Clean-Eating Foods List

By: Lisa Valente, M.S., R.D.  |  Friday, March 25, 2016

Eating clean is a lot easier when your cupboards, fridge and freezer are filled with healthy, clean foods. When you're eating clean, whole foods like fruits and vegetables are obvious choices. But minimally processed foods with short ingredient lists can also fit into a clean-eating diet. Choose foods with healthy ingredients like whole grains and healthy fats and those low in added sugar and salt. Here are some tips to help you stock your kitchen with foods that make it easier to eat clean.
Pictured recipe: Broccoli Rabe & Chicken White Pizza
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Fruit is almost always a clean choice. Be wary of added sugars in canned fruits or dried fruits, which provide empty calories. Fruit juice can count toward your daily recommended fruit intake—just make sure it's 100% juice. Also, keep in mind that some juices can contain almost 30 grams of sugar per 8-ounce serving. Even 100% fruit juices don't contain the beneficial fiber found in whole fruits—and you're also more likely to guzzle additional calories by drinking orange juice, for instance, than you would if you peeled and ate a whole orange.
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Clean Fruit:
• Any fresh fruit
• Canned fruit with no added sugar
• Frozen fruit with no added sugar
• Dried fruit with no added sugar
• 100% fruit juice (limit)
Vegetables should be the building blocks of your clean-eating meals because they're low in calories and packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Frozen and canned vegetables are healthy, too, but choose ones without sauces and be sure to read the label since even items that look plain may have added salt. Some vegetables, such as potatoes and winter squash, are starchy. You don't have to limit them, just be aware they are higher in calories and carbs.
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Clean Vegetables:
• Any fresh vegetable
• Frozen vegetables with no sauce or added salt
• Canned vegetables with no sauce or added salt
Whole Grains
Nutritious and fiber-rich, whole grains­, such as brown rice, quinoa, barley, oats, farro or millet, are unprocessed and contain only one ingredient. They're about as clean as you can get. When it comes to whole-grain products, look for whole-wheat versions of pasta, refrigerated pizza dough, bread and English muffins (just be sure that whole-wheat flour is the first ingredient and there isn't sugar in the ingredient list). Even popcorn is a whole grain: buy the kernels and pop them on the stove or in an air popper for a clean snack that doesn't have the additives and buttery calories you find in microwave bags.
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Clean Whole Grains:
• Single-ingredient grains, such as farro, millet, oats, barley, quinoa, brown rice, etc.
• Whole-wheat pasta
• Popcorn
• Sprouted whole-grain bread and English muffins (with no added sugar)
• Whole-wheat pizza dough
Choose plain yogurt (either regular or Greek) over vanilla and fruit-flavored yogurts, which are usually high in sugar, to clean up your diet. Dairy products, such as cheese and milk, can do double duty: eat them solo or use them as ingredients in cleaner homemade versions of foods, such as pizza and macaroni and cheese. Opting for nondairy alternatives, such as soy, coconut and almond milk? Look for unsweetened varieties to avoid added sugar.
Clean Dairy Foods:
• Plain yogurt
• Milk
• Cheese
• Unsweetened nondairy milks
Choose leaner meats, such as chicken breast and chicken thigh, sirloin and lean ground beef. Meat offers protein, iron and vitamin B12. Eating clean means avoiding processed foods, so steer clear of bologna, salami, pepperoni and hot dogs. These—and other processed meat products—are usually high in sodium and may contain artificial colors as well as preservatives. Fish and shellfish can be super-healthy protein sources and many fish contain heart-healthy omega-3 fats. Choose sustainably sourced seafood when possible. Pacific cod, wild salmon and tilapia are all good choices according to Seafood Watch. Eggs are a great choice—and don't skip the yolk or you'll miss out on extra protein and nutrients. Nuts, seeds and beans are all great choices for plant-based proteins. Just be sure to look for lower-sodium options when possible.
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Clean Proteins:
• Single-ingredient meats: chicken breast, chicken legs, ground beef, etc.
• Seafood (choose sustainable options, such as wild salmon and Pacific cod)
• Eggs
• Unflavored nuts (e.g., almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts)
• Plain nut butters (no added sugar)
• Dried beans
• Canned beans (rinse to reduce sodium by 35%)
Now that you're ready to stock your kitchen with clean-eating essentials, be sure to try our budget clean-eating recipes, clean-eating lunches and clean-eating breakfasts.