Make gradual, sustainable changes. Extreme diets don’t promote good health, you rarely feel good on them and you can’t sustain them.

Clean eating means consuming the most nutritious foods in their most natural state: Think food from the earth. Eat as many dark leafy greens as you can starting at breakfast. They are the most nutrient dense foods available to us and are considered “disease preventers.”

Think of food as fuel instead of the answer to your emotional needs; you’ll be more likely to choose nutritious foods, maintain a healthy weight, and have lots of energy throughout the day. Food should not be used as a reward for anything.

If your goal is to remove unwanted pounds, set goals and attach dates. One to two pounds per week is safe and realistic. To lose 1 pound per week you need to cut 500 calories from your diet per day; to lose 2 pounds a week you need to cut 1,000 calories per day. Don’t rush it but do plan how and when.

Avoid junk! Junk is calorie-dense foods with little nutritional value: Donuts and muffins at work; chips, pretzels and candy as snacks; cheeseburgers and pizza for lunch; soda or diet soda any time; and a lot other fillers that really shouldn’t be considered food.

Eat Clean: If a food or drink has artificial ingredients or sweeteners, it isn’t clean eating.

Live by the 80/20 principle: Eat clean 80 percent of the time and leave the other 20 percent for special occasions. This does NOT mean to eat well 80% of the time then splurge the other 20%. You’ll just undo all the good you’ve done!

Aim for fewer than five ingredients in packaged foods. When you eat foods that have long lists of ingredients you can’t pronounce, you’re replacing what your body really needs to function: vitamins and minerals.

Eat breakfast. You’ll be much less likely to eat impulsively throughout the day and your blood sugar will remain more stable, which is the goal.

Many of us are dehydrated and don’t know it. Drink a minimum of 50 ounces of purified water a day. Aim for one half your body weight in ounces. Dehydration causes low energy and fatigue. When you’re hungry always reach for water first.

Frequently dining out can sabotage your healthful eating. Restaurant food is purposely loaded with sugar, salt and unhealthy fats. When eating out choose lean protein and produce. Avoid dinner rolls, bread and fried food. Ask for non-creamy dressing on the side and skip the gravy and dessert.

Avoid foods labeled as “lite” and “sugar-free.” When fat is removed, sugar is added to make up for lost flavor. Sugar is most often replaced with artificial sweetener which is even more harmful than sugar! “Diet” foods are loaded with mysterious ingredients with little or no nutritional value.

Clean Eating Ideas

Avoid These Processed Foods

Sample Weekly Meal Plan