Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean for a restaurant to be “Clean Plates Approved”?

It means the restaurant has undergone our rigorous screening process, which scrutinizes everything from sourcing (is the produce organic? is the meat hormone-free?) to food preparation methods, availability of natural sweeteners and more. Here’s a detailed description of how our ratings work.

How do you define “healthy”?

The basis of our philosophy is bio-individuality, meaning that there is more than one right way to eat.  We primarily focus on the quality of ingredients; read more about our nutritional philosophy here, and pick up a copy of our book for a more in-depth explanation.

What’s more important: locally grown, or organic?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this one. Organic but non-local produce is free of pesticides that are harmful to our bodies and the soil — but requires extra energy to transport from farm to table, and loses nutrients along the way. On the other hand, locally grown but non-organic goods retain most of their nutrients because of the speed at which they get to our plates — but they may be sprayed with chemicals, which are damaging to our bodies, the soil and the atmosphere. Ultimately, it’s a matter of personal choice, and if you choose one or the other, you’re doing pretty well.

How do you know if a restaurant is using good quality ingredients?

We have an extensive screening process based on anonymous phone and online research as well as in-person visits. In addition, a nutritionist audits the menu, and restaurants answer a 300-question survey.

How is the book different from the website?

The book describes Clean Plates founder Jared Koch’s nutritional philosophy — we touch on it online, but offer many more details in the book. In addition, as far as restaurant reviews, the book only contains around 100 of our top selections; the site has a much wider offering.

Do the restaurants pay you?

No. We always pose as everyday customers when we initially screen and dine at the restaurant. We may negotiate agreements with approved restaurants in order to offer exclusive deals and privileges to our community.

Why isn’t my favorite vegetarian restaurant listed?

Not all vegetarian food is created equal. A menu heavy on fresh, organic produce and protein sources like nuts and beans gets high marks. On the other hand, we aren’t big fans of places that are heavy on processed mock meats and fried foods. If you think we’ve overlooked a favorite vegetarian spot in error, please let us know.

How can I suggest a restaurant?

Contact us — we screen and consider every suggestion.

Why is Chipotle Clean Plates Approved?

Funnily enough, this is the most common question we receive.  Contrary to popular belief, Chipotle is no longer owned by McDonald’s, and CEO Steve Ells is a champion of sustainable food and sourcing.  All of their meats are hormone- and antibiotic-free, and they source a healthy percentage of their produce locally and organically.

When will you have a mobile app?

Good news! Our iPhone app launched in January 2012. Download it here.

How can I be notified about new restaurant additions?

Sign up for our email newsletter here.

How can I join the Clean Plates team?

If you’re passionate about the Clean Plates mission and would like to work with us, please get in touch.