This clean eating grocery list is a great place to start for clean eating beginners! Take this food list to the market or keep it on hand when placing your online grocery order, and set yourself up for a healthier start to the new year!
The shift in my kitchen pantry and fridge from conventional products to more nutrient dense, “real” foods took some time. I want to make sure I reiterate it did not happen overnight and took time and flexibility. It is highly recommended when making changes to your dietary lifestyle that one go slow and steady. Attempting to make dramatic changes all at once can be demotivating, overwhelming and even harmful.
In the beginning, there was no method to my madness, and I flexed as I needed to, and put my foot down when I needed to. In the end this approached has worked well for our family. Below I share my clean eating food list that can be as handy for novices as seasoned pros. I’ll also share some clean eating for beginners tips and tricks.
Also, once you’ve switched over your pantry, keep on track with healthier eating by staying organized. Here’s my full guide to small pantry organization.
The first clean eating foods swaps I made
The first 7 food items I switched out were Nutella, Coffee Mate, Eggo waffles, Country Crock margarine, frozen chicken nuggets, Cheez-Its and artificial maple syrup. These items were the biggest offenders in our household because they were filled with sugar, artificial colors, additives, preservatives, and hydrogenated oils. We were also consuming them on an almost daily basis. Here are the items I replaced these foods with, I’ll share the rest of my grocery list must-have items and swaps below.
Clean Eating Food List:
- Coffee Mate replacement: I initially switched over to better coffee with a splash of quality half and half. The Strauss brand in particular is yummy, and for a little bit of sweetness, add a tsp of maple syrup. However I now find the Califia Barista blend almond milk to be our favorite. It froths up beautifully either hot or cold, in the Nespresso frother.
- Margarine replacement: Good old fashioned grass fed butter. The Kerrygold brand in particular is what we use, which can be purchased in bulk at Costco.
- Eggo replacement: My kids love waffles and could eat them almost daily. Many weekends I make a double batch of my own from scratch and freeze leftovers for the week. For days we’re in a pinch, I love Birch Benders . They contain all natural ingredients, are delicious and nutritious.
- Artificial syrup replacement: Real maple syrup which is lower on the GI index and offers a host of added nutritional benefits including manganese and magnesium. It’s more costly but also sweeter, so you just need a dollop and can be used as a white sugar replacement in many baked goods. I buy it in bulk at Costco.
- Frozen chicken nuggets: I replaced those with real homemade baked nuggets that are now my kids favorite. On nights when I’m in a rush or just can’t cook another thing, we like the Applegate frozen nuggets.
- Cheez-Its replacement: While we initially went cold turkey off Cheez-It’s, I eventually brought them back into our lives in moderation. We have also switched to healthy swaps and brands with minimal ingredients (5 or less). Bagged kettle corn and sea salt popcorn, organic tortilla chips, etc.
Clean eating food list swaps for other kitchen staples
Clean Eating Sugar Replacements:
Sugar is still sugar, so even with the more natural sugars I keep in my pantry, I try to use with discretion.
- Maple syrup is my favorite liquid sweetener
- Raw honey is great on plain yogurt and pancakes
- Coconut sugar is great because it can be swapped cup for cup
- Organic stevia (liquid or powdered packets) is perfect for sweetening beverages
Clean Eating Oil Replacements:
- Extra Virgin Olive oil – I buy it in bulk at Costco, which is surprisingly very good quality.
- Coconut oil can be used for anything and everything including smoothies, sautéing foods, and as a moisturizer! Refined coconut oil is great for high temp cooking. If using it to add to smoothies and other baking recipes, go for unrefined to get the most nutritious bang for your buck.
- Expeller pressed organic Canola oil for when I need a neutral flavor
- Sesame oil here and other nut and seed oils such as walnut or avocado oil. They are great to enhance flavors of dishes. I love the Spectrum line of oils.
- Ghee is clarified butter used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. Because the milk proteins have been gently boiled down, this is a great high-heat cooking alternative.
Clean Eating Flour Replacements:
- While I keep a small container of regular all-purpose flour on hand in my pantry, my go-to is now whole wheat flour and rice flour..
- For all my flour needs I love Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthur Flour, in addition the bulk bins at Sprouts.
- I also just recently added hazelnut meal or flour as a pantry staple for making “Nutella alternative” recipes and as a breading for chicken nuggets, in replacement of bread crumbs.
- Almond flour is more widely available and also makes a great gluten free flour alternative and breadcrumb coating.
Clean Eating for Beginners Guide to Animal Products
When we began eating clean I didn’t give much thought to how this tied in with the animal products we were eating. But after reading Eating Animals, I began to realize that there was an advantage to eating “clean” proteins as well. Following is a break down by category of the animal products I try to source as much as possible.
- Eggs: Pasture raised or organic free range eggs, especially from a local farmer’s market.
- Dairy: If possible, go for organic dairy products. The organic label requires that by law, the cows must spend a specific amount of time on pasture. Plus, in a study published last year, organic dairy was proven to be more nutritious than conventional dairy products. Look for dairy products that have gone through low temp pasteurization versus ultra high temp pasteurization (UHT). UHT kills the most important beneficial bacteria, and also changes the milk proteins, making it harder to digest. The process also makes the milk taste burnt, so companies often have to include additives to make the smell and taste pleasant again.
- Non-Dairy: We always have coconut milk and almond milk on hand at all times.
Choosing beef, pork and poultry
- Red Meat: We source a great deal of red meat through a local farmer who offers a discounted CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. We also frequent the farmers market. The organic label is helpful but not necessary. Note that grass fed is starting to become diluted a bit, as all cows start off on pasture and are “grass fed”. The grass finished label means that the cows stayed on pasture its entire life and never went to a feed lot.
- Poultry: Happy healthy chickens, and in particular turkeys, are hard to find in conventional supermarkets. I do my best to shop at farmer’s markets or when purchasing at the grocery store, stick with organic and air-chilled chickens. Mary’s or Rosie’s Chicken are both great brand and are often on sale at Whole Foods. Diestel Farms, Empire (a Kosher brand), Applegate and Niman’s Ranch are also great brands.
- Pork: In learning about how animals are raised for meat production, I was most saddened to read about how pigs are raised. Most of the very large scale hog ranches use gestation crates for their sows. Pasture raised pork can be hard to find and pricy, so I do my best to limit how much we eat.
Cleaning Eating Food List – General Food Items
Sauces and Dressings:
- I make most of my own dressings and sauces. Once you get in the habit they are really quite easy and quick. Some are more complicated and I reserve those for the weekend, but a simple salad dressing requires nothing more than olive oil, a squeeze of citrus or vinegar, and some salt and pepper. For bottled dressings, Tessemae’s brand is tasty and has minimal, all-natural ingredients.
- I keep a bevvy of sauces on hands to heighten foods and dishes including Red Boat Fish Sauce, hoison sauce, tons of vinegar including red wine, white wine, balsamic, white balsamic, rice wine, red plum wine and apple cider.
- For richer dressings and sauces, I always have a container of plain yogurt on hand, as well as Vegenaise.
General Pantry Items:
- Nut butters including peanut, cashew and almond. Contrary to some beliefs, both have just about equal nutritional value, but almond butter has risen in popularity because for those following a Paleo diet, it falls under the nut category, versus peanut butter is a legume.
- Dates are awesome for sweetening baked goods and other awesome things like these Carrot Cake Inspired Energy Bites.
- I love having cacao powder, cacao nibs and chia seeds on hand as well. I like Navitas Naturals for some of these items.
- Quinoa flakes are great for hot cereal and making Quinoa Granola
- Tkids love having oatmeal for breakfast so I always have old fashion rolled oats on hand.
- Quinoa of course, brown rice and arborio rice for making risotto
- I have also added arrowroot powder/starch to my cooking rotation and have swapped it out for corn starch to thicken sauces and soups.
Herbs & Spices:
Cinnamon, cumin, garlic powder, cardamom, dried sage, turmeric, fresh basil, cilantro, and parsley, are just a few I always keep stocked. If you want to make your healthy homemade food taste flavorful, be bold and freely use herbs and spices. I cannot stress this enough!
Clean Eating Grocery List for Produce:
Nothing is off limits in the produce aisle, but here are some staples that are a permanent part of my clean eating grocery list. I try to focus first and foremost on what’s in season, and try to source locally as much as possible, and definitely try to stick with US grown
- For greens we love kale, spinach and chard. All work great in smoothies, sautéed, or eaten in salads.
- Carrots , beets, lemons, lime and oranges. We add them to green juice, smoothies, salads or of course eat as is.
- Onions, potatoes, and garlic.
- Broccoli, cauliflower and whichever squash is in season.
- Apples, avocados, tomatoes and melons if in season, as well as bananas.
Clean Eating Food Lists for Snack Items:
Here are a few of the brands and types of snacks we love to keep on hand at all times. I tend to just buy what’s on sale and stock up for a week or two at a time.
- Kettle Brand potato chips,
- Popcorn – Trader Joe’s Organic Olive Oil Popcorn, Angie’s Popcorn, both Kettle Corn & Boom Chicka Pop
- Mary’s Gone Crackers
- Plain organic graham crackers, organic tortilla chips
- Pure Bar fruit strips and sandwiches
- Anything that has few, all natural ingredients.
Look out for hidden forms added sugars and artificial colorings and flavors if your children are sensitive to those.
If you are looking for tips and trick on packing healthier school lunches for your kids, consider a bento style lunch box. Here’s my full post reviewing the Planetbox Rover lunch box, as well as answering the most commonly asked questions.
- Justin’s peanut butter cups,
- Yum Earth Naturals jelly beans
- Fair trade chocolate bars (Green & Blacks is my favorite)
- Ruby Rocket’s popsicles
As I said above, this list is not meant to be exhaustive of every product I use, but it’s a general overall guide.
Please let me know if you have any questions or products/categories to add. I think I’ve thought of almost everything, but know it’s not everything!
Clean Eating Grocery List
Clean Eating Grocery List
- Sugar Replacements: Maple syrup raw honey, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar. No agave, artificial sweeteners or no calorie all-natural sweeteners. Kirkland Organic Maple Syrup and Lundberg Farms.
- Oil Replacements: Coconut oil refined for high temp cooking, unrefined for general use, ghee (clarified butter), olive oil, sesame oil. Spectrum brand is great but there's countless other great choices too.
- Flour Replacements: Whole wheat rice flour, almond and/or hazelnut flour, arrowroot starch for thickening. Bob's Red Mill for most of my flour choices.
- Eggs: Pasture raised or free-range organic preferred.
- Dairy: Organic non UHT pasteurization. Strauss & Clover Organics, but whichever is local/regional in your area.
- Red Meat: Preferably grass fed and grass finished if possible. Organic.
- Poultry: Free range air chilled if possible. Mary's, Rosie's, Diestel Farms, Empire Kosher, and Applegate Farms are all good, but whichever is local to you at your store or farmer's market.
- Pork: Applegate and Niman's Ranch or whichever is local to you at your store or farmer's market.
- Grains: whole grains trying to avoid "enriched" products. Organic if possible especially with wheat since it is one of the heaviest sprayed crops.
- Bread: Dave's Killer Bread Alpine Valley, Silver Hills Bakery and Essential Baking Company for gluten free option, these are all great faves in our home.
- Swap these items in your fridge and pantry for a healthier way of life.
quality seafood says
I noticed you did not mention any fish/ seafood options in your swap outs. A great website I use to find sustainable and ethical seafood is https://qualityseafooddelivery.com/. They provide links to great companies and have useful blog posts. I know quality is key for clean eating.
Andrea Howe says
Great recommendation, thank you!
This is such a great list – thanks Andrea! I already buy free-range and organic eggs and the air-chilled smart chicken. As for oils, I currently have coconut and peanut (both the Spectrum brand) but will definitely be adding more oils and vinegars for salad dressings!
Is there a certain brand you buy for your vinegars?
I’ve been slowly taking steps to make over my kitchen – and this is just the motivation I need! Thank you for putting in the time to create such a complete list of things you use – and it’s great to see that you’re not denying your family snacks or treats, but rather enjoying good, real food in moderation.
Kim Haag says
As I was reading this there was an Eggo waffle advertisement in the corner which was so ironic!! lol! Do you have any posts about packing lunches for kids? Trying to give them healthy variety and still keep it convenient for me is a challenge. I’d love some new ideas!
sharon garofalow says
I love you for this. I’m taking this slow. And not getting crazy but know it is best. I’m aiming to makeover our breakfasts and snacks first. And I was really struggling with the snack part. Your suggestions are so helpful! It’s a bummer with our nut allergy as I think we’ll have to swap and give some things a try to figure out how we like them best but we’ll do it. The kids are resistant. The hubby is on board. I’m grateful to you for being willing to take the time and also some flack from the crazies on sharing your journey with us.
ANDREA!!! This is SO helpful, thank you! We’ve made some of these changes over the years, but some things I just hadn’t thought of, so this has encouraged me to “swap” out a few more items in my pantry. Like flour – why had I never thought of it as processed? I buy unbleached, so that helped me feel better (ha) but once I finish up what I have, I’m going to try the whole wheat flour. And also look for coconut sugar at TJ’s. I really enjoy your IG feed and this site. Thanks for all you do to educate & encourage us! Love from Nashville 🙂
Nicole B says
I just wanted to say how much I applaud you for taking all your knowledge and experiences to
Try and make clean eating easier for people. I have practiced what people like to call “clean eating”
For years and I have definitely felt the “snub” from some of my friends. But truthfully, people don’t realize how eating locally and seasonally and responsibly can be comparable or even cheaper than buying all the processed, frozen and packaged food our society is used to. We are what we eat. I am a speech therapist that specializes in feeding and I often try and stress to my patients families how if their little tummies aren’t feeling well they aren’t going to function well. Unfortunately, my caseload is entirely Medicaid so it is difficult to educate them about nutrition. Anyways, I think it is truly a wonderful thing you are doing and I have thoroughly enjoyed following you through your process!
This is a great list, thank you so much for the time it took you to compile it all! Like the commenter above, when I read through it, I realized how far I’ve come but I still need to make a few more swaps. Going meatless for half of our dinners helps a lot with the cost of meat. We love breakfast for dinner, eggs and waffles and breakfast tacos/tostadas with beans. It’s the perfect time to start this challenge, too because of all the great produce about to come in season!
I love all of this. Just by reading all of it I can tell I’ve made some good progress over the last few months but like you did, we still eat snack foods that may not be perfect. Work in progress. My 3 year old is extremely picky but I’m working on her :). Thanks for all the info! Excited to get started.