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It may sound like just another trendy diet plan, but clean eating is drawing attention because it’s a set of simple, gimmick-free, and flexible steps to make your diet better for you… and the planet. It focuses on eating organic and sustainable meat, fish, and produce, as well as drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated. Since clean eating encourages keeping food in as natural a state as possible, recipes are quick and easy to prepare.

Here are five simple ways to help make clean eating an effective, manageable solution for you:

1. Eat five or six meals a day. Typically that breaks down to three full meals and two snacks. Meals include a lean protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a complex carbohydrate such as pasta or bread. Snacks can be anything from yogurt to a handful of nuts. The idea behind this is that eating small, frequent meals keeps the body energized, and prevents overeating.

2. Choose organic and simple. Foods with a long list of ingredients with names you can’t pronounce, are not considered “clean” and are generally discouraged. Organic products, particularly those grown in a sustainable manner, are preferred. Clean eating also includes choosing water over calorie-rich beverages (think soda or sports drinks). Antioxidant-rich red wines are also prioritized.

3. Know your fats. Healthy fats such as those found in avocados, olive, almond, and palm oils are considered clean and have great flavors for cooking. Even butter, though often reviled by diet plans, has been shown to have significant health properties by recent studies.

4. Learn portion sizes. Eating five to six times a day isn’t supposed to leave you stuffed — so portion sizes are critical. An effective way to measure is the Rule of Thumb Guide. Using your hand as a guide, it is easy to keep track of the food on your plate. Two hands together forming a little bowl equals one cup, a good serving size for cereal, soup, and salads. Halve it for grains, fruits, and legumes. Does it fit in the palm of your hand? That’s about three ounces, which is ideal for cooked meats and canned fish. Lastly, two thumbs equals one tablespoon — perfect for peanut butter, mayonnaise, and salad dressings.

5. Keep it green. Look for products that are sustainably harvested and have a reduced carbon footprint. For more information on environmentally friendly seafood choices, visit www.seachoice.org.

Clean eating is not designed to be a strict diet plan. It’s meant to be a guide to a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle. Even adopting just one of the changes above can make a positive difference in your health, and the environment.

Photo: threelayercake via Flickr

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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