Clean eating 101: How to Shop for Clean Food



shopping for clean food

Clean eating doesn’t have to be difficult.

In this clean eating 101 blog post, we’ll explore what clean eaters need to do when they venture out to the grocery store. We’ll cover a few key steps and provide some helpful tips along the way. Let’s get started.

The first step is understanding that not all foods are created equal. Some will give you more energy than others, while others might cause weight gain, bloating, breakouts, chronic aches and pains, brain fog, fatigue, and more.

There are many things you should consider before purchasing any food item – such as whether it’s genetically modified or if its ingredients include high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), among other things. With these points in mind, let’s take a look at how you can clean up your grocery shopping routine.

Understanding Clean Foods

Clean foods are free of synthetic ingredients, GMOs, and other scary stuff. You know the drill: foods without ingredients you can’t pronounce or that come from a laboratory. Remember, clean eating is all about getting back to nature – clean foods are an excellent place to start your health and wellness journey.

shopping for clean food

Consider Food Labels and Ingredients

Understanding food labels is the most critical part of clean eating. Learning what is in your food is far more important than how many calories and fat grams it contains. Instead, it’s what makes up those calories and fat grams that matter the most.

Clean foods almost always have short ingredient lists. This is because they don’t contain preservatives and artificial ingredients.

The cleanest foods, like fresh produce, have no packaging and no ingredient lists.

How to Shop for Clean Foods at the Grocery Store

The grocery store can be a daunting place, especially if you have bored, hungry, tired, or impatient children with you.

To help make the experience more enjoyable, shop at the grocery stores where you feel most comfortable. According to my teenager, this means where you feel the best vibes. I prefer smaller grocery stores that are usually less busy. Luckily there is no shortage of grocery stores in Columbus. Check several of them out and pick the ones that feel the most comfortable for you.

If you are new to clean eating, you need to give yourself plenty of time to shop. As you get the hang of it, you’ll need less time. So, do yourself a favor and plan to shop when you’re not rushed and preferably when you can do it without your kids. Does such a time even exist? Just do your best.

Let me share a quick, personal story. When my kids were little, one of my kids was being evaluated for lots of scary things, including immune deficiencies and Cystic Fibrosis. Thank God, everything came back negative, but she was still sick. So I had to do something to help her.

So, we cleaned up our diet. We went on a 30-day elimination diet. It was unbelievably difficult but worth every bit of hardship.

The hardest thing for me was shopping with two little ones in tow and trying to read all the food labels. And this was at Whole Foods, where you think everything is clean and healthy. It’s not. You really need to be your own advocate and detective.

Trying to read and scrutinize every food label and justify the prices was agonizing for me! But we made it and we’re no longer worried about any devastating diagnosis. Changing our diets changed our lives.

Start in the Produce Section

The first rule of shopping for clean food is to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables. Even better if you buy fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season. (You could even try out a local Farmers’ Market.) Seasonal, locally grown foods pack more flavor and nutrients. Not only do you get the best taste, but you also get the most bang for your buck when shopping for seasonal produce.

But don’t limit yourself to only seasonal produce. You’ll be hard-pressed to find fresh seasonal produce in Ohio in the winter.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are nutritionally dense and generally low in calories. They provide much-needed vitamins, minerals, fiber, and anti-oxidants. They’re also filling and hydrating.

Shop the Perimeter for Clean Foods

After you stock up on fresh produce, finish the majority of your shopping along the perimeter of the store. That’s where you’ll find mostly whole foods with the least amount of processing and packaging.

For example, the meat section is along the perimeter. We won’t debate if eating meat is healthy in this post. If you eat meat, the healthiest choices are lean, grass-fed, free-range and/or wild-caught. You want your meat to be as natural and close to the source as possible.

Whole grains and bulk sections are typically unprocessed and clean.

Dairy products like cheese tend to be found along the perimeter. When shopping for dairy products, try to find organic and grass-fed varieties. They’ll cost more, but they’ll be free of toxic chemicals and hormones.

You still need to be a food label detective even along the perimeter. So don’t let your guard down here.

Always Bring a List

If you have trouble sticking to a clean diet, one of the best things you can do is make a clean eating grocery list. You really need to think about what clean foods you’ll buy before going to the store so that your shopping trip will be as painless and efficient as possible.

shopping for clean food

Only Go to the Middle Aisles for Necessities

Avoid the middle aisles and the end caps, where you’ll find most of the processed foods.

The middle aisles are the majority of the store and where all the packaged, processed foods are strategically placed to entice you to buy them.

This is where your children might meltdown every 10 seconds because they want every bright-colored box they see on the shelves. Or is that just my kids?

Save your sanity and avoid these aisles unless absolutely necessary.

Cook Clean Meals with Clean Ingredients From Your Own Home

Be sure that you clean up your recipes too. You have more control over what goes into homemade food than processed foods, so don’t just use any old recipe from Pinterest or a cookbook.

I know what you’re thinking, geez, now I have to be a recipe detective too! I hear ya! The struggle is real. But what’s the point of shopping for clean food if you don’t cook clean meals?

The best part about cooking with clean ingredients is the recipes can be very simple. The simpler the recipe, the more wholesome and healthy the meal is.

Enjoy a Healthy Lifestyle

After you clean up your diet, you’ll be able to enjoy a healthier lifestyle with more energy and vitality. And your body will thank you for it.

When you start to feed your body real nutrition, magical things happen.

  • Unwanted weight starts to fall off.
  • The “mom brain” starts to clear up.
  • Your energy soars.
  • Mysterious aches and pains start to disappear.
  • Skin problems vanish.
  • Premature aging is stopped in its tracks.

shopping for clean food

In the long run, buying clean food is less expensive because you’re not wasting money on processed foods that may give you short-term pleasure but long-term health issues.

This clean eating 101 blog post should provide you with the information you need to clean up your grocery shopping routine. By following these tips and tricks, you’ll be able to choose clean foods that will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle!

Remember: always bring a list when heading out the door for your weekly groceries- this will keep you on track, ensure that you don’t forget anything you need, and keep you away from the processed foods.

In addition, we hope this article has given you some helpful insight into how clean food labels can impact whether or not something is considered “clean” by clean food standards. With just a little bit of research before going grocery shopping, it’s easy enough to make sure all of what goes in our mouths are delicious and nutritious (or at least more so than most of the food found at the grocery store these days.)

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Shellie is an Occupational Therapist and Lactation Counselor turned Health Coach. She grew up in Youngstown and moved to Columbus to attend The Ohio State University. Columbus has been her home for the past 25+ years. She has 3 jobs, 1 husband, 3 kids, and 1 fur baby. When she’s not momming or working, she is researching all things related to nutrition and natural health. For that matter, she has an unhealthy relationship with her iPad and is not setting the best example for her kids. Her passion is to help busy moms transform their lifestyles so they can raise strong, healthy and happy families. She blogs about nutrition and natural health at Shelli Bolyard.