Looking to clean up your diet? Or perhaps you’re not quite sure what “eating clean” means? No worries, we’ve got you covered with the best “clean” foods to add healthy nutrition to your diet.
So, let’s get started with a basic menu for clean eating your way.
What is Clean Eating?
Clean eating is traditionally defined as simple, whole foods without artificial ingredients. This typically involves the elimination of most processed foods, trans fats, heavily saturated fats, added sugar, and refined grains. But some choose to take clean eating one step further by also eliminating gluten, dairy, and soy.
So, for those looking to clean up their diet, eating clean can be a great place to start. Especially when, nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and quality proteins are emphasized. But it is also important to note that just because a food doesn’t qualify as “clean” doesn’t automatically mean they are “dirty”.
In fact, for some, a clean foods diet may mean skipping a 3 PM bag of chips. While others may buy organic vegetables instead of conventional ones. Here’s the thing: clean eating differs from person to person depending on their current diet. For this reason, you may approach it by quitting processed foods cold turkey, or slowly eliminating them from your diet. It might also mean simply swapping the ultra-processed foods for less-processed ones.
So, when looking toward clean eating, do it your way.
Clean Eating for Beginners
To begin with, learning how to start eating clean is fairly simple. Use the following suggestions to help you identify which healthy foods would fit into your clean eating diet:
- First, eat foods your great, great grandmother would recognize. These foods were the basic staples in a home and were free from today’s processes.
- Next, eat more whole foods you can identify without having to read the ingredients label. This includes foods you would find in the produce section and perimeter of the grocery store.
- Then, eat minimally processed foods with little to no added ingredients. Keep it simple!
- If there is an ingredients list, aim to stick to ingredients you recognize as food.
- Lastly, pay attention to the nutrition of the foods you are going to consume. Did you know that a can of tomato soup can have upwards of 20 grams of added sugar? Also, the sodium levels in some well-known canned chicken noodle soups are 940 mg per serving. That’s a lot of the extras you don’t need in your life.
But don’t worry, here’s an ultimate grocery list to clean eating.
Your Clean Eating Grocery List
It is entirely possible to eat clean and still have a poor diet. Especially if you aren’t paying attention to your overall nutrition intake. That’s why the best “clean” foods are minimally processed and high in important nutrients.
To help dial into your nutrition needs, here are the best clean foods to add to your meal plan.
The best proteins are high in quality protein (containing more protein than fat and carbs), lean, and loaded with nutrition. For meat and dairy, this typically means opting for more grass-fed, sustainably caught, and free-range options. And for many people, this also means considering more organic proteins.
Whichever option you choose, here are some excellent protein choices to add to your grocery list:
- 100% Grass-fed beef
- And either Lamb or Mutton
Organic and Free-Range Proteins
Sustainably Caught Seafood
- Fatty Fish: Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sea bass, Sardines, Sablefish or Black Cod, and Herring
- Lean Fish: Tuna, Cod, Tilapia, Pollock, Halibut, Rockfish, Trout, Bass, Catfish, Flounder, Grouper, Haddock, Pike, Snapper
- Shellfish: Sustainably Caught Shrimp, Oysters, Calms, Muscles, Lobster, Crab, and Scallop
- Mycoprotein (corn-based meat substitutes)
- Navy Beans, Pinto Beans, Black Beans, Butter Beans, Fava Beans, Chickpeas, Lima Beans, Black Eyed Peas, etc.
- Green Peas
- Edamame and Tofu (Contain Soy)
Organic and Grass-Fed Dairy
- Cows Milk
- Goats Milk
- Sheep’s Milk
- Cottage Cheese
- Ice cream
Carbohydrates come from a variety of healthy foods including fruits, starchy vegetables, and whole grains. But carbs can also come from less desirable choices like refined sugars and processed grains. With this in mind, here are some of the most nutritious carb foods broken out by category. As well as some “natural”, less-processed sweeteners to use in small quantities.
Gluten-Free Whole Grains
- In first place, Rice
- Air-Popped Popcorn
- And, in last place Corn
Gluten-Containing Whole Grains
- Sweet Potatoes
- Other Potatoes
- Acorn Squash
- Last in order, Butternut Squash
- Goji Berries
- Black Currants
- Dried Fruit
- Frozen Fruit
- Last but not least, 100% Fruit Juice
- Raw sugar
- Maple Syrup
- Coconut Sugar
- And ending out the list, Date Paste
Fat is typically an added ingredient or topping, such as cooking oil, dressings, butter, and sauces. But it is also naturally occurring in many foods, including proteins. For this reason, the best healthy fats tend to come from plant-based sources and whole foods.
To get the right balance of fat in your diet, make sure you track your intake of high-fat foods.
Here are some great fats to add to your diet:
- Peanuts and Peanut Butter
- Almonds, Cashews, Pistachios, Pecans, Brazil Nuts, Walnuts, etc.
- Next, Chia Seeds, Flax Seeds, Hemp Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, etc.
- Finally, Flax Seed Oil, Sesame Oil, Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, Avocado Oil, and Canola Oil
Other Clean Eating Foods
The following don’t have to fall into your daily plan, but they are very beneficial to a clean eating lifestyle.
Non-starchy foods tend to be so low in calories that they aren’t a significant source of dietary intake. They are, however, high in trace minerals that provide essential nutrition in clean eating.
With this in mind, here is your list of non-starchy foods to load up on at each meal:
- Leafy Greens and Vegetables
- Seaweed, Kelp, and Algae
- Watermelon, Cantaloupe, and Honeydew melons
- Acai, Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, and Blackberries
- All Fresh Herbs
- Last but not least, Lemons and Limes.
Clean Eating Dairy Alternatives
If you’re following a dairy-free diet, there are several dairy alternatives you can opt for. However, it is important to understand that many dairy-free kinds of products, don’t have the same nutrition as dairy-based foods. Specifically, protein. So, be sure to check the nutrition labels and look for versions with less added sugar and more protein.
- Almond Milk
- Cashew milk
- Oat milk
- Coconut milk
- Rice milk
- Hemp milk
- Flax milk
- Yogurt made from soy, almond, or coconut
- Vegan cheeses made from almond, soy, cashews, or nutritional yeast
- And similarly, Vegan ice cream
Foods to Avoid when Clean Eating
When it comes to foods you should avoid, the list is comprised of highly processed foods. Foods that are high in added sugar, sodium, and trans fats, and low in overall nutritional value. Because of this, these foods are typically sources of empty calories. Some of these foods can actually have negative health consequences when included as part of an overall diet and lifestyle.
For this reason, here are some of the top foods to limit from your clean eating plan:
Processed Foods and Ingredients
- Artificial Sweeteners
- Refined Sugars
- Processed Meats
- As well as, Alcohol
Clean Eating Meal Plan
So, we’ve covered the menu for clean eating your way. Now, get started with a basic meal plan and grow from there. In all honesty, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by eating clean.
If you like this informative post, be sure to check out our Water Wellness post. It pairs nicely with clean eating and the benefits of hydration.