Many people consider clean eating to be an extreme form of dieting. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Clean eating is all about consuming whole foods that are nutrient-dense and unprocessed. If you’re looking for a sustainable way to lose weight, boost your energy levels, improve your mood, or just generally feel more healthy then clean eating is perfect for you! All it takes is some simple tips on how to go about doing so successfully. In this article, you’ll find a 7-day clean eating meal plan and grocery list. You’ll also get lots of information that will help you get started on a healthy clean eating lifestyle.
What Is Clean Eating?
Clean eating is all about consuming whole foods that are nutrient-dense and unprocessed. These types of foods include lean meats, healthy fats, nuts and seeds, starchy fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and plant based proteins like tofu and tempeh (15).
Processing food often entails removing nutrients to prolong shelf life or alter the food chemically to boost taste or appearance (5). This processing usually reduces the amount of fiber present in the food as well as other nutrients, making it less nutritious than its natural counterpart would be. For instance, white flour has few health benefits compared to wholemeal flour because the latter still has the husk and bran attached.
Many people turn to clean eating when they want to lose weight, manage a health condition such as diabetes or improve energy levels. In all of these cases, cutting out highly processed foods is an effective way to successfully meet their goals.
What Foods Should Be In Your Healthy Grocery List?
The best “clean” foods are not only minimally processed, but also high in important nutrients. Here are the main foods you should include in your shopping list for clean eating:
Grass-fed beef comes from cows that eat mostly grass. Grain-fed cows eat a diet supplemented with soy and corn and other additives. Grain-fed cows can also be given antibiotics and growth hormones to fatten them up more quickly.
Grass-fed beef is considered by some to be a healthier option than grain-fed beef. It has less total fat and therefore fewer calories. The nutritional content of that fat is also different (7). For example, grass-fed beef has as much as five times the amount of omega-3 fatty acids as regular grain-fed beef. In addition to being packed with B vitamins, grass-fed beef is higher in vitamins A, E, and other antioxidants compared to grain-fed beef.
Other grass-fed meats to consider while shopping include:
Sustainably-Caught Or Farmed Seafood
Unsustainable fishing practices are worrying because they have a big impact on the food chain. These types of fishing practices are also increasing in popularity.
Sustainably-caught or farmed seafood is best because it doesn’t deplete ocean populations and can be easily identified by where it’s from. Fish that come from healthy habitats contain more omega-3 fatty acids, less mercury, and fewer contaminants than fish found in unhealthy habitats. Avoid fish with high levels of mercury (2). Therefore, make sure to check the origins of the fish you buy when you shop for groceries.
Some sustainably caught seafood options include:
Organic And Free Range Poultry
Birds that are fed an organic diet free of antibiotics and hormones may produce eggs (or meat) containing more omega-3 fats, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and other nutrients (4).
Eggs from organically fed chickens may also have higher levels of many essential components including lutein and zeaxanthin which are powerful antioxidants (8). These compounds protect the retina in the eye promoting good vision at all ages.
Other types of poultry to consider while grocery shopping include:
Plant Based Proteins
A vegetarian diet requires 3 times less water and 2.5 times less energy to produce than a meat-heavy diet. While eating clean, going veg heavy and light on the meat can help preserve earth’s resources.
Some plant based proteins to include in your grocery list include:
- Beans and legumes
- Soy based products such as tofu and edamame
- Nutritional yeast
- Pea protein
Organic And Grass-Fed Dairy
Organic foods are produced without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms or ionizing radiation (11).
Grass-fed dairy is considered by some to be healthier than regular milk because it contains more omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (a fat that has been found to fight heart disease and cancer) (13).
Some of the best organic and grass-fed dairy options include:
- Milk, cheese, and cream from hormone-free cows, goats and sheep
Frozen Fruits And Vegetables
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, frozen is almost as good as fresh (14). Frozen veggies are often picked at the peak of ripeness and then flash-frozen immediately. This locks in nutrients that would otherwise be lost if they were shipped to your grocery store fresh.
Organic fruits and vegetables are usually pricier than conventional produce, especially when they are not in season. Buying frozen is usually cheaper, because you are buying fruit/vegetables that were frozen at their peak of ripeness.
The best frozen fruits and vegetables to buy include:
- Mixed Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
- Green Beans
Complex, Fiber-Rich Carbs
For the most part, the key to eating healthy is to eat unprocessed foods high in fiber. These types of foods promote a sense of satiety which helps you control your weight and blood sugar levels more easily (6).
Eating too much refined and processed carb-rich food can lead to an increase in triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels which increases your risk of heart disease (3). Additionally, if you’re trying to lose weight then it’s best to avoid these unhealthy carbs as they’re low in fiber and nutrition and could make you feel tired or bloated.
Try replacing them with whole grains and starchy vegetables such as:
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat
- Air-Popped Popcorn
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Unsweetened High Fiber Cereals
Many breakfast cereals are made with whole grains, but they’re also packed with sugar, salt, artificial flavors and preservatives. This makes them unhealthy even though they’re high in fiber.
As you shop for healthy cereal options, look for those that contain no more than five grams of sugar per serving. Also make sure to check the label for preservatives like sodium benzoate or BHT. These chemicals promote cancer growth and may be harmful to your health over time (9).
Some healthy cereal options include:
- Unsweetened oatmeal
- Muesli or rolled oats
- Puffed rice
- High fiber bran flakes
Many people tend to shy away from fats because they are high in calories. However, not all fats are bad for you. The ones that you need to include in your grocery list while eating clean are mostly unsaturated sources of fat which includes omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fat found in avocados.
They are known to reduce inflammation which may help fight problems like arthritis, cognitive decline, and even certain cancers (1). Unsaturated fats also supply other nutrients such as vitamin E, selenium, and magnesium.
Some healthy fats to try while grocery shopping include:
- Avocado oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Almond butter
- Nuts (almonds, walnuts, peanuts)
7-Day Clean Eating Meal Plan
With your grocery shopping in place, it’s time to plan your meals for the week. Meal planning is vital for clean eating for many reasons, including (12):
- Saves on time
- Saves Money
- Helps you avoid having to resort to unhealthy convenience foods.
- Helps you stick to the required portions for each meal – this is important if you’re eating clean to lose weight.
In this meal plan you’ll find nutrient rich foods like fruits and veggies, lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats and limited amounts of processed foods, refined grains, salt, added sugar and alcohol. Don’t stress over counting calories or restricting specific food categories; simply use healthy ingredients and discover how wonderful and simple clean eating can be.
- Breakfast – Greek yogurt topped with raspberries and chopped walnuts
- Lunch – White bean and veggie salad
- Snack – Red apple slices with peanut butter dip
- Dinner – Roasted salmon with asparagus (or other vegetable)
- Breakfast – Banana almond breakfast smoothie
- Lunch – Tomato chickpea salad
- Snack – Dry roasted almonds
- Dinner – Slow-cooker beef and vegetable stew
- Breakfast – Low-fat blueberry muffins
- Lunch – Tuna salad sandwich on whole grain bread
- Snack – Apple slices mixed with peanut butter
- Dinner – Baked tilapia with a side of wild rice and broccoli
- Breakfast – Whole wheat pancakes topped with fresh berries
- Lunch – Grilled chicken sandwich
- Snack – Mixed nuts
- Dinner – Roast pork tenderloin served over sauteed veggies and quinoa
- Breakfast – Spinach, peanut butter, and banana smoothie
- Lunch – Greek salad with edamame
- Snack – Savory vegetable muffins
- Dinner – Beef stew with wild rice and steamed vegetables
- Breakfast – Baked oatmeal with chopped fruit
- Lunch – Beet salad with turkey
- Snack – Pear slices with 1 oz. cheese
- Dinner – Roasted chicken and green beans
- Breakfast – Yogurt parfait topped with blueberries and almonds
- Lunch – Tuna melt on whole grain bread
- Snack – Hummus and carrots
- Dinner – Spicy shrimp (or other seafood) pasta
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Helpful Tips To Make Clean Eating Easy For You
Healthy habits, such as eating clean and exercising regularly, should become a lifetime journey (10). It won’t always be easy but it will definitely be worth it in the long run. Below are some helpful tips to help you stick with this lifestyle:
Plan Your Meals
The most important step in following any diet is planning ahead of time so that you can shop and cook accordingly. If you plan on having clean eating dinners, cook in bulk so that you have leftovers for the next day.
Don’t expect to get everything right all of the time. Be kind to yourself by taking small steps towards reaching your goals instead of beating yourself up for every little mistake.
Keep Things Interesting
Clean eating isn’t about restriction; it’s about doing what is best for your body and mind. That being said, treat yourself once in a while! It will help you stay sane and be able to enjoy things guilt-free.
The Bottom Line
Clean eating, or “eating clean”, is all about choosing foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Going through your weekly grocery list and picking out real, whole foods helps you prepare for life’s little curveballs, like last-minute dinner invitations or impromptu business lunches. When you eat clean consistently, time after time, it becomes easier to eat healthy overall because you’re not relying on processed foods – which means fewer empty calories.
By including the listed foods in your grocery shopping list, you can reap the benefits of eating clean while still enjoying delicious meals every day!
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- A healthy approach to dietary fats: understanding the science and taking action to reduce consumer confusion (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Avoiding Mercury in Fish (2020, uofmhealth.org)
- Fat, Sugar, Whole Grains and Heart Disease: 50 Years of Confusion (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Feeding Forage in Poultry: A Promising Alternative for the Future of Production Systems (2018, mdpi.com)
- Food processing: criteria for dietary guidance and public health? | Proceedings of the Nutrition Society | Cambridge Core (2018, cambridge.org)
- Health benefits of dietary fiber | Nutrition Reviews | Oxford Academic (2009, academic.oup.com)
- Health-Promoting Phytonutrients Are Higher in Grass-Fed Meat and Milk (2021, frontiersin.org)
- Hen egg carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin) and nutritional impacts on human health: a review (2017, tandfonline.com)
- Immunomodulatory Effects of Food Additives (2017, peertechzpublications.com)
- Integrated Role of Nutrition and Physical Activity for Lifelong Health (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- International Journal of Agriculture and Environmental Research COMPREHENSIVE REVIEW OF ORGANIC FOODS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD (2018, researchgate.net)
- Meal planning is associated with food variety, diet quality, and body weight status in a large sample of French adults (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The “Grass-Fed” Milk Story: Understanding the Impact of Pasture Feeding on the Composition and Quality of Bovine Milk (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Vitamin Retention in Eight Fruits and Vegetables: A Comparison of Refrigerated and Frozen Storage (2014, pubs.acs.org)
- What does it mean to eat clean? (2020, mayoclinic.org)