Learn everything you need to know before starting the Clean Eating Diet plan including it's history, guidelines & components, & all of the science behind it.

When we discuss diet plans we can typically put them along a spectrum where food quantity is on one end and food quality is on the other.

Diets like If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) fall as far to the food quantity side as possible while clean eating falls as far to the food quality side as possible.

Additionally, in direct opposition to diets like IIFYM it imposes guidelines of what types of foods to eat and does not regulate calories of macros to any meaningful degree.

The main principles of clean eating are centered around focusing on the quality of the foods you consume and ensuring they are “clean”.

The principles can be summarized in one tenant: Choose whole, natural foods and seek to eliminate processed foods.

The core principles of the diet can be listed as follows:

  1. Avoid processed foods
  2. Avoid refined foods
  3. Avoid artificial ingredients 
  4. Avoid alcohol 
  5. Avoid soda and fruit juice

History of the Clean Eating Diet

As clean eating is not a well-defined dietary program it is difficult to trace the history of it as a dieting paradigm back to a singular beginning.

One could give credit to the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates who penned one of the first works on dietary principles and is responsible for the famous quote, “Let food by the medicine and medicine be thy food”.

A variety of foods that are part of a Clean Eating Diet Plan

General Overview of Components & Main Principles of The Clean Eating Diet

Clean eating is based on the principle of eating whole, natural unprocessed foods.

Most proponents of clean eating will suggest it is not truly a diet, but rather a view on what to eat and what not to eat.

It focuses on food quality and not quantity, so calorie counting is not utilized in this dietary framework.

Meal Timing/Frequency

On principle, clean eating does not have strict requirements for meal timing or meal frequency (read: how many times a day you eat).

However, in application most clean eating programs suggest people eat 5-6 smaller, clean food, meals and snacks throughout the day rather than 3 main meals.

Restrictions/Limitations

Clean eating places fairly substantial food restrictions on individuals. Clean eating diets require that people consume only whole, natural foods and eschew everything that is processed.

This excludes pastas, breads, crackers, chips, cereals, and anything else that has been processed. This approach also excludes things like condiments (e.g. mustards and spreads) as well as dressings.

Additionally most beverages are restricted; this includes alcohol, soda, and juice.

Does It Include Phases?

As traditionally thought of, the clean eating diet does not usually include phases.

Most prescriptions of the clean eating diet as instantiated in books, articles, and programs have people initiate the full spectrum of the diet at the outset. Some even include 30 day challenges in which whole, natural foods must be consumed for the entirety of the 30 days with no deviation from the protocol.

Fruits and Vegetables that are part of a Clean Eating Diet Plan

Who Is It Best Suited For?

Clean eating is best suited for people who are focused on the health properties of food, do not feel the desire to track the calories in their food, and who do not mind fairly restrictive approaches to nutrition.

Clean eating allows substantial flexibility in the amount of food one eats, the timing and frequency, and with some effort and diligence the diet can be used for a wide range of people with drastically different goals (e.g. fat loss, muscle gain, or sport performance).

How Easy Is It to Follow?

How easy it is to follow the clean eating diet really depends on what type of person you are and your food preferences. For people who enjoy eating a wide variety of food, do not enjoy food restrictions, and would rather focus on the quantity of their food (i.e. the calories and macros) clean eating may be rather difficult to follow.

For people who are creatures of habit, do not mind eating within restricted dietary frameworks and do not enjoy counting their calories of macros clean eating can be an excellent dietary framework to follow.

Most people who practice clean eating long term usually build in small amounts of flexibility and follow either an 80/20 or 90/10 rule where they allow themselves to eat food on the restricted list 10-20% of the time.

Mainstream Belief Behind Diet

The mainstream belief behind the clean eating diet is that natural, whole foods are optimal for human health and that they naturally control calorie intake.

While there are indeed sound reasons behind consuming more natural foods, one cannot truly rely on the “natural” argument as the sole basis for why this diet is effective as the naturalistic fallacy is a common logical fallacy.

Scientific Studies and Interpretation of Data

To date there are no published studies examining the effect of a clean eating diet which makes it difficult to draw hard conclusions on the scientific efficacy of this diet. However, there are a few things we can glean.

Most whole, natural foods are more satiating than their processed counter parts1. This makes controlling calorie intake much easier for a large majority of people.

Additionally, higher diet quality is associated with improved health markers and a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes2,3.

Salad that is part of the clean eating diet plan

Conclusion

Clean eating falls on the opposite end of the dietary spectrum from approaches like IIFYM or flexible dieting and focuses almost exclusively on food quality, not food quantity.

The main principles of clean eating are centered around focusing on the quality of the foods you consume and ensuring they are “clean”.

The principles can be summarized in one tenant: Choose whole, natural foods and seek to eliminate processed foods.

The core principles of the diet can be listed as follows: avoid processed foods, avoid refined foods, avoid artificial ingredients, avoid alcohol, avoid soda and fruit juice.

24 Comments
Bilal
Posted on: Sun, 05/09/2021 - 05:47

And what about dairy product's ? I mean a little use of them? And one question I use jaggery in a very little amount ! Is it good or not?

Hugo Locke
Posted on: Fri, 01/29/2021 - 08:25

I'm currently attempting to lean bulk and something I have noticed is my sugar appears to very high due to large amounts of fruit and veg I eat...often around the 80-90g sometimes even more. Despite this my added sugar intake is probably only accountable for about 10-15g of this total sugar intake. should i be concerned with my intake and reduce this...or because its coming from a natural source of sugar should i be fine?

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Abigail
Posted on: Fri, 01/29/2021 - 14:04

Hey Hugo - since the sugar is naturally occurring, you should be fine. Typically with naturally occurring sugars (ie. fruits, veggies, etc), you're also consuming a higher amount of fiber from those foods which reduces blood sugar spikes.

Christina
Posted on: Tue, 09/15/2020 - 12:52

I’m trying to loose 30-60 pounds quick! My eating habits r good I jus need the energy to do lil workouts during the day. Can u please help me out with what type of products to take? Thank you

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Abigail
Posted on: Thu, 09/24/2020 - 13:48

Hey Christina - slow and steady wins the race for weight loss. Check out our guide: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/body-composition-fat-loss-mus...

Ema
Posted on: Wed, 07/08/2020 - 06:32

I have been clean eating and exercising regularly for two months now. I am not losing any weight however I have lost inches and now I know that it is better as I am losing fat, however I still want to lose 10kg currently I am 71kg and I am 165 cm tall. I should weight less and i would like to weigh at least 8kg less. When am I going to see that change on the scale?

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Yoshi
Posted on: Mon, 08/10/2020 - 13:38

Hey Ema

The number on the scale takes longer to change than a lot of people want. Keep an eye on your calorie intake in regards to your BMR. To lose weight you're going to need to stay in a calorie deficit for an extended period.

Richard
Posted on: Mon, 04/27/2020 - 06:58

Hi I’m 30 yrs old weight is 275lbs I’m 6’1” stocky look did weights in my teens and little in my 20’s work at a dairy for 10 years and we’re always busy with a lot of hours. I’m a father and a husband but I want to loose at least 50lbs and also get stronger and to be healthy and I got to change my ways of life I have epilepsy haven’t had a show in years but getting older and not eating healthy and working long hours doesn’t help. I’m starting to feel nervous of having a show at work or anywhere so today is the day I say I GOT TO CHANGE and eat well and take care of my self for my family and myself! I always struggled on how to eat right never got the plan on how or what to eat right and how to plan to excuse.!please help me. I don’t eat a lot (But if I do it’s junk) what I do is drink a lot of soda and not enough water

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Yoshi
Posted on: Mon, 08/10/2020 - 13:45

Hey Richard

Limiting and eventually cutting that junk food intake way back is going to make a huge impact. Pick a diet that works with your lifestyle and stick with it, the most important thing is to make sure that you remain in a caloric deficit in regards to your BMR. Try to exercise 4 days per week and focus on keeping your intensity up. I'd recommend looking into some of our HIIT and HIET workouts!

Hasan
Posted on: Tue, 02/18/2020 - 23:37

Hello
I have underweight problem I'm 47
I don't appetite and I don't like to eat
I need to have muscle build helps me
Thank you to give me some advise
We

Jane
Posted on: Sat, 02/01/2020 - 04:21

Hello
I have underweight problems. I am 1m 65 and I weight 47 kilos.
I don't have appetite and I don't like to eat.
I just ordered the dynamatize weight gainer but I don't do any workouts.
I need to have normal weight because of my job requirements.
Thank you to give me some advise.

Dulara Madhuranga
Posted on: Wed, 09/04/2019 - 11:06

I build a lot of muscle. what kind of diet do you recommend?
What would you say the daily calorie intake should be, is there a diet plan I can follow?

I am a 5ft2 Male and weight around 60KG

Kiransing Thakur
Posted on: Thu, 05/30/2019 - 00:12

Dear Sir,

I want to loss 5kg weight and building muscles pl guide i am doing workout daily 1 hours in gym

Senay
Posted on: Fri, 02/22/2019 - 18:39

Out of curiosity, only protein shake I take it whey protein grass fed with cacao....nothing else, if I want to have energy and performance on the workout, I took beetroot juice with water which it is energy. Rather take something natural. Did anyone have issue with gas and fart after taking protein shake twice a day?

sarah
Posted on: Sat, 03/02/2019 - 15:40

Have you tried a plant protein instead of whey? Much easier to digest and may help the issue. I use a pea, rice and cranberry protein :-)

Arun
Posted on: Wed, 01/09/2019 - 10:19

So I have a set training plan but no set plan for dieting.

I want to loose fat but build a lot of muscle. what kind of diet do you recommend?
What would you say the daily calorie intake should be, is there a diet plan I can follow?

I am a 6ft2 Male and weight around 101KG

tareksdeek
Posted on: Tue, 02/12/2019 - 09:35

I am practicing the exercises and I want some medicines that help me to burn fat and reduce the effort and increase activity. Also I am afraid of customs fees in Egypt .. Do you have any branches here in Egypt

Ethan
Posted on: Tue, 10/02/2018 - 06:35

Impressive!Thanks for the post

BJJ/MMA
Posted on: Mon, 06/18/2018 - 00:37

This article was well worth reading. I enjoyed how self explanatory it is.

Achwak
Posted on: Fri, 11/16/2018 - 14:03

Great

Sumanth
Posted on: Tue, 03/20/2018 - 14:23

I want to loose my skinny fat so I needed a proper diet plan for #vegetarian... I have lost lots of weight but the saggy skin is still der so I want to loose that is der anything so that u can help me out!!

kaelllllu
Posted on: Thu, 11/01/2018 - 23:22

try harder workouts maybe dat will help.

anita patel
Posted on: Thu, 03/15/2018 - 12:19

Excellent article!! Thank You.

Informative article
Posted on: Tue, 09/07/2021 - 09:47

Good article

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