Cabbage soup and low-carb. Calorie counting. Points. ... there are so many different styles of eating and diets out there intended to help you lose some pounds and be healthier. But if you truly want to be healthier, than it's a lifestyle change, not a diet, that will help.

Enter Clean Eating, a style of eating that is growing in popularity.

Clean Eating is basically eating whole foods -- which are foods as they come from nature (i.e., fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, etc). The food is cooked (don't confuse this with the Raw Food diet, where food isn't cooked), and can be seasoned well (think herbs, spices, salt, pepper and healthy fats like olive oil).

Proponents of this style of eating say that the food tastes great and makes you feel good. To find out more about it, I asked Cate O'Malley of the blog Sweetnicks to tell us about how she's made the switch to clean eating this year -- and seen some great effects.

You've had some amazing health achievements this year. How much have you lost and how have you done it? 

Cate O'Malley: Thank you!  So far, I have lost 44 pounds this year, and through a combination of changing our eating habits and the way we view food, along with adding a very active workout schedule, the weight has come off, and more importantly, stayed off.  For me, I have to have the combination of eating + exercise.  I don't think you can really have one without the other and be successful in meeting goals.  Once I figured out the pieces individually, and combined the two, magic happened.

You recently wrote that clean eating was an instrumental change in your life. How did you first learn about clean eating, and what prompted you to try it? 

CO: Some 13 years ago, two months before I got married, I bartered with a personal trainer client to quickly lose 30 lbs.  I had purchased my wedding dress two sizes smaller, and the race (and the pressure!) was on.  The eating plan he put me on was very similar to clean eating ... food in its most natural state, as God and nature intended.  And the weight came off.  This year, when I made the resolution to "get back to basics" and take care of me (name that movie!) more, I gravitated to the eating that I did with my old personal trainer.  A little research beyond that and I discovered clean eating.  Put simply, it's eating foods that do not have ingredients.  For example, Oreos and Twinkies have ingredients.  Fruits, vegetables, proteins and fish do not.  Nothing processed. 

What makes clean eating different from other health-focused eating styles like South Beach or the Mediterranean Diet? 

CO: Once you learn the basics, adopting a clean eating method is very simple to follow.  As long as you eat the "right" foods, you can have as much as you want, so there are no quantities to follow or measuring calories and the like.  It's not complicated at all, and really just falls into place.

How has clean eating changed the way you cook? 

CO: It really brings it back to basics.  My cooking now really lets the individual flavors shine through in a way that perhaps they didn't as well before.  It also takes considerably less thought.  I can pull together a dinner in under 15 minutes because it involves so much less prep now, and really, I just feel heaps better about what I'm putting on the table.  Even better that my kids (ages 8 and 2) have embraced it as well.  My daughter likes nothing better than snacking from a bowl of cherry tomatoes, and it doesn't get more "clean eating" than that!

What's your favorite clean eating-style dish?

CO: Stir-fries and salads are some of my go-tos, along with grilled proteins and fish and now that the colder weather is here, lots and lots of roasted root vegetables.  I love visiting our farmers' market and finding a new vegetable that I don't know anything about, and coming home and finding a way to make it delicious.  Roasted yellow beets were a favorite from last week's farmers' market haul.  My 8-year-old son will happily ask for a "big Greek salad" over chicken nuggets any day of the week, with no prompting from me, and I love that. 

Are there any special kitchen tools that you needed to pull off your clean eating diet? 

CO: No, nothing special needed at all.  You can start right ... this ... very ... moment.

Sarah W. Caron (aka scaron) is a food writer, editor and blogger who writes about family-friendly foods and raising a healthy family at Sarah's Cucina Bella.