Whether you are looking for a simple explanation on how to eat clean or need fresh recipe ideas, you’ll find the why’s and how’s of clean eating plus food lists and recipes to help you get started.
Things you’ll find in this post are:
- Clean eating defined
- How to start
- Food lists
- Delicious recipes that are healthy and clean eating approved
Are you ready to get started? Good, let’s go!
What Is Clean Eating?
This is a question I get all the time. Laura, What is clean eating?
Clean eating is a lifestyle in which you consume whole, minimally processed foods and meals. It’s not just a diet but an entire mindset and way of life ranging from the foods you choose to the way you prepare and even serve them.
Meals made with a majority of natural ingredients such as vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats, will automatically add more nutrition to your diet while eliminating any unnecessarily added sugars and “junk” often found in processed foods.
There’s also the execution of cooking and eating meals. Instead of complex recipes with lots of steps, clean eating focuses on preparing foods in a simple, tasteful way that doesn’t try to mask the taste or flavor of what’s being served. Think roasted sheet pan dinners, tossed salads, and stir-fry. It’s all about simple, healthy, and delicious.
The payoff from switching to a clean food lifestyle includes boosted energy, improved overall health, and the satisfaction of enjoying wholesome food meal after meal.
How to Start Eating Clean
Eating clean is an effective way to implement both short and long term changes that drastically improve the overall health and well being of yourself and your family.
However, when you have tiny humans on your team, getting started can be the hardest part!
For years, whenever I would do a Whole30 challenge, I would cook 2 separate meals, one for me and the other for everyone else.
It. Was. Exhausting.
It only took a couple of rounds of preparing 2 lunches and dinners all day, every day until I learned I could make Whole30 compliant recipes that were kid-friendly by swapping the processed ingredients for a smarter, healthier option.
It was amazing to see how much my family enjoyed these clean, real food meals after a few simple adjustments. You’ll see just how delicious your family meals can be with the recipes below but first, let’s dive into some helpful resources.
Clean Eating Meal Plan
If you’re on the lookout for a clean eating meal plan made for the entire family, you’ll find everything you’re searching for in my Family Kickstart Program.
It’s a 30-day clean eating program with recipes, meal prep tips, and completed shopping list for each week so you can better focus on eliminating processed foods and sugars while making incredible meals for your family. Learn more here.
List of Foods for Clean Eating
Instead of focusing on what foods you should avoid, I prefer focusing on everything we can enjoy while eating clean!
Below I’ve summed up the most commonly enjoyed ingredients on programs such as the Family Kickstart and Whole30. Remember, this list is modified to match what I’ve found works best for my family as well as the Kickstart community.
Carbs– the good kind!
- Sweet potatoes
When it comes to fruit- organic is the better option but more costly, and if that’s too much I’ve found the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen list helpful. You can learn more about it here but in short, it’s a great guide on which produce options are worth buying organic.
- Kiwi Fruit
Veggies are unlimited, and if you aren’t able to purchase them all organic, reference the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen list.
- Leafy greens
- Butternut Squash
- Acorn squash
- Snap beans
- Bell peppers
- Beans & legumes
- Beef- grass-fed
- Seafood & fish
Full Fat Dairy
Some clean eating programs cut out the dairy. Still, after much research, I’ve found that the full-fat varieties carry wonderful benefits such as various vitamins, minerals, and the good kind of fats to help your body better absorb nutrients.
- Whole milk
- Half & half
- Sharp cheese such as Feta, Cheddar, Parmesan
If you or your family are sensitive to dairy, stick to alternative milks such as almond, coconut, and flax milk. Ghee is also a great alternative for butter.
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
- Ghee or butter
- Nuts and nut butters
Pantry Staples & Spices
- Almond flour
- Coconut flour
- Cocoa powder
- Baking soda
- Baking powder
- Arrowroot powder
- Honey or Maple syrup
- Liquid Aminos
- Dijon mustard
- Sriracha sauce
- Spices & herbs
- Coffee- priorities first
- Tea- unsweetened
- Water- A TON OF IT
- Coconut water
- Almond milk- unsweetened
- Coconut milk
- Flax milk
Foods to Avoid When Eating Clean
You’ve probably already guessed pre-packaged snacks, candy, cookies, frozen meals, breakfast cereals, most bottled and jarred sauces, canned soups, granola/breakfast bars, but here are a few items you might not have thought about:
- Bottled Salad dressings – many contain added sugars and preservatives.
- Pre-packaged lunch meat – Shocking but many lunch meats contain added sugar and fillers. I’ve found this brand to be best for cold cuts but you can also purchase sliced meat from whole roasted chicken, beef, and turkey in the deli section.
- Vegan Substitutes – Often thought of as a healthy choice but many of these veggie burgers, “chicken, and “bacon” are still highly processed and often contain excessive amounts of sodium.
Clean Breakfast Ideas
Starting the day with the right foods sets the mark for the rest of the day. Each of these breakfast recipes includes nutrient-dense ingredients like sweet potatoes, oats, berries, and cocoa powder, prepared in a way that both kids and adults will enjoy.
Recipe: Sweet Potato Toasts
Sweet potatoes pack vitamin A, fiber, and make a tasty alternative to the usual morning toasts. Their sweet/savory taste holds up great with fruit, nut butters or guacamole and a fried egg!.
Recipe: Chocolate Smoothie Bowl
This chocolate smoothie bowl is high in fiber and protein, making it the perfect breakfast, post-workout meal, or healthy treat!
Recipe: Cassava Flour Pancakes
Instead of serving them syrup, top with fresh fruit like strawberries and blueberries
Recipe: Cranberry Orange Baked Oatmeal
Hot baked oatmeal with fresh cranberries and orange. It tastes and smells like dessert but lacks all the added sugar so you can enjoy a bowl, guilt-free.
Clean Lunch Ideas
Without sandwich bread, flour tortillas, and the usual snacks what are we supposed to pack for lunch? I’ve got all the answers right here!
Recipe: Egg Roll in a Bowl
Everything you love in an eggroll minus the fried wonton shell.
Recipe: Salmon Nicoise
A beautiful, omega-3 and protein-packed lunch thanks to baked salmon, potatoes, and green beans from last night’s dinner!
Recipe: Asian Chicken Lettuce Cups
The cooked chicken soaks up all the delicious flavors of the dressing and gets topped with a crunchy Asian slaw in lettuce cups. It’s the perfect combination of flavors and textures.
Recipe: Greek Farro Bowls
That marinated and seared chicken is the BOMB! Topped over farro with Tzatziki sauce, feta cheese, and fresh veggies, it’s one of my favorite meals to prep and pack.
Clean Dinner Ideas
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but I disagree, dinner is the most important meal of the day! It’s the one time; the entire family can sit down and share a meal.
Recipes like the ones below help to make sure each dinner counts, and they’re what makes the Family Kickstart a hit. If you’re curious to see what 30 days of eating clean looks like with Kickstart, go here to grab a sample week.
Recipe: Shrimp Fried Rice
If you’re looking for a low-carb and healthy copy-cat version of classic fried rice, this is it! Made with cauliflower rice, jumbo shrimp, veggies, and sesame oil, it smells and tastes just like the original!
Recipe: Chicken Stew
Stocked with potatoes, carrots, and tender chicken, this is the epitome of feel-good food that’s good for you! For a dairy-free version, omit the half & half or swap it with full-fat coconut milk.
Recipe: Pork Carnitas Lettuce Cups
I use this slow-cooker pork base to make some unbelievable tacos, and to make it low-carb, I swapped the tortilla for lettuce cups. That fresh crunch and smoky flavor are perfect together.
Recipe: Paleo Chili
The most popular recipe on this blog and for a good reason- it’s the BOMB.COM! Instead of beans, this chili is loaded with ground beef and veggies, no worries they cook in with the chili spices and tomatoes so all your family will taste is the hearty, chili goodness.
Recipe: Stuffed Sweet Potato Bar
Bake the sweet potatoes ahead of time and refrigerate wrapped in foil. When dinner rolls around, reheat the potatoes in the microwave, assemble the toppings, and help yourself!
Clean Eating Snacks
While a lot of clean eating sources recommend getting the bulk of your nutrients from the main meal, I find that with an on-the-go lifestyle of most moms, snacks are still necessary, especially when you have kids around.
These recipes focus on nutrient-dense ingredients, healthy fats, protein, and minimal added sugar to keep you full without spiking your blood sugar.
Recipe: Peach Cobbler Smoothie
My favorite way to use frozen peaches is with this smoothie. It’s not overly sweet, and the oats give it a thick, shake-like texture.
Recipe: 3 Ingredient Fudgy Brownies
Cocoa powder, prunes, and nut butter are all you need to make these chewy, rich chocolate bites.
Recipe: Fiesta Deviled Eggs
Deviled eggs + guacamole is all kinds of party appetizer goodness, and it’s healthy! Cheers!
Recipe: Paleo Breakfast Cookie
Don’t let the name fool you; these cookies are made with banana, peanut butter, hemp seed, and spices. They can double as both a healthy breakfast or snack.