Cleaning out your home or car feels so good, like a fresh start, with a sparkly new outlook. Cleaning up your diet can be even more impactful, with benefits that include all-day energy, improved mood and happiness, better sleep, clearer skin, enhanced digestive health and even weight loss.
That's a lot of bang for your buck, and it doesn't require giving up delicious, satisfying foods like avocado, almond butter, maple syrup or even dark chocolate. That's why we created the LIVESTRONG.COM Clean Eating Challenge — starting Monday, February 4, 2019 — to help you get going.
What Is Clean Eating?
Clean eating is not at all about deprivation. It's about eating foods as close to their natural state as possible and paying close attention to how food is made. It involves focusing on food quality and the way your diet impacts your overall health, as well as the health of the planet. Clean eating isn't a fad, or trend — it's a movement, and an important one.
By cleaning up your diet, you eliminate unwanted additives that can wreak havoc on your immune system and contribute to symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, food cravings and inflammation. A cleaner diet also ups your overall nutrient intake and can help boost satiety. And bonus: It's better for Mother Nature.
The best part is, it's easy! There's a huge variety of food you can eat and simple ways to combine them to create meals and snacks that'll leave you feeling simultaneously full, satisfied and energized.
Just follow our handy guidelines and sample menu. Mix and match from the below list of "foods to enjoy" to whip up refreshing smoothies, filling grain bowls, hearty stir frys and even decadent desserts!
Clean Eating Challenge Guidelines
So what can you eat and what's off-limits? (No processed carbs or refined sugar for starters.) We created two handy, printable guides for you to reference throughout the month (see below). While the lists aren't comprehensive, they should give you a good starting point.
Foods to Enjoy
- Fresh vegetables like asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, collard greens, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, kale, lettuce (all varieties), mushrooms, onions, spinach, tomatoes (all varieties), zucchini
- Fresh fruits like apples, bananas, berries (all types), cherries, citrus (all types), grapes, kiwi, mangoes, melon, papayas, peaches, pears, pineapple, plums, watermelon
- Frozen fruits (no sugar added or preservatives)
- Frozen vegetables (zero additives)
- Pasture-raised eggs
- All-natural poultry
- Sweet potato (skin on)
- Brown rice
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Avocado oil
- Nut butter (all natural)
- Plant based dairy alternatives
- Grass-fed, organic dairy
- Fresh and dried herbs
- Pure maple syrup
- Raw honey
- 70% dark chocolate
Foods to Avoid
- Sodas and diet sodas
- Sweetened drinks and juices
- Processed sweets
- Refined sugar
- Artificial sweeteners
- Conventional dairy products
- Bottled salad dressings
- Processed fats like cream cheese, margarine
- Processed carbs like crackers, pita, wraps, tortillas, English muffins, bread, pasta
- Processed meats like sausage, pepperoni, bacon, canned meat or seafood, deli meat
- Highly processed fake meat products
- Seasoning mixes with gluten, dairy, preservatives or artificial additives
- Dried or canned fruits
- Processed veggie snacks
- Canned vegetables
Read more: The DOs and DON'Ts of Clean Eating
Sample Clean Eating Meals
Now that you have all your healthy ingredients, what are you going to do with them? Here are a few meal ideas to get you started.
- 2 eggs, scrambled
- 1 cup of chopped fresh vegetables, seasoned with turmeric, black pepper and fresh basil
- 1/2 an avocado
- Side of fresh fruit
- 1 cup of coffee (optional: with unsweetened almond milk and one teaspoon of maple syrup)
Grain bowl made with:
- Fresh greens
- Other chopped vegetables of your choice
- Small scoop each of lentils and quinoa
- Dressing made from extra virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and dried Italian herb seasoning
- 1 cup of fresh fruit
- 1/4 cup of tree nuts
- 1 single-serve container of plain plant-based yogurt or grass-fed organic yogurt
- Optional: sweetened with a teaspoon of pure maple syrup or raw honey, a quarter teaspoon of fresh grated ginger root and a dash of ground cinnamon
- 2 cups of vegetables of your choice, sautéed or oven roasted with extra virgin olive oil
- 1 portion (about the size of a deck of cards) of lean protein (roasted chicken or seafood or beans)
- 1 handful of oven roasted fingerling potatoes
Choose one of the following:
- 1 to 2 squares of 70% dark chocolate
- Homemade chocolate avocado pudding
- Plant-based chia pudding
Read more: 10 Easy Clean-Eating Recipes
How to Join the Clean Eating Challenge
Want to get in on the challenge? Here's what you need to know to get started in three easy steps:
1. Print Out Your Clean Eating Food Lists
To make things as simple as possible for you, we've created two lists. One is list of foods to enjoy that you can take with you to the grocery store to help you pick out healthy ingredients for the week to come. The other is a reminder list of foods to avoid. You can hang this on your fridge or pantry to remind you to stay on track.
2. Join Our Challenge Facebook Group
You don't have to go it alone! We have a community of more than 30,000 members who can help support and encourage you throughout the month (and beyond). So join the LIVESTRONG.COM Challenge Facebook Group for tips, motivation and answers to your questions. Plus, exclusive content you'll only find in the group. So stay tuned!
3. Follow the Guidelines and Share Your Progress
Each day starting on Monday, February 4, 2019, stick as closely as you can to the DOs and DON'Ts of the challenge. If you're new to the concept of clean eating, maybe you want to start with small changes like cutting out sodas or junk food. And make sure you post your progress, small victories, minor setbacks and any questions you have along the way in our Facebook group.