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Clean eating 101: What it is, what it's not and 3 recipes to get started

Brandi is natural born food lover of anything from gourmet cheeses and wine down to plain baked breads. When not in the kitchen cooking, she loves to be outdoors, especially near the ocean. She puts her focus mainly on healthy organic ea...

Because clean eating doesn't have to be complicated, boring or restrictive

"Clean eating" has been buzzing its way around Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook, and while most of us smile and nod and pretend to know what the heck those clean eaters are talking about, we're in the dark about what it really means.

More: One smart way to make clean eating easier

It's time someone cleared up the clean eating confusion, and we're happy to help. We've rounded up our favorite healthy and tasty "clean" recipes, along with a few guidelines on how to eat clean without boring yourself to tears.

Because clean eating doesn't have to be complicated, boring or restrictive
Image: SheKnows

First, what is clean eating? Clean eating is a term most commonly used to describe eating a healthy, unprocessed diet full of vegetables, fruits and lean meats. It doesn't have anything to do with the actual cleanliness of the food but focuses on eating whole foods in their most natural, purest state. Below are some tips and advice to get you started and keep you on track, and three easy recipes to make today.

Things to follow when eating clean

  • Bulk up your grocery shopping with a variety of fresh local produce, and when possible, buy organic fruits and vegetables. (Try to focus on more plant-based meals, or have several meatless meals a week.)
  • Eat whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa or whole-grain oats.
  • Consume good, healthy fats, which are found in fresh avocados, raw coconut oil, nuts and seeds such as almonds, cashews or pumpkin seeds.
  • Go for healthy sources of protein, such as beans and legumes, eggs, chicken, fish, lean grass-fed beef and tofu in moderation.
  • All food (real food) contains calories. Don't put the focus on the calories but rather the nutrients in the foods you are consuming.
  • Drink lots of water. This keeps your body hydrated and helps cleanse your system.

More: 10 healthy foods that (almost) never expire

Things to avoid when eating clean

  • Kick sugar to the curb. Sugar adds no health benefits to your diet. It may be difficult in the beginning, but over time you will gradually crave sugary foods less. If you must use sweeteners, try stevia or pure, 100 percent maple syrup. Steer clear of most commercial juices, sugary coffee beverages and colas. Try drinking more water and herbal teas.
  • Say goodbye to fried, processed or prepackaged foods. Yes, prepackaged foods come in handy, but most are loaded with sodium, preservatives and a bunch of other things we can't even pronounce. What's healthy about that?
  • Ditch the processed snack packs, and keep fresh-cut fruits and veggies on hand when you want a snack.
  • Fast food is expensive and loaded with unhealthy, unclean foods. Try cooking and planning meals at home. By cooking at home, you know exactly what goes into your food while keeping money in your pocket.

More: 7 foods that aren't as healthy as you think

What are the benefits to clean eating?

  • Clean eating is not a diet — it is a lifestyle. By fueling your body with nutritious whole foods, you are not only going to maintain a healthy weight (or even lose weight), but you will feel energized, and you are going to feel good, which will put you in a good mood.
  • You will reduce your risks for certain diseases, such as diabetes, high cholesterol or even cancer.
  • Eating a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables will aid in digestive issues and help your system work efficiently.
  • Clean eating can clear up acne, leaving you with healthy, glowing skin, strong hair and nails and an overall boost in health.

Next up: 3 clean recipes

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