March 28, 2016 12:41 PM

Courtesy Lisa Lillien

Lisa Lillien is the author of the popular Hungry Girl website and email newsletter, featuring smart, funny advice on guilt-free eating. She is also the author of ten books, six of which debuted at number one on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Read her blog every Monday for slimmed-down celebrity recipes and more.

The concept of clean eating is huge these days, which is great. But is it realistic for everyone? Where would you even start? I’ve got answers…

Here’s the 411 on clean eating, in a nutshell: While there’s no official definition, ‘clean eating’ tends to focus on a diet of natural whole foods (fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, natural protein, etc.). What gets skipped? Refined sugar, heavily processed food, and anything artificial. There are different degrees of clean eating– some have very strict specifications about how and where the food is harvested, produced, raised, packaged, etc. It can be a little intimidating!

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That’s why I came up with a real-world approach to clean eating, known as Clean & Hungry. It embraces the basic tenets of clean eating without being too extreme. It’s accessible to the masses, and it’s also great for weight management (something other clean-eating strategies don’t always accomplish). I also keep my recipes simple. If dishes are too complicated and/or call for very obscure ingredients, most people won’t make them!

Below are some of my Clean & Hungry basics that you can start embracing today:

Stick with all-natural foods (like fruits and veggies) and foods that are readily available in all-natural varieties (like cheese and yogurt). When in doubt, read the ingredient lists, and avoid anything questionable.

Limit refined sugar. If you’ve got to have it, go for minimally processed kinds like cane sugar or agave syrup. Better yet, stick with all-natural sweeteners that are free of calories and sugar, like stevia and monk fruit. You can also turn to the natural sweetness of fruit. For example, I like to bake with no-sugar-added applesauce and make frozen treats with mashed bananas.

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Swap out starchy and/or processed carbs for fresh vegetables. While whole grains and potatoes are great, they can be calorie dense. Craving rice? Blitz cauliflower florets into rice-sized pieces in a blender, and lightly cook until softened in a skillet. The texture and mild taste works perfectly! You can also mash cooked cauliflower for a light spin on mashed potatoes. Heck, cauliflower can even be made into pizza crust! And if you love pasta, try spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles.

Want to dabble in Clean & Hungry recipes? Try this Naked Chicken & Eggplant Parm, oatmeal recipes, and this Spaghetti Squash Pie. The entrees each have five ingredients or less, and all of the recipes have under 400 calories!

Hungry for more? Check out my brand-new cookbook: Hungry Girl Clean & Hungry: Easy All-Natural Recipes for Healthy Eating in the Real World. It makes its official debut this week!

‘Til next time… Chew the right thing!

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