Eating Clean > Paleo

So I wanted to definitely take times to address this, because I think there is an important distinction between these two “movements”- well one is a movement, one is a modified fad diet (sorry I’m not sorry). My rule with fad diets is anytime an entire food group is removed or you have to buy a book to do it correctly then it’s a fad diet.  It is the Cadillac of fad diets- but it is a fad diet nonetheless.

Clean eating is really more of healthy lifestyle choices that focuses on adding nutrient dense foods everyday and keeping more processed/refined foods not in the daily lineup.

Here is the breakdown


The claim is that this “diet” will lead you to a healthier, fitter, and disease free lifestyle. The premise of the diet is that the way our lifestyles are now (highly processed foods, lots of sugar, salt, fat, low activity, refined grains etc) versus the paleolithic era (hunter gatherers- on the move, eating meats, berries, vegetables etc).  Here is the problem.  People in the paleolithic era apparently did not eat legumes or dairy, or “any” grains” (the grains is just stupid- because the premise to that is grains came after the agricultural revolution- this is not true- grains have been around for many years- there are many ancient grains (emmer, triticale, rye, etc) whole and unprocessed grains are not a problem.  The grains we consume today- yes – they are different now than the ones eaten then- but I still don’t think that is any reason to discount whole grains.  Or dairy.

There is plenty of research that advocate the paleo diet- funnily enough most of it was done by Dr. Loren Cordain or other members of the Cordain family referenced on the Paleo website.  yeah- so you know its legit- no conflict of interest there.  To be honest there is no evidence that it will prevent any chronic disease such as heart disease or diabetes, in fact if followed incorrectly this could elevate cholesterol levels- by placing such an emphasis on meat.

As I said before in terms of fad diets this isn’t a terrible one- but it is one just the same.  I just feel there are certain flaws in this plan- such as (unfortunately) as humans we have evolved from hunters and gatherers- and It makes sense that our bodies might have changed as well.  And believe the outright discounting of legumes, dairy, and and grains is preposterous.

I think that some people do have sensitivities to dairy and certain grains, and may find benefit from eliminating them but that is not the case in every situation.

So I found this amazing little treasure on google, and it is pretty dead on.  I like the breakdown and comparisons.
So I found this amazing little treasure on google, and it is pretty dead on. I like the breakdown and comparisons.

Eating Clean-

Eating clean kind of stemmed from the “Natural Health Movement” in the 1960’s.  Clean eating focuses on all of the benefits of paleo and then some- but mainly focuses on nutrient dense foods that have not been processed, refined, modified or leached of nutrients, as well as touting (you guessed it) the benefits of physical activity.  And thankfully this clean eating movement, has been rejuvenated, and is quite abuzz.

And since the last time I checked “processed junk food” is not its own food group- so eliminating this group (for the most part) does not count as a fad diet.  The mainstays behind this diet are choosing whole and natural foods void of “tampering” (i.e. GMO, processed, etc), selecting unrefined versus refined- especially in terms of grains (brown rice, quinoa, millet), as well as legumes (whole grains and legumes if you recall are a no no in the paleo plan).  Additionally including all three macronutrients in each meal (carbs, protein, and fat), but obviously in a moderate (nonexcessive way), gravitate away from excess and added salt, and sugar- some experts suggest avoid things in bags/boxes/packaging- but sometimes this will confuse people (i.e you can buy veggies in bags sometimes).  I tell my patients to be wary of anything that can sit on your shelf, or in your fridge for an indefinite period of times- it will likely have too much salt and/or sugar.  Boom.

Incorporate 3 meals with appropriate snacks or 5-6 small meals per day.  I personally opt for three meals that I have worked to make a little smaller and have healthy snacks between my meals such as a KIND Bar, fruit, cheese (fruit + cheese).  Whatever works better for you.

Another common sense tid bit incorporated into clean eating is: DO NOT DRINK YOUR CALORIES.  No juices, no pops, no sugar sweetened beverages, etc.  That also means ditching the 12 creams you put in your coffee along with your afternoon double mocha, caramel cookie crumble -cino because trust me those coffee treats are not light on the calories or fat, or sugar either.

For many people the sweet beverage rule means weaning off of these beverages completely and re-training your taste buds to enjoy more natural flavors- a good place to start is diluting juice with water then eliminating the juice completely- or adding from fruit and mint to water (i.e. lemon and mint) with a dash of stevia.  And also weaning the amount of sugar/cream you put in your coffee, and maybe switching some coffee out for tea.  I personally have a small diet coke at lunch and a coffee in the morning with a splenda- and I don’t feel bad about it.  Because I fill in the rest of my day with about 64 oz (8 cups) of water either plain old water or fruit infused water.

And last but certainly not least- clean eating doesn’t just encourage good nutrition habits- it encourages good wellness and lifestyle habits (maybe because it is more of a lifestyle versus of diet) such as PHYSICAL ACTIVITY.  The benefits of physical activity are endless- well maybe not endless- but the list of benefits is pretty darn long.  Even for people who have poor mobility, or injuries can find ways to exercise (chair exercises, swimming)- to those who are intermediate or “expert” athletes movement and activity is good for us.  Exercise makes our little brains happy, and is excellent in terms of glycemic and cardiovascular health.

clean eating

In closing I hope have shed some light on these two hot topics and been able to highlight that while one is in fact a fancy fad diet- and one is a lifestyle choice that provides common sense guidelines rather than a strict set of rules.  Lifestyle changes will always win out because they allow for indulgences with out guilt (or a ton of it anyway).  Remember friends there is a difference between daily eats and our treats 🙂


  1. Great post! I’ve been living the clean eating lifestyle for a long time now, and I never would have been able to do this if it wasn’t sustainable. I tell people all the time that diets don’t work; you have to make a lifestyle change. I tried to go without grains (like the paleo diet), but I only lasted a couple weeks. Clean eating is definitely the way to go!

  2. Very interesting! It’s great to read a post that distinguishes between the two as I’ve always wondering where you draw the line.
    Have you ever tried the “Paleo Diet” just out of your own curiosity?

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