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One smart way to make clean eating easier

Adriana Velez is Food Editor for SheKnows. She spent her formative years in Brooklyn, which pretty much explains everything about her. She now lives somewhere else and has discovered life after kale and kombucha. She's written for Civil ...

Clean eating expert Amie Valpone cuts through the confusion and makes it really simple

I'll admit, I'm not a fan of the label "clean eating." It implies that eating any other way is somehow dirty and body-defiling. It tends to invoke feelings of shame for a lot of people. But I also know that at its heart, so-called clean eating is a gift we give ourselves, a way of nurturing and caring for our bodies through our food.

More: 7 clean eating mistakes you can easily avoid

That's what it means to clean eating guru Amie Valpone of The Healthy Apple. She just came out with a clean eating guidebook called Eating Clean. When we asked Valpone what she would call clean eating if she could call it something else, her answer revealed the one guiding principle that can cut through all the confusion and make this approach to eating perfectly clear.

"It's really about eating one-ingredient, whole foods," Valpone told us. "A lot of people think it's about dieting, but dieting is more about counting calories and restricting yourself and feeling deprived." She says people who diet often end up eating processed foods with long ingredients lists. "Eating clean, on the other hand, is about focusing on whole foods — one-ingredient whole foods."

More: 10 summery clean eating desserts to get excited about

So it's a shift from building meals around packaged foods (which have a multitude of ingredients) to building them around single foods: fruit, vegetables, whole grains. "That's really the base of clean eating. Getting back to basics."

If that sounds like a big leap, you can start by making small changes.

Use juice instead of refined sugar

When you're baking, try swapping in a whole fruit juice (one without any added ingredients) in place of the sugar and some of the liquid.

Start your day with a smoothie bowl instead of a box of processed cereal

You can make the smoothie ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator. Then, when you're getting breakfast ready for everyone, you just pour it into a bowl and add fresh toppings like fresh fruit, nuts and seeds. Just make sure nothing but whole foods, without additives, are going into that smoothie mix. Valpone recommends the smoothie recipes on R.W. Knudsen's website.

More: The truth about strawberries, apples and grapes we should stop ignoring

Read ingredient lists on food labels

"Flip those foods over, flip those juices over, and make sure you can read the ingredient list, and if it's just the juice, if it's just the blueberries, just the raspberries — just the whole food in its whole food form — then it's great. Then you can build a meal around that."

Keep reading for Valpone's chickpea skillet pizza recipe

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