Processed foods have taken over many folk’s diets.
Almost all packaged foods, pre-made snacks, and drive-thru meals severely lack nutrition with tons of added sugar, refined grains, and low nutritional value.
A diet laden with highly processed foods can lead to serious illnesses over time, especially when you also lack physical exercise.
To start eating clean and leave the processed foods behind, here is a list of foods for eating clean.
Your long-term health will benefit from the change!
Eating Clean Defined
Clean eating is the process of eliminating processed foods, added sugar, saturated fats, trans fats, excess sodium, and refined grains from your diet.
Instead, you eat all foods in their whole-food form, including fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
Some people also choose to eat organic foods as well during the clean eating process.
Organic fruits and vegetables do not have a different nutritional value than non-organic ones. However, organic produce contains fewer pesticides, fewer antibiotic-resisting elements, and no genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The Benefits of Omitting Processed Foods
There are several benefits to eating clean regularly.
By omitting processed foods in favor of whole foods, you can:
- Decrease your risk of heart disease
- Lose weight
- Lower blood pressure
- Keep your liver healthy
- Promote a healthy gut
- Reduce inflammation
Many researchers have studied and found that processed foods are contribute to the obesity epidemic occurring in the U.S.
Clean foods that have been minimally processed promote a healthy weight and contain more fiber, vitamins, and minerals than processed.
Many people who eat clean claim to wake up feeling energetic, sharp, and motivated.
Eating lots of processed food is often associated with feeling sluggish, unmotivated, and even depressed.
Clean foods have a positive effect on both the mind and body.
Processed Food to Avoid
There are so many processed foods out there. It is hard to avoid them at times.
The grocery store is mainly made up of packaged foods once you leave the produce section, and that’s a lot of food to avoid
Here are just some of the many processed foods to steer clear of.
Wheat-Based Baked Goods
Cake, cookies, crackers, or bread made with bleached white flour are highly processed and devoid of nutrients.
They’re loaded with sugar, artificial flavors, and salt to make them palatable.
These foods cause a spike in blood glucose at first, then leave us tired and lethargic.
Whole grain goods are healthier and less processed than bleached white flour, so avoid flours that have been stripped of nutrients.
It’s advisable to include a variety of whole grains or multigrain food alternatives to benefit most from these healthy nutrients.
Smoked and cured meats are often commercially processed and have little to no nutritional value.
Foods like bacon, sausage, hamburgers, lunch meat, canned meat, jerky, and hot dogs are highly processed.
Hefty amounts of sodium and sugar in the meat make the food palatable.
Processed meats have been linked to cancer and heart disease.
Chips and Salty Snacks
Potato chips and other foods like pretzels and buttered popcorn contain an extremely high amount of fat and sodium.
Eating these snacks can trigger water retention and increase arterial blood flow, which over time can lead to high blood pressure.
Many folks with high blood pressure are put on salt-free diets, many of which omit processed food as well.
The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than 1 leveled teaspoon of salt per day.
Drinks with Added Sugar
Soda, processed fruit juice, and alcohol should be avoided when eating clean.
The added sugar can raise blood sugar levels leading to weight gain, diabetes, or other cardiovascular diseases.
These packaged foods are unhealthier than fresh juice you can buy at the same store because they’re made with cheaper materials that aren’t as nutrient-dense.
Whole Grains Vs. Refined
Whole grains are defined as eating foods made from the entire grain seed.
Examples include brown rice, rolled oats, whole wheat bread, quinoa, barley, and millet.
Refined grains have had the fiber-rich outer layers milled off to remove most of their nutritional value.
White bread is an example of a refined grain with no nutritional value because the grain has been stripped of all nutrients during processing.
Anything whole grain will have more fiber and vitamins than a white counterpart, so eat lots of whole grains to eat clean.
Many people who cannot process or are allergic to wheat may have fewer whole grain options.
Some whole grains are gluten-free, while others are not.
It means folks with Celiacs disease can still incorporate whole grains into their daily meal plans.
Some gluten-free grains include:
- Gluten-free oats
- Bean flour
Plant-Based Clean Eating
When clean eating, some prefer to adhere to a diet that is strictly plant-based or vegan.
A healthy vegan lifestyle can be just as simple as maintaining a regular balanced diet but with a few key adjustments to include more fruits, vegetables, grains, and plant-based protein sources.
You can decide if plant-based clean eating is right for you, but it is also recommended that you speak to your doctor before giving up all animal products.
Folks deficient in certain vitamins or minerals may need to stabilize their numbers before cutting out a major food group.
Many brands now make meat, dairy, and soy alternatives to make clean eating easier.
Read Your Labels!
If you purchase a packaged food product at the store, be sure to read the nutrition label before buying!
The label will tell you exactly what’s inside your food and how it will fit into your daily servings.
The ingredients list is also an essential element on the label, as you can quickly tell if the food was made with chemical processes.
The more you read labels, the more you will familiarize yourself with ingredients that you should or should not be eating.
Of course, avoiding all processed food is the primary goal, but some foods are better than others.
The Ultimate List of Fresh Clean Eating Foods
This list is the ultimate list of clean eating foods that you should include in your weekly diet.
Whole, unrefined, and unprocessed foods make up the bulk of all clean eating.
Here, we have broken up the list into food groups, so you can easily refer to this list when shopping at the grocery store.
Fruits are delicious due to their naturally occurring sweetness.
They are also an essential part of a balanced diet, clean eating or not.
Here are some of the best fruits for clean eating:
Without realizing it, vegetables contain most of the nutrition our bodies need daily.
There are a few different types of vegetables to include in your clean diet.
These veggies are a diverse group related to the broccoli and cabbage family that are said to have anti-cancer properties.
- Brussels sprouts
- Bok choy
- Collard greens
These filling vegetables are generally higher in carbohydrates but are still super healthy and perfect for a clean eating diet.
- Sweet potatoes
- All other whole potatoes
- Squash varieties
These veggies don’t fit into either of the other categories but are still important to include in this diet.
- Dark leafy greens
- Bell peppers
- Green beans
While refined white bread made with processed white flour is not healthy, unmilled whole grains are.
The difference lies within the wheat germ.
With white flour, all nutritional elements are stripped from the grain before milling.
Whole wheat flour leaves the grain intact before milling, which leaves the nutritional elements within the grain.
Be sure to buy 100% whole grain items with the least amount of processing possible.
You also want to include a wide variety of whole grains in your diet for an optimal nutritional boost.
Some amazing clean whole grains are:
- Ancient grains
- Cereal grains
If you have gluten sensitivity, you can still include whole grains in your diet.
Gluten-Free Whole Grains
Eat these gluten-free whole grains instead:
- Gluten-free oats
- Brown rice
All diets need protein, animal or not, for a healthy balanced diet.
Clean eating proteins should be as natural and unprocessed as possible.
This category includes all protein sourced from pasture-raised, grass-fed animals:
- Egg whites
For those of us who prefer to limit the consumption of animal products, here are some clean plant-based proteins:
Be sure that the seafood you source is sustainably caught and not endangering other wildlife around it.
Get your nutrition from these seafood sources:
- Fatty fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel, krill, anchovies, sardines, sea bass, eel, carp, herring)
- Lean fish (tilapia, cod, mahi-mahi, trout, pollock, halibut, flounder, catfish, snapper)
- Shellfish (shrimp, lobster, clams, mussels, oysters, muscles, crab, scallops)
There are different types of fats. Some are bad for us (saturated) and some are very healthy.
Healthy fats come from natural sources and are imperative to a well-balanced meal plan.
Eat these healthy fat sources:
- Oils (olive oil, flaxseed oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, canola oil, avocado oil, ghee)
- Nuts (almonds, peanuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, Brazil nuts)
- Nut butter (peanut butter, cashew butter, almond butter)
- Seeds (sunflower seeds, flaxseed, chia seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds)
All dairy should come from organic and grass-fed sources to be considered clean.
- Cow’s milk
- Sheep’s milk
- Goat’s milk/cheese
- Cottage cheese
If you are also on a dairy-free diet, there are plenty of non-dairy alternatives to most dairy products, including:
- Plant-based milk (oat, hemp, soy, almond, cashew, rice)
- Soy, coconut, or almond yogurt
- Vegan cheese
- Nutritional yeast
- Vegan ice cream
Legumes are rich in fiber and protein, making them a clean food necessity.
- Black beans
- Kidney beans
- Pinto beans
- Pigeon peas
- Black-eyed peas
- Broad beans
- Mung bean
Food is not the only important clean aspect of a diet.
You need to stay hydrated, so integrate these healthy beverages:
- Fruit juice (all-natural with no sugars)
- Vegetable juice (all-natural)
- Green tea
- Juiced organic produce
- Coconut water
- Green smoothies
Helpful Related Information
This list should be followed daily to keep your health in check.
For even more clean foods, check out our list of super healthy foods to eat every day.
While it is hard to give up excess refined sugar, the process is worth it in terms of health.
And, you can still enjoy desserts with our list of healthy desserts you can make tonight.
Clean meals are difficult to come up with on your own.
Instead, try out my favorite clean dinner recipe, Instant Pot Pho, which is absolutely delicious and easy to make.
Lean, Clean Eating
Once you go clean, you never go back.
Replacing your daily foods with minimally processed, whole, natural foods is the best decision you can make for your health.
Omitting chemicals and excess sugar from your diet can reduce your chance of developing cancer and other chronic illnesses.
Follow the above food list by taking it to the grocery store with you to ensure you are supplying yourself with the best foods for your body.
If you care about the foods you put in your body, start eating clean today, and let us know how you’re doing in the comments below!