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.


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


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.

Posted on: Wed, 06/12/2024 - 14:03

Bruce Lee was vegetarian and mostly worked out with a max of 10 pound weight loads ( I work with a 20lb weight load max ). Any one who tells you any corpse is clean eating has no clue of the level of decomposition parasite hatch out that begins approximately 72 hours after slaughter or the extremely high levels of fear panic & death adrenaline released into the blood system during death roe line up & live slaughters . so'Research vegan / vegetarian body building on youtube , also research diabetes and vegetarian/vegan diets and in general do your own research . If you have any interest in building a strong healthy body research dead corpse protein vs live food vegan vegetarian protein ... when you eat corpse proteins they are already dead get it ...

Aimee Trowman
Posted on: Sun, 05/21/2023 - 15:51

Why is there so much maths involved?!

Posted on: Wed, 03/29/2023 - 16:21

very good information, thank you sharing. Where are the meal plans, it takes me to info when I choose a meal plan. I"m interested in losing fat and getting lean with strength training. thank you!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 04/03/2023 - 18:36

To the best of my knowledge, this is only a guide to help you come up with your own plan. If you need a further guide on losing fat, this should help.


Marjan Ferdous
Posted on: Sat, 02/11/2023 - 13:33

Great. This is a very helpful article.

Posted on: Sun, 01/22/2023 - 05:09

Very informative article, Thanks for sharing such an amazing post, it is very helpful.

Naveen Gowda C
Posted on: Mon, 01/30/2023 - 21:51

Good product i want Loos fat

Posted on: Wed, 11/30/2022 - 01:28

There's so many keeps coming up that keeps me pretty confused; it's the difference between what many bodybuilders claim to eat in terms of grams of protein, carbs and fats, versus the foods that list eating. I'll give you an example. This is directly from an article on this website quoting an interview with a highly respected bodybuilder about what he eats each day:

"Give us a typical day in your cutting diet:
It changes every contest season depending upon how my body responds and typically I will have to change my macronutrient intake as I get further into the prep. A ‘normal’ prep intake for me would be anywhere from 250-300g protein, 150-250g carbohydrates, and 45-60g fat per day. I also have 2 days per week where I will moderately increase carbs to 300-350g while simultaneously lowering fat and protein by about 10%."

If you take the maximum amount he's listing in terms of weight, 300 g of protein 300 g of carbohydrates and 60 g of fats, that's a total of just under 700 g of food each day he claims to eat. That's 29 ounces of food! So if I may ask, WTF is he talking about? Is he saying that as a professional bodybuilder he eats less than 2 pounds of food a day?

And this is the same in article after article. "700 g total, 300 g of protein" and in the same breath claiming to eat three steaks for dinner, 150 eggs every week, blah blah blah.

Are these people mistaking daily amounts for amounts for each meal? I'm sorry if this sounds condescending but I feel like these guys just don't know how to do math. Or what is it that I'm missing?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 12/02/2022 - 21:15

Steve, do you mind sharing the link that this was shared in? I'd like to see it before I offer an answer, but I'm not sure which article it is.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 12/04/2022 - 11:01

That person probably didn't even take total weight of food into consideration, just macros. I wouldn't be too concerned about this and find the nutritional needs that suit you individually.

Posted on: Mon, 10/10/2022 - 18:09

Hi- I am 5’3 and at my heaviest I weighed 230. My goal was 125, I was able to get to 133 but I lost quite a bit of muscle tone and doctors advised me to add weights to my exercise routine. I hiked 2 miles everyday and yoga every day to get to 133. I eat clean and also eat very little protein- basically a low carb vegan the majority of the time. I will eat fish or chicken on the weekend. I have started back to the gym to gain muscle and with this endeavor 6 weeks ago I now weigh 140- so panic has set in with my weight. I am not lifting enough to have gain 7 pounds of muscle this i know. My question is with protein I may get 20-30 grams on a good day. What should my goal be with whole food plant based? This site has been so helpful to me as to how to use the gym but I am Not fueling my body correctly and also battling a severe fear of weight gain. I now do 4 days weights with a cardio season of running at the gym, 7 days hiking, and 3 days yoga. And I am 47 so there is that wonderful mess to deal with too -lol Also with the BMR calculator is it accurate since I was obese and now my metabolism has slowed? The 1800 calories is a tad daunting for me as my goal is usually 1200 max. Thank you I know I am a mess- just delete if you can’t help- I have been through countless people in my area who are stumped with me so I understand

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 10/11/2022 - 07:08

Hi, Joy. Thanks for reading M&S, and I'm glad that we've been able to help you. The quick gain may be a combination of muscle as well as fluids. Don't hit the panic button just yet.

Protein definitely needs to be higher. Not necessarily 1 gram per pound, but 100 grams a day should be a goal.

I can understand 1800 being tough, but 1400-1500 should be possible, and I don't think that would be too much of a challenge.

Don't let age be a limiting factor. You can still reach goals and get better. Follow up with other questions you have if you got them. May take us a bit, but we will answer.

Posted on: Mon, 05/23/2022 - 09:09

When it comes to diet planning, I am an absolute mess. Do you have any daily meal plans already in place that I can simply print out and use, specifically to work towards fat loss and a bikini fitness physic.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 05/24/2022 - 21:44

Afraid not, Chanel. There are articles here with recipes that you can use to create your own, but we don't have any diet plans pre-made.

Star McKinnon-H...
Posted on: Tue, 05/10/2022 - 11:00

Hi there,
I am a 25 year old female and I am having issues with planning and wanted to know if there were meal plans already made that I can also use for my family as well, since we are all trying to have a healthy lifestyle and mainly lose weight. Thank you in advance :)

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 05/24/2022 - 21:43

All we have are guides, Star. You can look up recipes here on M&S and pick those that would be beneficial for you.

Posted on: Sat, 04/02/2022 - 16:55

I am a terrible planner when it comes to diets. Are there any daily meal plans already put together that I can simply print out and run with? Having something like this would be very helpful...

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 04/18/2022 - 19:53

What is your goal, Jerry? I can see what we have to offer you.

Posted on: Fri, 12/31/2021 - 14:20

71 yr old male still weight train 4/5 days a week with heavy weights
I'm happy with my physique but I not happy with my stomach I've had two lots of major surgery so can't do sit-ups or stuff like that and I just cannot get rid of belly fat any help much appreciated

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 01/03/2022 - 20:12

Hello, Tosh. Stick to the nutrition plan as strict as you can. Also, regular cardio four to five days a week will help. It can be in the morning or after your regular training. Other than that, it's a matter of patience and consistency.

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?

M&S Team Badge
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.

wade mangrum
Posted on: Tue, 09/13/2022 - 21:03

hi i have trouble too and was wondering if you had any tips for me

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 09/20/2022 - 16:07

What is the trouble, Wade?

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

M&S Team Badge
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...

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?

M&S Team Badge
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.

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

M&S Team Badge
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!

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

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

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

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

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?

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 :-)

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

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

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

Impressive!Thanks for the post

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

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

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


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!!

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