When you’re just starting out with clean eating, it can be tough to know where to start at the grocery store. You can follow the old mantra, “shop the perimeter”, but if you’re not used to doing that, it’s still a bit overwhelming.
So I put together a clean eating grocery list for beginners. Keep in mind that this list is based on the foods that are available to me in my area, so you may need to adjust it a bit for what’s available in yours. But it should give you a good starting point either way.
Also know that manufacturers do change their ingredients from time to time. It’s been my experience that if the label changes, the ingredients usually do too. And usually not for the better. So keep an eye out for ingredient changes. If you make it a habit to read the ingredient lists on a regular basis, you’ll never be caught by surprise.
And lastly, if you run across any brands of food that are clean that are not listed here, please share them in a comment below. If we help each other, we will all succeed.
OTHER SHOPPING LISTS:
- Clean Eating Shopping List For Trader Joe’s
- Clean Eating Shopping List For Costco
- Clean Eating Shopping List For Walmart
- Clean Eating Shopping List For Safeway
- Clean Eating Shopping List For Amazon.com
CLEAN EATING SHOPPING LIST FOR BEGINNERS
- Ezekiel brand breads – Most often found in the freezer section. This brand of bread has several types to choose from, but read ingredients as not all are clean. They have tortillas as well.
- Alvarado Street Bakery brand breads – They have wonderful breads, rolls, hamburger buns and hot dog buns and all of them are clean.
- Trader Joe’s brand whole grain breads – The two in particular that I know are clean are the Sprouted Multi-Grain bread and the California Protein bread.
- Ak Mak Whole Wheat Crackers
This one is tough. It may take you a while to find a clean version. The only clean tortilla left in my area is sold by Trader Joe’s. They are hard to find, but worth it. Typically, the only ingredients will be corn, lime and water. Trader Joe’s also carries a sprouted wheat tortilla that is clean and quite good once you get used to the texture. It’s a bit stiffer than what you might be used to. The other option is to make your own.
Dairy & Non-Dairy:
Dairy is the source of much confusion for clean eaters. So here’s a general breakdown.
- Milk – Raw milk is the cleanest milk you can get. But since it’s hard to find, expensive and even illegal in some states, the next best thing would be organic, full-fat milk. If you choose this route, it’s best to treat your milk as a fat and carbohydrate instead of a protein. Also know that homogenization is processing of dairy. You can go low fat, but the lower in fat you go, typically the more processed the milk is.
- Cottage cheese (for those who eat it) – Full fat is best, but you can also use low fat. (NOT fat free.) That being said, it can be very difficult to find truly clean cottage cheese and again, the lower the fat, the more processing involved.
- Yogurt – Always opt for Greek yogurt when you can. Plain yogurt (regular or Greek) is the only way to go. You can always mix in your own fruits and dab of honey or maple syrup if you need it flavored. Full fat though, not reduce or non-fat.
- Cheese – Most cheeses are eaten in moderation due to their high fat content. Just be sure that if you buy it, you buy the real thing. No pre-shredded cheeses either (they have anti-caking agents added). If you need it shredded, buy the block and shred it yourself. Real grated Parmesan cheese is acceptable in moderation. (Note: Kraft brand Parmesan cheese is not clean. If it can sit on a shelf or in a cupboard for months, it’s not clean. Buy the stuff in the refrigerator section.)
- Unsweetened almond milk – Although a quick glance at the ingredient list may leave you wondering. It’s best to make your own.
- Unsweetened rice milk (made from brown rice, not white). Again, homemade is best.
- Unsweetened soy milk – If you go this route, be sure to purchase the organic variety to avoid GMO’s.
- Unsweetened coconut milk – This is NOT the stuff in the cartons. This is the stuff in the cans. Be sure to read labels here. The Thai Kitchen brand is clean and pretty widely available. Light coconut milk is perfectly fine in this case.
- Eggs – These are a staple, especially egg whites. But most of the nutrition is in the yolks, so don’t leave them out too often. Try to avoid the carton egg whites.
- Chicken & Turkey – Boneless, skinless poultry breasts are your best friends if you eat meat. But whole chickens are often the better deal and you get so much more out of them. If you can afford organic meats, it’s always a better way to go.
Beef can be part of a clean eating diet so long as you choose grass fed and humanely raised beef. A butcher can help you select these. If you are wanting to forgo beef, try venison, bison or buffalo. Both are very similar in flavor.
- Pork – While not everyone believes pork to be a clean food, it’s actually clean if you get the good quality versions. Processed pork should be avoided like the plague. Things like ham are definitely not part of a clean eating meal plan. Skip the Canadian bacon as well. (How Canadian bacon ever got labeled as healthy is beyond me!)
- Venison – This is a very lean meat and can be used in place of beef in most recipes.
- Fish – Most fish is considered clean, just be careful of the mercury content found in most fish today. Also, please be sure you are buying sustainably. Your purchases have an impact here in a big way on the health of our oceans. Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium web site for up to date info on what fish is safe to purchase in any given season.
This is where you really want to stock up. If you are concerned about pesticides but are on a tight budget, the general rule of thumb is to purchase organics for produce that has thin skin such as peaches, nectarines and all berries, and purchase regular items for produce that has thicker skin like bananas and oranges. Google “The Dirty Dozen” if you want to have a list of the worst pesticide laden produce or the “Clean 15” for the best produce to purchase conventionally.
So this is where “Shop The Perimeter” really comes in. The produce section is your friend. Load up when you can as you’ll want most of your eating plan to be generated from this section of the store.
- Berries of all kinds
- Star fruit
- Any other fresh fruit you enjoy
- Bell Peppers in any color
- Squash of any variety
- Collard greens
- Green beans
- Sweet potatoes
- Onions of any variety
- Any other fresh veggie you enjoy
When you do venture into the aisles of the store, you should only be there for a few, food related items such as:
- Tea – particularly green tea
- Oatmeal – Just the plain kind. Nothing flavored. Opt for steel cut oats or traditional rolled oats. I personally use quick oats, but only on occasion. Most of my oatmeal recipes use steel cut or rolled oats. Quick oats are best for baking.
- Canned items with no added sugar – There is a lot of debate as to whether or not canned items, even without added sugar, are clean due to the BPA’s in the cans. But if you do decide to purchase things like beans or tomato sauce in a can, read the ingredients! There should be no added sugar (sugar, evaporated cane juice, dextrose, fructose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, etc…) in the list. Also, watch the sodium content in canned goods. It can add up quick! There are also more and more BPA free cans on the market these days. Costco is a great source for that as is Whole Foods.
- Dry beans and legumes – like lentils, black beans, chickpeas, etc.
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat or whole grain (like brown rice) pasta
- Other whole grains such as barley
- Nuts – Again, read the ingredients here. Nuts should be the only ingredient on the package. Usually, this means you’ll be buying raw nuts.
- Seeds – Quinoa is a seed and it’s wonderful stuff. I use it a lot. Sun flower seeds, sesame seeds, chia or flaxseed are all good choices.
Condiments, Spices and Natural Sweeteners:
- Ketchup – It’s virtually impossible to find a clean ketchup. So you may want to try a clean eating recipe at home.
- Mustard – It’s getting harder and harder to find mustard without added sugar. OrganicVille puts out a tasty yellow mustard without added sugar. But if you can’t find regular yellow mustard that is clean, opt for mustard like Dijon or other varieties. It’s much easier to find clean mustard if you do.
- Pure Maple Syrup – Not the bottle syrups you get in the breakfast cereal aisle. The real stuff.
- Molasses – Look for the unsulfured variety.
- Spices – Any herbs you buy should come in bulk or a bottle. Never purchase seasoning packets. They are not clean by any means. Purchase singular herbs such as basil, parsley and thyme. Opt for garlic and onion powder, without salt. Avoid the herb blends unless you are comfortable with reading ingredient lists. Many have added sugars, even Mrs. Dash (though some of those blends are indeed clean, some are not).
This is another source of much confusion for newbies. So here’s what to look for:
- Whole wheat flour
- Whole wheat pastry flour – tough to find in some areas, but great for baking.
- White whole wheat flour – Easier to find but not as dense as regular whole wheat flour. (It’s a different variety of wheat, but it’s still whole grain)
- Coconut flour
- Almond Flour
- Other flours – If you are gluten intolerant, you will want to research other flours on gluten free sites. Unfortunately, I know very little about gluten free cooking/baking, although I am starting to learn.
So there you have it. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means, but it should give you a good start. I hope it helps!
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