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Stock these healthy foods to eat clean

By Lisa D'Agrosa, M.S., R.D., March 26, 2014 - 10:54am

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Eating clean means eating more whole foods and less processed foods. It may sound like a fad, but it’s not based on unrealistic eating patterns or cutting out entire food groups. Need more guidance? See our 10 clean eating tips here to get started.

Cleaning up your diet is a lot easier when your pantry, fridge and freezer are filled with healthy, clean foods. Whole foods like fruits and vegetables are easy-to-spot clean foods, but you can also tell a clean product by its short ingredient list, filled with names you recognize (and can even pronounce!). A hallmark of eating clean is to choose foods with healthy ingredients like whole grains and healthy fats and those low in added sugar and salt. Here are some other tips to help you stock your shelves with foods that will make it easier to eat clean.

Whether they’re fresh, frozen, canned or dried, fruits are almost always a clean choice. Be wary of added sugars in canned fruits or dried fruits, which provide empty calories. Fruit juice (make sure it’s 100 percent juice) can count toward your daily recommended fruit intake, but some kinds contain almost 30 grams of sugar per 8-ounce serving. Yes, it’s natural (not added) sugar, but 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 than you would if you peeled and ate a whole orange.

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 veggies and canned vegetables are healthy too, but choose ones without sauces and be sure to always read the label since even items that look plain may have added salt.

Whole Grains:
Nutritious and fiber-rich, whole grains­—like brown rice, quinoa, barley, oats, farro or millet—are unprocessed and contain only one ingredient: they’re 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). Even popcorn is a whole grain: buy the kernels and pop them on the stove or in an air popper for a clean snack without the additives and buttery calories you find in microwave bags.

Choose plain yogurt (either regular or Greek) over vanilla and fruit-flavored yogurts, which can be high in sugar, to clean up this area of your diet. Dairy products like cheese and milk can do double duty: eat them solo or use them as ingredients in cleaner homemade versions of foods like pizza and macaroni and cheese. Opting for non-dairy alternatives like soy, coconut and almond milk? Look for unsweetened and plain varieties, which will have the least amount of added sugar.

Don’t Miss: Buyer’s Guide to Alternative Milks

Choose meats that are lower in saturated fat, such as skinless chicken breast and chicken thigh, sirloin and lean ground beef. These meats offer 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, such as nitrates and nitrites, that research has linked to cardiovascular disease and some cancers).

Fish and shellfish are super-healthy protein sources; they’re low in saturated fat and many varieties contain heart-healthy omega-3 fats. Choose sustainably sourced seafood when possible. Arctic char, Pacific halibut, wild salmon and tilapia are all good choices according to Seafood Watch. See our 6 best fish to choose and 6 to avoid.

Nuts & Seeds:
Nuts are chock-full of vitamins, minerals and healthy unsaturated fats—and new research suggests that they may even help you live longer. They’re also clean foods when you choose plain nuts that are unsalted or lower in sodium. The same is true for nut butters, so look for peanut and almond butters that contain only nuts and a little salt. (Learn how to pick the healthiest peanut butters here.)

Beans are a heart-healthy source of protein and a good source of fiber. Dried beans have no added salt, so they’re the “cleanest” choice, but canned beans can fit into your clean-eating plan too. If you do choose canned, rinse them to reduce sodium by about 35 percent.

What’s one clean, healthy food that you always stock at home? My answer: natural peanut butter Tell us what you think below.

TAGS: Lisa D'Agrosa, M.S., R.D., Health Blog, Health, Nutrition

Lisa D'Agrosa, M.S., R.D.
Lisa D’Agrosa is EatingWell’s digital nutrition & news editor. She is a Registered Dietitian and completed her master’s degree in Nutrition Communication at Tufts University. She loves tasting all the recipes from the Test Kitchen and geeking out over nutrition science. @LisaDAgrosa

Lisa asks: What’s one clean, healthy food that you always stock at home? My answer: natural peanut butter

Tell us what you think:

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