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How Does a Restaurant Become Clean Foodie Approved?

Running a restaurant is an incredibly tough undertaking. Even before the pandemic, it wasn’t for the faint of heart.

Being a Clean Foodie isn’t easy either. It takes a ton of research and diligence. It would be much easier to simply eat fast food and processed foods – our bodies would undoubtedly revolt and wreak havoc on our health and wellbeing.

Obviously, my friends, the effort to try and eat clean is well worth it in the long run.

We have similar feelings about the chefs and restaurant owners who go above and beyond and run their businesses with clean eating principles. They could be doing things in a much easier way, but instead they invest in practices that are better for their customers’ health in the long run. WE APPRECIATE THAT SO MUCH!

It is a huge challenge for a restaurant to source 100% clean ingredients, 100% of the time. Out of the thousands of restaurants has visited and reviewed, only a handful have been able to succeed in doing so.

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Clean Foodie founder, Irene Ouillette visiting a Clean Foodie approved restaurant.

But our gratitude doesn’t extend to only those very few elite restaurants. We are grateful for the huge wave of restaurant owners and chefs who are making the moves toward sourcing clean ingredients and staying away from GMO’s and processed, chemical laden foods and supporting local farms where they can.

Still, we have stringent requirements and based on current averages, less than 1% of all restaurants in the US will meet these minimum standards.

Bit by bit, eating food that is free of harmful chemicals, full of nutrients, and cultivated in a way that doesn’t harm will be the status quo. That’s our hope, at least. And that’s why shining a light on these values-driven businesses with is our mission!

We’re all about transparency at Clean Foodie – so to that end, we’d also like to shine a light on how we rate the restaurants we visit… has created a system to determine how many “Cleanacados” a restaurant or market earns based on the percentage of clean ingredients and foods they offer, ranging from 1 to 5. Some spots may just be starting out on their Clean Ingredient Journey and just serve organic or local organically grown produce and make everything from scratch. Good effort! That will secure 1 “Cleanacado”.

Just to get a single “Cleanacado” puts a restaurant ahead of the vast majority who would not even earn a Clean Foodie visit!
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As a restaurant increases the number of items on their menu that are clean (organic, biodynamic, 100% grass-fed, pasture-raised, etc.) the more “Cleanacados” are earned. Most of our favorite spots land somewhere in the 3 to 4 “Cleanacado” range. This is not to be scoffed at!

For more info on how we rate restaurants on visit our Rating Guide, and to understand what we are thinking when we talk about “Clean Eating” check out this post Clean Food 101.

Granted, we would love to see that change. We are totally committed to a day when every restaurant in the USA lands somewhere on the Clean Foodie scale. That is why this Clean Food Finder was made! So more people can know where to go to support the businesses making the extra effort, taking better care of their health and doing it deliciously at the same time.

The more that restaurants on our list succeed and flourish, the more other’s will take notice and follow suit. And we are happy to report that is already happening! Let’s keep voting with those dollars, Clean Foodies!

Here’s the thing: The more people notice clean restaurants succeeding, the more “green-washing” occurs. This means some restaurants will use “clean” marketing tactics to get butts in the seats (or to-go orders out the door) without following-up their marketing with the tough work of actually sourcing clean ingredients. Or they just fall back on mostly processed foods. That really isn’t cool, and they won’t earn “Cleanacados”.

And we don’t add businesses to our directory based on name alone. If a place is called “So and So’s All Natural Cafe” we don’t assume that their menu is clean. Instead, there are a series of questions we ask about their ingredients in order to better understand exactly what percentage of their dishes would earn them “Cleanacados”.

What we aim to determine is where their ingredients are sourced, how they are grown or raised, and what the animals are fed. And we also want to determine what items, if any, are pre-made or processed.

An example question we ask is:

We understand that USDA organic certification comes with a lot of upfront costs. So a local farm that is committed to growing without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or is implementing biodynamic or permaculture practices is still making an amazing contribution to the Clean Food supply chain. That’s why we really want to talk to restaurant owners and chefs about the suppliers they are working with.

For many chefs, ingredients are king. So you will have no trouble hearing about the amazing farms that they source from. Many of them visit the farms themselves and develop close working relationships with their suppliers. Or they’re growing a good portion of the food themselves. These are the establishments that often end up on our Top Picks lists.

When we ask a restaurant where their ingredients are sourced and they’re unable to give specific answers or are vague in how they selected their ingredients, we know that’s a warning sign. As we said in the beginning, it takes some work to be clean, so you generally don’t forget the work it took to make those decisions and establish those superior supply chains.

There may be a few Mom’n’Pop spots out there that’ve been doing it the old-school, chemical-free, farm-fresh, scratch-made way for so long that they have no idea they’re special. We absolutely love uncovering those hidden gems, and getting the word out to all of you. But the vast majority of places will gladly label and proclaim the extra level of quality and effort they’re making to provide better, cleaner, healthier food. is the gleeful horn that *toots* in praise of every restaurant making this extra effort and valuing the health of their customers and the quality of their food.

If you run an establishment like this, or know of one, please let us know!

Or go to our APPLICATION FOR CONSIDERATION page and fill out our form today.

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