WRITTEN BY: TIFFANY MCCAULEY
Keep in mind that this clean eating grocery list, or list of non-processed foods, is based on the foods that are available 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. As you learn to shop this way, your clean eating grocery list will expand, and that’s as it should be!
The truth is, this could also be seen as a simple clean eating food list. A list to give you ideas and a jumping off point. You don’t have to buy everything on this list to eat clean. In fact, your clean eating food list should be an ever growing and changing list that will accommodate your lifestyle specifically.
This is a great “clean eating for beginners” list, but it’s not the “be-all, end-all” of lists. This clean eating for beginners food list should simply inspire you at the store. Let’s get started.
Clean eating shopping tips
- 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. Knowing how to eat clean means being observant. If you make it a habit to read the ingredient lists on a regular basis, you’ll never be caught by surprise.
- 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.
The following is my clean eating grocery list to help get you started. Please note there are meal plans and more clean shopping lists at the end.
- 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.
Crackers & tortillas
- Ak Mak Whole Wheat Crackers – Get it on Amazon here.
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 and non-dairy
Dairy is a source of much confusion when you’re learning how to eat clean. 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. Get it on Amazon here.
- 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, other meats & fish
Once you know how to eat clean, beef can be part of your clean eating diet. However, you need to 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.
Other meats & fish
- 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, ESPECIALLY if you’re just learning how to eat clean. 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 quickly! There are also more BPA-free cans on the market these days. Costco is a great source for them, 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 & natural sweeteners
- Ketchup – It’s virtually impossible to find a clean ketchup. So you may want to make clean eating ketchup 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 versions of those.
- Honey – The healthiest honey you can purchase is Manuka honey. I highly recommend it if it’s within your budget. Get it on Amazon here.
- Pure Maple Syrup – Not the bottled syrups you get in the breakfast cereal aisle. The real stuff. The best kind you can get is from Quebec, Canada. Get it on Amazon here.
- Molasses – Look for the unsulfured variety. Get it on Amazon here.
- 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).
- Salt – I know many people try to reduce their salt intake. However, salt is actually a vital mineral for our bodies, so getting good quality salt is important. I like Real Salt and purchase it often at Whole Foods. But if you don’t have a Whole Foods, you can get it on Amazon here.
This is another source of much confusion for those who are just learning how to eat clean. So here’s what to look for:
Whole wheat flour – Get it on Amazon here.
- Whole wheat pastry flour – tough to find in some areas, but great for baking. Get it on Amazon here.
- 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) Get it on Amazon here.
- Coconut flour – Get it on Amazon here.
- Almond Flour – Get it on Amazon here.
- 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 of non processed foods, but it’s a good place to start when you’re learning how to eat clean. I hope it helps!
Clean eating meal plans for beginners plus more grocery lists
If you need some basic meal plans to get you started, then these clean eating meal plans for beginners should be helpful! Click here to see them all.
Need some coaching to get started or back on track?
These self-paced 8 lessons will guide you through getting started with clean eating. Get more info here.
Kitchen tools that make it easier
A good blender and processor are indispensable tools for anyone who knows how to eat clean. From making smoothies to slicing veggies, these two appliances are incredibly helpful.
But between my mom and I, we have 5 blenders and 3 processors. So I couldn’t justify it but I highly recommend it. Ninja is a very user-friendly appliance and is a real work horse. And by the way, I was not paid to say any of this. I have no contact with the Ninja company. I just really do love their appliances and really do have the blender in my kitchen. If you’re interested but can’t find one locally, you can get it on Amazon here.
More help getting started with clean eating
Click each link below to get a clean eating grocery shopping list for each store.
Want great recipes for clean eating? Check out the author’s book, Clean Eating Freezer Meals.