


By: Kathryn Chambers

Counseling Intern

Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc

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