Toxin Free Food

The Beginner’s Guide to Clean Eating

You can eat clean! Yes, I’m talking to you!

If you are transitioning from a conventional diet, the idea of eating clean may be a little daunting. I know I’ve been there too.

As a health coach I’ve met a lot of folks who want to eat better but don’t know where to start.

Plus there is a lot of misinformation out there about what eating healthy looks like. It’s crazy confusing!

Ask some groups and clean eating means drinking diet soda instead of regular (eek!). For the record that’s a bad idea.

So if you are a rookie hang in there, I’ve put together a short but targeted list, my Living Filtered Clean Eating Plan, made up of seven basic but high impact steps to get you from a toxic standard American diet to a healthy clean eating superstar! Because YOU can do this!

One more thing. Keep in mind that “clean-eating” or Filtered Eating means different things to different folks.

I’ve spent a lot of time researching food, toxins, and nutrition for myself and my clients, so based on that research this is the list that makes sense to me and feels best for my body. If anything it’s probably a more detailed than most clean eating guidelines.

One important thing I’ve learned from all these years of nutrition research is that there is no one size fits all eating plan. Anyone who says that there is hasn’t done their research.

Here's a crazy idea. No one should be eating poison disguised as food. Click To Tweet

There are however general guidelines that do apply to all of us as humans:

  • Plants should outnumber animal products
  • We all need healthy fats (think avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, and high quality grass-fed animal fats)
  • Carbs do create insulin spikes but are also necessary for hormone production, especially for the ladies (so balance is key)
  • Protein is necessary but most do eat waaay too much
  • Regardless of what you may have heard, sugar is inflammatory
  • And food sensitives are quite common and unique to individuals

Some people do thrive on whole foods based vegetarian diets, but for others a paleo type plan is best. Others need lots of fats, yet some only need modest amounts of fats. Some people can’t handle dairy, grains, legumes, nightshades, and so on. You see where this is going.

The bottom line is you need to listen to your body and go from there.

It’s also important to point out this list doesn’t address food sensitivities (for that you need an elimination diet). nor is it tailored toward specific health concerns (like an autoimmune diet, cancer diet, or a GAPS diet) but it is a great place to start.

This program is a great omnivorous whole foods based foundation toward eating more nutritiously and avoiding many toxins in the food supply.

Finally, always do your own research and understand the WHY behind WHAT you do.


1. Focus on home cooked whole foods

Home Cooked Foods

By far the best thing you can do is cook your own food from fresh whole ingredients.

Buy foods in a state as close to how it was grown. This means using fresh and frozen vegetables, greens, and fruits. Opting for raw unroasted, unsalted nuts and seeds, choosing dry grains, rice, and beans and buying fresh cuts of grass-fed and pastured meat.

You can even get fancy pants and try making many store-bought staples, like yogurt, almond milk, and gluten-free bread.

It does take more time, but home cooked food is usually cheaper and far more nutritious than store bought or take-out.

Remember, highly processed foods often use rancid inflammatory GMO based oils, pesticide laden produce, toxic conventional meat, dairy and eggs, as well as a ton of health-destroying additives.

With proper planning even the busiest families can make this work. If you only do this one thing you will greatly improve your health and avoid a lot of toxins.


2. Eat mostly plants

Plant Food

You’ve heard this before, and here it is again. Eat mostly plants. Honestly, if you think about it, it isn’t that hard.

There are dozens of vegetables, fruits, and greens at a typical market, whereas you’re probably only eating three different animals, chickens, cows, and pigs. My point is that there is a ton of variety in the plant world.

Beyond variety, plants have an abundance of fiber, nutrients, minerals, vitamins, phytochemicals, and beneficial compounds not found in meats. This article from Authority Nutrition does a good job of spelling out all the different compounds not available in meat.

I’m not saying you should never eat meat (as you’ll read later).

High a modest amount of quality meat, preferably grass-fed and pastured, has a place in a healthy diet. But too much meat isn’t a great approach. And conventional meat is toxic and disgusting.

The star on every plate should be the plant food and the meat if any should be thought of as the side. I know way too many folks that don’t consider it a meal if there isn’t meat included.

Remember, wellness is about balance and again, listen to your body.


3. Choose traditional natural sweeteners, and not too much


If you know me, you know I have a sweet tooth. I love my sweet treats and sugar has always been my weakness. See we all struggle!

If you don’t eat any sugar, good for you, I’m impressed already. But if you’re a normal human, here are some guidelines to keep your intake in line with a healthy lifestyle.

Rule number one. Never eat artificial sugar. You know the stuff in the colorful packets touting a calorie-free, consequence free sugar-high (ok I may have added some of those myself).

All kidding aside, these artificial sugars go by many names including aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame potassium, neotame and sucralose as well as NutraSweet, Splenda, Equal, and Sweet’N Low, and based on data from several studies they are quite harmful.

Artificial sweeteners are toxic (1) and have been linked to breast cancer (source),  diabetes (2), neurotoxicity (3), among other things. Please just say no.

So if you need something sweet stick with traditional natural sweeteners.

Use raw honey or organic maple syrup (my personal favorite) and only in moderation.

If you do choose refined white sugar (let’s say for a recipe) at least go with organic sugar as most conventional sugar will come from GMO crops like corn or sugar beets.

Sugar is aging and inflammatory, it also affects blood sugar making you more prone to diabetes.

Think of sugar like alcohol, occasional indulgences are okay (not ideal though) but don’t go crazy.

I personally try to limit my sweet treats to a small scoop of ice cream or a paleo cupcake to no more than three times weekly (and that’s still not ideal).


4. Don’t overdo the salt, and choose high-quality salt


Let me dispel a myth right now. Salt is a necessary nutrient. You can even die if your body has too little salt (hyponatremia) though it is rare.

That said most Americans eat way too much salt. And most of that salt is from highly processed food (think fast-food, canned soups, and frozen meals). That’s why you see everyone talking about how dangerous salt is. Because at the intake level of your average American, it is.

So here’s the deal. Salt is fine but in moderation.

According to the Mayo Clinic  you should keep your daily intake under 2300 mg if you are a healthy adult or 1,500 mg if you’re age 51 or older, have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.

Also, watch out for packaged products as they tend to have high amounts of salt.

Lately, I’ve seen some all natural organic meals with 900 to 1200 mg of salt in one serving!

Keep in mind one teaspoon of table salt has 2,325 milligrams (mg) of sodium. I hope this puts things into perspective.

Not all salt is created equal. While typical table salt is processed and often includes several additives, real salt (that is unprocessed salt in its natural state) is much better.

Personally I prefer pink Himalayan salt as it has some minor trace minerals and magnesium (source) and isn’t highly processed like commercial salt.

If you don’t want to use Himalayan pink salt, then Celtic Salt or Real Salt are also good choices.


5. Enjoy fats from plants and the right kind of meat

Natural Beef

You read that right. Eat fat!

There is a TON of bad information out there about fats, from flawed studies to bad documentaries. Fat fear mongering is everywhere.

Contrary to popular belief fat is not bad. In fact it is necessary for a healthy body.

But the key lies in the types of fat. My favorite fats and oils are unrefined avocado oil, organic extra virgin coconut oil, organic extra virgin olive oil (for cold preps), and grass-fed sourced ghee.

However I’d avoid at all costs oils like, canola, vegetable oil, corn oil, soybean oil (most fast-food/restaurants), and any highly processed or refined oil.

These vegetable oils are usually sourced from GMO crops which are loaded with pesticides and then highly refined using chemical solvents like hexane. They are inflammatory and devasting for bodies.

Fats are also metabolized much more efficiently than carbs, sugars, or proteins.

Grass-fed and pastured meat (and their products such as dairy and eggs) are also great sources of vitamins, and minerals (source) including, CLA, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K2, glutathione, superoxide dismutase (SOD), and carotenoids (4).

However please don’t confuse grass-fed and pastured meat with conventional CAFO meat (concentrated animal feeding operation–think mass produced meat.). There is a huge difference in both nutrition and toxicity.

As a general rule I avoid all meat that isn’t organic or grass-fed (depending on the kind of meat). You should too.

So you can rejoice knowing that fats and your favorite meats have their place in a clean diet. Even so, choose smartly, go with the oils mentioned above, buy organic and grass-fed animal products, and eat meat sparingly.


6. If you choose processed foods only buy all natural products and preferably organic

Buy All Natural

We live in a world where busy families probably aren’t going to make every single thing from scratch (though it’d be awesome if they did) so keep a few things in mind when buying processed food.

First choose minimally processed food as much as possible, like the components of a dish instead of an entire processed meal.

The reason is, the more processed a product is the more chance for unhealthy ingredients and high amounts of salt and sugar. Even organic processed foods are guilty of this.

No matter what you buy, read the labels. Look at all the ingredients. Look at the salt and sugar content.

Then you have to consider the packaging. Most cans are lined with BPA, a dangerous toxin linked to a host of health problems (source). According to the Environmental Working Group

“Once BPA is in our bodies, it imitates our hormones, such as estrogen. Studies have shown that even low-level exposure can lead to reproductive harm, including poor sperm count, early puberty, the increased risk of cancer, depression in teenage girls, and obesity. A report from The President’s Cancer Panel in 2010 identified more than 130 studies that have linked BPA to breast cancer, obesity, and other health disorders.”

Microwavable packaged foods are not ideal choices, besides being typically highly processed there are also some valid health concerns related to the use of microwaves (source).

Although the data is mixed I personally don’t use microwaves at all.

Until more data is available, a better method of cooking is old-fashioned stove top or oven heating.

This very brief overview highlights why, when buying foods, simpler is usually better.


7. Buy organic as much as possible

Organic Grapes

I often get a lot of push back on this.

People have a hard time justifying the cost of organic.

They don’t want to give up favorites that aren’t available organic.

They argue that organic isn’t THAT big of a deal.

While it’s true that organic isn’t a magic bullet and organic certification still permits some questionable practices, there are still plenty of reasons why organic is a far safer choice for you and your family.

If you’re not convinced of the harm caused by pesticides read my post, 35 Ways Pesticides are Destroying Your Health.

By eating organic you’ll also be avoiding GMO’s and glyphosate (the main component of Roundup) which was recently listed as a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization (source). These two components alone are linked to numerous diseases (source).

According to The Center for Food Safety

“A number of studies over the past decade have revealed that genetically engineered foods can pose serious risks to farmers, human health, domesticated animals, wildlife and the environment.”

Bottom line, if you want to avoid toxins, herbicides, and insecticides as much as possible buy organic or from local farmer’s markets where you know they avoid toxic chemicals on their farm.

And don’t be fooled by the EWG’s Clean Fifteen, fewer pesticides do NOT mean toxin-free, as I wrote in another post Why I Ignore the Clean Fifteen, many of the foods on the Clean Fifteen are still highly contaminated.

If you need some tips on eating healthy on a budget read my post 12 Simple Ways to Eat Healthy on a Budget.


Time to implement your plan!

Congratulations on your decision to eat healthier! Seriously, it’s such a big step. You should be so proud!

I hope this beginner’s guide to clean eating wasn’t too daunting. It may seem like a lot, and it probably is if you are used to eating a standard American diet, but try taking it one step at a time.

Do what I did and slowly build on your progress. Try one step, get used to it, and move on to the next until you’ve mastered the program. Soon you’ll be feeling all the benefits that come with a healthier diet.

You might also like the post, 5 Steps to Avoid Eating Toxins, and How to Avoid Toxic Cookware for Your Kitchen.

If you are just getting your feet wet on this clean living journey check out my post, Do You Have the Right Mindset to Get Healthy and Really Change Your Life, and if you struggling with overwhelm try, How to Deal With Overwhelm When Trying to Live Healthy

If you have little ones you might like What I Feed My Child to Keep her Healthy .

Do you have tips or advice for beginners? What helped you on your journey? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Until next time!

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IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: None of the health topics presented on Filtered Family have been evaluated or approved by the FDA. They should not replace personal judgment nor medical treatment when indicated, nor are they intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always talk to your naturopathic physician or M.D. about the use of these or any other complimentary modalities. Reading this website denotes your understanding and agreement to our full disclaimer.


Citations (Retrieved 08/15/2015) (Retrieved 08/15/2015) (Retrieved 08/15/2015) (Retrieved 08/15/2015) (Retrieved 08/15/2015) (Retrieved 08/15/2015) (Retrieved 08/15/2015) (Retrieved 08/15/2015) (Retrieved 08/15/2015) (Retrieved 08/15/2015) (Retrieved 08/15/2015) (Retrieved 08/15/2015) (Retrieved 08/15/2015) (Retrieved 08/15/2015)

(1) Dong, Shujun et al. “Polychlorinated Dibenzo-P-Dioxins and Dibenzofurans Formed from Sucralose at High Temperatures.” Scientific Reports 3 (2013): 2946. PMC. Web. 16 Aug. 2015.

(2) Diabetes Care. 2013 Sep;36(9):2530-5. doi: 10.2337/dc12-2221. Epub 2013 Apr 30.

(3) Eriksson Wiklund, Ann-Kristin et al. “Sucralose Induces Biochemical Responses in Daphnia Magna.” Ed. Silvana Allodi. PLoS ONE 9.4 (2014): e92771. PMC. Web. 16 Aug. 2015.

(4) Daley, Cynthia A et al. “A Review of Fatty Acid Profiles and Antioxidant Content in Grass-Fed and Grain-Fed Beef.” Nutrition Journal 9 (2010): 10. PMC. Web. 16 Aug. 2015.
















  • Wow. Great post! And I’m thinking of trying to switch my husband and I to healthier foods….and he’s such a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy….I’m going to have my work cut out for me! :/ But I really like everything you’ve mentioned….now time to implement it. Thanks again for all the great information.

    • Hi Tessa, I’m so glad you found this helpful! Congrats on making the big decision to start eating better, remember that small consistent steps equal big results. Best of luck on your journey!

  • Love, love, love this post!!! I am currently in the process of returning myself and my family to clean-eating. I have a few things that I’d like to share for those on the same journey…first, if you slip and think your journey has been ruined, there is always time to reset. No one is perfect and the typical American diet is designed to get us addicted to it. Keep the faith because you will soon lose your taste for that toxic stuff and begin craving what’s good for your body. Secondly, pay attention to how the “clean” food makes you feel-mentally, physically, and emotionally. Food is fuel…you wouldn’t put bad fuel in your expensive Ferrari so why would you put toxic fuel in your body? I’m excited for the positive changes you’ll see! Good luck and happy eating!

    • Juli! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. Those are fantastic tips! You are so right, it’s not all or nothing, mistakes happen. When they do just dust off and keep moving forward. And I love your point about how the food makes you feel. Your body is your best guide! Thanks for reading 🙂

  • GREAT post! I’m so so so glad that this exists. I have been wanting to switch to clean eating but felt so lost that I just kept putting it off. Recently we have fallen into eating horribly and I noticed today how exhausted (physically & mentally) I am ALL the time. Plus some health issues that have cropped up. Today was the last straw! I’ve been on Pinterest looking for clean eating tips for HOURS now and am SO happy to have found this one. Everything is explained so well and makes it seem very manageable. I really like how you suggested to take it one step at a time. Are there any first and second steps you would recommend?

    • Hi Nikki! I’m so glad you found it helpful! I think you’ll find that if you can stick with the clean eating plan for at least three weeks (usually the amount of time it takes to reset) you’ll feel significantly better. This plan really is all about giving your body great nutrition while avoiding harmful toxins.

      As for steps, everyone is different. I’ve had some clients that need to go cold turkey on all the bad stuff because just one “cheat” can send them spiraling downhill. If you feel like you have a hard time with temptation (raises hand) committing to 21 days of Filtered clean eating may be the winning approach. But if 21 days feels like too big a challenge then break it down to three seven day challenges.

      This would mean committing to a seven day clean eating challenge and then taking a day or two off. Then gong at it for a another seven days, with another one or two day break, and finally a third seven day challenge. By the end of the series you will have some new great habits, consumed a ton of nutrition, and feeling the benefits of your new Filtered Eating lifestyle.

      However, most people do best by taking small steps and making them stick before adding another. This is actually how I transitioned. Its manageable and gives you a quick win that can fuel that sense of accomplishment.

      For this stair step approach here are a few starting point to consider. Start with simply drinking plenty of purified water with lemon or lime juice everyday, most people don’t drink enough water or drink sugary beverages instead of hydrating water. Bonus, add green tea to your day (your skin will LOVE it!). If you eat fast food and still drink soda just cutting those two out will make a big impact and makes a great first step. Some folks like to start with making just one meal a day clean (like breakfast) and then adding clean lunch and clean dinner.

      Also, pay attention to how the food makes you feel. Food sensitivities are common, so pay attention to how you feel after a meal. If breads make you sleepy, foggy, or achy you may have a gluten intolerance. If dairy makes you bloated you’re likely lactose intolerant (though cheese and yogurt tend to not have this effect because the beneficial bacteria consume the lactose). If bell peppers, tomatoes, eggplant or potatoes make you feel tired, achy, give you stomach upset, or heartburn you might have a nightshade intolerance. It all comes down to listening to your body.

      Finally, know that EVERYONE falls off the wagon. It happens to the best of us (myself included), so when it does don’t dwell on it, don’t beat yourself up. Just learn from it and keep moving forward! That’s the difference between those who succeed and those who give up. Just keep moving forward.

      And stay tuned, I will be launching a Spring Clean Eating Challenge soon, this will include a lot of hand holding and tips to help you stay on track 🙂

      Congrats on taking the first step toward better health! You got this!

      • Do you have guidelines for the 21 days of Filtered clean eating?
        Thank you so much for your blog! I am just about to transition to gluten free, dairy free eating and reading a few of your post has helped how I can transition my families eating habits

        • Hi Azeneth! Thanks for reading! When I work with clients I recommend they create a plan based on their unique family needs. This usually includes budget, lifestyle, and food preferences. If you try to force a family into a strange eating plan things tend to go south pretty quickly. Rebellion and chaos usually ensue. Creating better versions of old favorites using organic whole foods is a great start. Focusing on replacing less nutrient dense options with new favorites is another great approach. Start at the market, bring home organic whole foods, things you can prep ahead of time, snacks that you can feel good about, and avoid the food that isn’t aligned with your goals. If it’s in the house it will likely get eaten. Having kids choose new veggies and meals can make a big impact on how they approach this new menu. My daughter loves scanning through cookbooks and choosing new options. If hubby loves a certain snack, find a better, healthier version, and mind the portions. Drink plenty of fresh clean water (hunger is often thirst masquerading as hunger) and try to enjoy the new options. It’s all about bringing these new foods into YOUR life, and doing it in a way that makes you all feel good. 🙂

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