Are you trying to eat healthier? Maybe you want to lose weight, lower your cholesterol or just have more energy. However, all those popular diets you hear about seem complicated and difficult to follow. Clean Eating has a few, easy-to-follow principles that can help make eating healthy a way of life.

The philosophy behind Clean Eating is simple: Return to eating real food.

To begin eating clean, you need to start reading product labels. says clean foods contain just one or two ingredients. Products with a long list of ingredients are usually highly processed and not considered clean. Also, scientific-sounding ingredients are man-made chemicals and are not considered clean. A good rule of thumb, if you don't know the ingredient or it's difficult to pronounce, it probably isn't good for you.

Here are the 3 basic rules to Clean Eating.

1. Skip the preservatives

Preservatives have been a lifesaver when it comes to convenience. However, many studies suggest there are health risks associated with many preservatives. Business Week has reported that many common additives may be carcinogenic. They have also been linked to skin sensitivities and allergies.

2. Avoid processed and refined foods

Processing removes most of the nutrients in our food. Try to avoid white flour, sugar, bread and pasta. Eat whole grains instead. Some people have found that they are sensitive to wheat, so you may want to cut back if it is a problem for you.

Try experimenting with different kinds of grains. Brown rice is healthy and easily tolerated by most people. Ancient grains like Amaranth and Quinoa are also gaining in popularity. Quinoa is very nutritious, high in protein and easy to prepare. Try using it in a pilaf or substituting it for pasta in salads.

3. Limit sugar

Rodalereports that the American Heart Association recommends no more than 100 sugar calories per day for women and 150 sugar calories per day for men. However, the average American consumes 3 times that amount.

Remember, not all sugars are created equal. Most sugars are highly processed and have a high glycemic index, which can cause problems with blood sugar. Organic Lifestyle Magazine says that stevia is a great sugar alternative. It is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, which means you need to use much less. It has a glycemic index of less than one, so it does not feed candida or lead to other health issues associated with sugar.

Agave nectar, raw honey, and palm or coconut sugar also have a relatively low glycemic index. Raw honey is very nutritious, with antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes and phytonutrients. Good quality, organic black strap molasses also contains minerals.

If you must indulge your sweet tooth, opt for one of the healthier sugars for your treats.

Once these basic rules have become a habit, you can add these optional suggestions.

  • Eat protein with every meal.

  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.

  • Limit dairy. Many people are sensitive or allergic to dairy products. Keep them to a minimum if this is a problem for you.

  • Get enough to drink. Experts recommend 6 to 8 glasses of water.

  • Choose organic when possible. This will limit your intake of pesticides.

  • Consume healthy fats, such as olive or coconut oil and real butter. Avoid fried foods.

  • Learn about portion sizes and eat within them.

  • Slow down and savor. Do not rush through your meal.

  • Involve your family. Instead of making separate meals, prepare clean meals for the whole family.

With a little effort, Clean Eating can become a healthier way of life for you and your family.

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