“Eating Clean,” is a concept that stresses healthy, whole, unprocessed foods. And, although the phrase is new to some, the principles of this plan are not.

The principles are based on current nutrition science and are similar to recommendations made by public health organizations. This sound approach to eating and living well maximizes your energy and optimizes your health, making it more than just a diet. It’s a lifestyle, with built-in flexibility, meaning it can be adapted to fit most any kind of routine.

“Clean Eating” dates back to the natural health food movement of the 1960s, which shunned processed foods for the sake of moral and societal values (rather than health and nutrition issues).  Eventually it landed in gyms, where it gained momentum among body builders and fitness models. Recently, however, it made the jump into mainstream America, rejuvenating and inspiring a new generation of healthy eaters.

With each move, the clean eating concept became more refined and developed.  Here are the seven core principles of today:

  1. Choose whole, natural foods and seek to eliminate or minimize processed foods.
    Processed foods are anything in a box, bag, can, or package, and although there are always a few exceptions to the rule (like a bag of fresh green beans), try to eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables with lean protein.
  2. Choose unrefined over refined foods.
    While it may not be possible all the time, you can increase your intake of whole grains like brown rice, quinoa and other whole grains. Beans are also important. Clean sugars include dehydrated sugar cane juice and agave.
  3. Include some protein, carbohydrate and fat at every meal.
    Most of us typically do well with carbohydrates and fat, but we often lack protein, especially in the early part of the day, like at breakfast and lunch. Protein is an important muscle-builder, and it can also help curb your appetite. When eaten throughout the day, it keeps us feeling full longer.
  4. Watch out for fat, salt, and sugar.
    This is easier than you think, particularly if you’ve cut out processed foods, which are responsible for most of our excess calories and high levels of fat, sugar, and salt. Clean foods are usually naturally low in all of these ingredients.
  5. Eat five to six small meals throughout the day.
    This usually pans out into three main meals and two or three hefty snacks. Eating this way prevents you from skipping meals and overeating. It also keeps your blood sugar levels steady so energy doesn’t lag.
  6. Don’t drink your calories.
    High calorie drinks like specialty coffees and soft drinks, on average, tack on an extra 400 to 500 calories a day. Choose water first, or unsweetened tea (any flavor). Other clean drinks are making it to market. Just be sure to read the label for hidden ingredients and especially added sugar.
  7. Get moving.
    Regular physical activity is a must for many reasons. Not only does it decrease fat, strengthen and build muscle, and help you burn more energy at rest, it keeps your heart, lungs, and bones healthy and strong.