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What Is Clean Eating For Realz in my busy mom's opinion who has successfully followed clean eating rules for 5 years. | ifoodreal.com

Sigh. Getting my shield and armour out and diving into this controversial topic of What Is Clean Eating. But for REALZ because I hate BS. You know that. Running a clean eating food blog for 4 years now, I think I’m a bit overdue with clearly explaining what do I preach in my temple. I explain a bit here but I feel like a bigger statement should take place now and put an end to media’s BS.

Clean Eating’s False Bad Rep

Clean eating was the fastest growing food trend in 2016. While it is great, many online influencers including media, RD’s and even big bloggers took advantage of this trend and created content completely badmouthing clean eating using ridiculous claims about it. Claims without any back up and just writing what they want to get clicks. I really itch to point fingers but unfortunately it is kinda not appropriate in America. Sigh.

See, online is a very crowded marketplace now because anyone can start a blog and write what they want. Virtually anyone. So, you have to really stand out to fight for your spot under the sun aka page views. And that is what they did. Mainly clinging onto the name “clean eating” and scoring high ranking posts in Google with flashy titles and crappy content. Yes, crappy content. Total BS. I have seen statements saying “All food is good food and clean eating sucks because it eliminates certain foods”. Duh, it does. Clean eating bashes and smashes processed garbage foods. Since when McDonald’s is a good for us food? Someone wrote a total nonsense without realizing that clean eating doesn’t eliminate ANY single real food item. None. You can’t just go and say that all food is good. Unfortunately, that is not the case. It is what is done to the food that makes it bad and this is what clean eating is about – eliminating junk.

Bottom line is do not believe everything you read out there. I have seen RD’s promoting Truvia full of artificial chemical ingredients because they get paid good money. At last, Truvia is owned by Coca-Cola, so they can afford big marketing.

What Is Clean Eating For Realz in my busy mom's opinion who has successfully followed clean eating rules for 5 years. | ifoodreal.com

Clean Eating Is Not a Diet

Now that we brought all bad reppers to justice, let’s talk what clean eating is.

Repeat after me: Clean eating is not a diet. Clean eating is not a diet. Clean eating is not a diet. Clean eating is not a diet. Clean eating is not a diet.

America is the only country in the whole entire world that constantly comes up with diets, miracle pills and easy ways out and excuses to eat junk food and to avoid getting fat and unhealthy. Yes, I used the word “fat”. Yes, it is true! I can’t believe it’s not butter, diet pop, sugar free anything, water drops, fat free everything etc.

Oh, and don’t forget the calorie counting. That is epic. Being an immigrant and growing up in a poor country, this oxymoron is so obvious to me. To make you feel better, I, myself, fell a victim of diets and calories. Thankfully, I dug myself out from this grave.

The thing is that diets don’t work. Neither do pills, shakes and slimming coffee. You simply can’t live all your life depriving yourself of something, counting calories, drinking Hydroxicat pills, eating high protein foods, chugging Valentus and Slimfast. Eventually you will snap and that is why diets don’t work, my friends. Plus diet products made in a lab are harmful for your health.

If you want my opinion what are examples of diets, here you go – gluten free, 21 Day Fix, paleo, low carb, Atkins, Dr. Bernstein, high protein, raw food and vegan. Now, if you have a Celiac disease (which only 1% of people have) then of course you HAVE to avoid gluten. If you chose to eat vegan, it is a personal choice and I am not against it. So I am not even going to argue whether it is healthy or not. I’m just saying that it is a diet. Just like counting boxes with 21 Day Fix or eating only raw fruits and vegetables. Eliminating certain real food ingredients makes nutrition a diet. And it is fine by me because we are all grown ups (I would like to think that).

What Is Clean Eating For Realz in my busy mom's opinion who has successfully followed clean eating rules for 5 years. | ifoodreal.com

Clean Eating Is a Lifestyle

So, this is why I chose clean eating – it is a lifestyle. All clean eating means is eating real food. That is it, people. It is just a fancy name for NORMAL food. Not cheetos, doritos or kraft dinners but potatoes, cheese, chicken and bananas. Clean eating basics include minimally processed, quality grown or raised, sustainable ingredients.

This is where online trolls come in sometimes. And they are aggressive. One girl wrote blog posts on her raw food blog about my recipes saying “How is that clean eating if it has dairy in it?”. Well, guess what?! Clean eating is not a raw food diet. Neither it is a plant-based or gluten free diet. Dairy is real food. What quality of dairy, what dairy and in what amount you eat dairy is a total different question. This is how rumours about clean eating are born and today with so many people having online access it happens within seconds.

So, clean eating is a lifestyle eating quality real food you can afford, drinking water and being active. Whether you agree with that or not is your choice but this is what clean eating is.

What Is Clean Eating For Realz in my busy mom's opinion who has successfully followed clean eating rules for 5 years. | ifoodreal.com

Real Life Balance

Having said all of the above, now creeps in real life. And my real life is that I have 2 kids (a full-time job), this blog I love (another full-time job), a husband (a full-time job with overtime), a house, friends etc. You got the drill. Aren’t we all busy?! So, I get it.

This is why I will preach – do what you can. Clean eating doesn’t have to be hardcore life-threatening path to follow. Chances are you will die sooner from stressing out about eating real food than eating a hot dog once in a while. I promise you. Let’s not kill ourselves.

So, as a real life mom I do what I can. I would say we eat clean 80% of the time and that is why I started What I Ate Weekend series so you can see I’m not perfect. Because no one really is. So, live a little and have a cookie during holidays or pizza when your fridge is empty. At the end of the day, you gotta eat.

Also, I want to mention that eating clean is easier for some people and harder for others depending where you live. I find, the US has more affordable organic and whole food options than Canada. For example, one can buy prepared fresh whole wheat pizza dough at Trader Joe’s where as in Canada – good luck with that. So, I do what I can.

What Is Clean Eating For Realz in my busy mom's opinion who has successfully followed clean eating rules for 5 years. | ifoodreal.com

Clean Eating Rules

  1. Real Food – vegetables, fruit, meat. If it didn’t grow or had a mother, it is not real food.
  2. No Crap Ingredients – read the label and if it contains lab made ingredients, don’t buy. You will have to educate yourself on some weird names – Google is your friend and you can do it.
  3. Quality – use common sense. You got it. You are a human. Sometimes you are better off to buy organic. Sometimes local farmer’s lettuce or chicken who doesn’t have money to get organic certification is better than organic from Mexico. Ask questions and use your common sense. You got it. You are a human. Here are my tips for shopping at the farmers market.
  4. Water – water is the only liquid I drink to satisfy thirst and I always carry a bottle with me. Again, just use common sense and drink a good amount of water. There is really no need to chug down a set amount of water. Don’t wait until you are thirsty and do not kill yourself over counting oz’s.
  5. Check out how we eat organic on a budget – 120 cheap organic foods I buy.
What Is Clean Eating For Realz in my busy mom's opinion who has successfully followed clean eating rules for 5 years. | ifoodreal.com

Clean Eating for Beginners

Where to start? Where to start? Where to start eating clean?

In a nutshell: Start cooking. Pick a recipe from the lists below and make one. Or two. Just start and the rest will follow. Don’t be scared. It is damn easy. Forget about Martha Stewart and Bon Appetite. That is some complicated SHIT. I blame 50% of those publications responsible for North Americans’ fear of cooking. And another 50% of the blame goes to food corps producing cheap junk to make billions of $$$ and not caring about people’s health.


55 Clean Eating Dinner Recipes in 30 Minutes

25 Clean Eating Breakfast Recipes on the Go

88 Superfood Salad Recipes

65 Clean Eating Freezer Meals

9 No Recipe Clean Eating Dinners

30 Healthy Zucchini Recipes

40 Healthy Potluck Recipes

50 Clean Eating Chicken Recipes

This post may contain affiliate links. When you buy a product I make a small commission without any extra cost to you. In return, you can enjoy free recipes as well as savings on your favourite products. I also shared Clean Eating Ingredients I Buy and Kitchen Appliances +Tools I Use. Please buy local, organic and fair trade whenever feasible.


  1. Darren

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I grew up on a farm, eating and living CLEAN, and although 30 years later I don’t live on a farm, I still live and have instilled these virtues into my family (I still have a garden +-1 acre). I know that there are many of us out there but it still chaps my butt (occasionally ) about diets and stupid is and will always be stupid. I could go on but your article says it. Thank you again.

    • Olena

      I know exactly how you feel! Your comment reminded me one more time how important it is to speak up in what you believe! I will publish more posts about food and nutrition. Happy New Year, Darren!

  2. Christy @ Feasting Not Fasting

    You read my mind Olena! I can’t remember the last time I read something that summarized my thoughts so well. In the clean eating blog world, its so easy to hold yourself back because you’re afraid of that one person that’s going to call you out. I’ve had a few comments saying my recipes aren’t healthy because I use dairy or whole wheat flour and I’m so over it!! Can we all just get back to eating normal and using common sense? I think we all have to define what we want in our own diets but you’ve gotta leave enough room to live a little. Where’s the fun in eating carrot sticks and celery all day. Make an effort, but lighten up people! Sometimes pizza is good for mental health. It doesn’t mean you can’t restart the next morning with a green smoothie and get right back at it.

    Anyways, rant over. Happiest of happy new years to you!

    • Olena

      Happy New Year, Christy! At first I was scared. Yes, you are right. And then I didn’t want to deal with nasty comments. I am trying to keep my life as positive as possible because life is short. I just don’t wanna deal with it and many bloggers don’t either. BUT I’m over it. I’m gonna lay it out here the way I WANT it to lay because it is my thoughts and my blog. While it might drive someone crazy and he will spill his crap on me, it might help a thousand people to be healthy. Our modern society is full of fears to speak up and I’m not doing that. I realized in a way this is no different than communism with its brainwash and instilling fear. And I’m not doing that. I will do with my blog whatever I want and my main goal is to help people live a normal healthy happy life. Believe it or not with all info out there the true info is shared verbally and very few people are brave enough to say it online. And somehow extremes are popular. “Oh no, we don’t eat bread.” “Oh no, we are on Whole 30 including kids”. “Oh no, we don’t eat gluten. No, nobody has celiac.” Excuse me, are you an alien or just full of crap?! Why can’t we just eat normal real food without extremes?! Seems like a rare find these days and I’m gonna raise awareness about it because luckily I CAN! Many people don’t even realize there is no need to suffer. I was there and I’m sharing my story next how I ate protein in abnormal amounts to be lean. Omg how dumb it was!!! So, I’m gonna share. Whole30 and paleo diets are no different. Yep, I said it. And how many people are doing Whole30 now? Yep, open your Instagram and see lol. I have not seen so much meat products in my fridge for years. How that can be healthy?! I just don’t get it but I do – money for marketing folks and uneducated consumers. I was there. Ok I should stop. Separate post.

      • Christy @ Feasting Not Fasting

        I feel you 100%! I’ve honestly been holding back on my thoughts on all of this for a long time, afraid to offend whatever paleo obsessed nut might read this and take offense to the fact that I put cheese in a salad. It is like little mini pockets of communism. Its a big world though and we don’t need to be preaching to those that are set in their ways when there are plenty of others that feel the same way we do!! Can’t please them all so what’s the point in trying? Not taking a firm position on your beliefs doesn’t help anyone, especially your readers that are looking for realistic recipes and a common sense, sustainable approach. Well, you’ve inspired me (yet again). This year, my blog is going to embrace MY way of eating. Screw the trolls and their nasty comments.

  3. Sue Walsh

    You have just done your readers such an ENORMOUS FAVOR! Common sense, organic and no GMOs when possible – eat FOOD! Someone once said you should shop around the periphery (edges) of your grocery store. That’s where the real food is. Everything down the aisles is processed, filled with chemicals and preservatives = not food. So simple! Also, garbage in, garbage out; you are what you eat. If you had a Ferrari you wouldn’t put cheap gas and oil in it! We each have our own personal Ferrari – feed it well!

  4. Missy baker

    I am a nobody living in Frostburg, MD good old USA. I love your blog. Not real into the internet just trying to make ends meet, homeschooling four children. You are an inspiration to stay on KISS aka keep it simple stupid. I can foods out of Necessity and try to buy organic and non processed food at all times. It takes more work but is much cheaper. Everyone ask why my kids are so big and strong? Gotta be form neccisity.My 12 year old is 200lbs 5’10 not a ounce of fat. I hate labels. Even his pediatrician said if you go by normal standards he should weigh 140lbs. Someone please tell my healthy 12 year old he needs to loose 60lbs. Even his doctor said that’s Is ludicrous. Gotta love clean farm eating. I’m raising three real men and one beautiful women that doesn’t conform to the worlds standards, I love America!!!!

    • Olena

      Hi Missy Baker. How is that you are “a nobody”? Homeschooling 4 kids and “a nobody”? I bet no single CEO of corporate America could homeschool 4 children and can food. Right?! We canned out of necessity in Ukraine too. My mom lives on a farm now, has a garden and cans. She doesn’t have to but it’s a habit – to save money. Anything you can do in the kitchen yourself saves you a lot of money. I try the same too, sometimes I’m just so tired though. No canning for me though haha. You must have a garden though, right?! Simple things like making my own applesauce with our organic apples, cooking beans instead of buying canned and making my own chicken stock saves me a ton of money. I don’t buy tiny packages of anything. Anything packaged is a rip off. So, keep doing what you are doing, and don’t worry about who thinks what. This world is too loud. I can almost guarantee your kids will get better education at home. Today’s curriculum is ridiculous (at least elementary-middle school level). I taught my 10 year old to write not messy myself, just now when I gave up waiting on it from school. You know how? By simply writing same words 5 times each – learning spelling and practicing writing. Simple as that. No tutors needed. They don’t do that at schools anymore but this is how I grew up in Ukraine and it worked. So, don’t you think you are “a nobody”!!!
      P.S. America’s standards are quite screwed up in terms of looks and health so keep doing what you are doing.:)

  5. Deborah

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I couldn’t agree more! I have done a couple of diet routes and while they worked for a time, they were exactly that — work. Clean eating is completely natural to me. Maybe because it IS a lifestyle! You are very right about the organic options being less available in Canada. I get super excited when I find affordable and lovely organic options here in Canada. I even live near a border town, but we rarely have reason to go across into the United States. Clean eating just feels so good!!

    • Olena

      Hi Deborah. You are so smart – exactly diets are work. So true – they work temporarily but it is work.
      I live near the US border and when CAD $ was on par with US $, we used to go grocery shopping in the US all the time. It was long time ago, and I find nowadays Canadian Costco has great organic food selection. The situation has improved significantly. I have also learnt that organic standards are quiet more stringent in Canada than in the US, therefore higher cost here. Anyways, I know what you mean for sure. And “yay” for embracing clean eating!!! There is so much misinformation out there – many people think clean eating is gluten free and plant-based. It is not. So much confusing info. That is why I published this post and am glad I did. Clean eating is not a diet! All the best to you!

  6. Kelly

    I discovered your blog a couple of weeks ago when I was looking for something to do with a bumper crop of spaghetti squash besides the usual “pretend it’s noodles” route. My family LOVED your recipe for spaghetti squash crust quiche (though I admit, I did add in 4 slices of cooked uncured bacon). I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your balanced approach to healthy living. I started cooking more and more from scratch years ago when my children were little and my husband and I were trying to make living on 1 income work so I could be home. I found that ultimately, if I bought in bulk and eschewed the convenience foods, we saved a lot of money at the grocery store. But the more I perused the internet for recipes from scratch, the more I kept coming across clean-eating, natural living blogs, and health became even more of a priority than budget. Over the years I’ve bought into all the “healthy eating” fads, from gluten-free to dairy-free to everything in between. I felt miserable on all of these diets, and I’d always end up bingeing on the things I was missing! Finally, I wised up and decided that the only thing I really needed to kick to the curb was refined sugar and flour, low-fat/fat-free dairy and other heavily processed junk. I am amazed by how much better I feel (and how my weight has naturally regulated itself), when I traded out the skim milk for whole, fat free creamer for half’n’half, fat free yogurt and sour cream for the real stuff, vegetable oil for coconut oil, butter and olive oil. My doctor called me after a recent check up and I was sure that he was going to tell me that my cholesterol was through the roof. But it had actually DROPPED to the lowest it’s been EVER. So, I just wanted to thank you for this article on what clean eating is REALY all about. It is a lifestyle, not a diet. And I am so grateful to be choosing this healthy path for my family!

    • Olena

      Thank you for sharing your story, Kelly. I couldn’t agree more and am so happy you had your “aha” moment. There is so much more coming to our website this Fall about really what healthy eating is and how to do it. We need to show people that on their own path to health the only obstacle is them.

  7. Debie Cline

    I like what you are saying! It made me think of the quote “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.
    It’s not everyone has to agree absolutely on everything, geez! Keep on with the good work and thank you for sharing.



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