Want to get caught up on the 7 Day Clean Eating Challenge? Start here!
One of the big things with people changing their lifestyles is the fact that sometimes it’s difficult to know where to begin. Sure, you can cut a bunch of stuff out of your daily diet, but what do you replace it with? If you don’t have a readily available substitute, it becomes that much easier to revert back to your old habits… the ones we want to shed.
That’s why we’re preparing for this in advance. Part of that preparation is putting together a list of foods that will help you get it in and get it done. That’s also why I’m sharing the goods on what you’ll find in my healthy kitchen. If I can make it do what it do, then so can you!
- Spinach Leaves – Aside from being a great base for salads and a wonderful addition to pastas, they’re extremely low-calorie. 4 cups of spinach for 20 calories? Come on. Try a salad with spinach leaves, mushrooms, sunflower seeds and my strawberry vinaigrette.Last time I checked the grocery, a bushel was about $2… and it can easily last you several days if you’re exercising portion control.
- Apples – Slice ’em up and toss ’em in a salad, chop ’em into chunks and cook ’em with chicken (recipe to come), or stew a few in some apple cider vinegar and make apple butter. Either way, apples are inexpensive and versatile enough to be a mainstay in my kitchen.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sesame Oil… – Anything except vegetable/canola oil. In fact, I have the extra virgin olive oil cooking spray, too, when I simply need a base for my skillet when I cook a little chicken and don’t want the heavy oils. Is oil a bad thing? Not these kinds, and not if used sparingly. So no, you cannot deep fry something in these oils (and at the price tag of about $3 for two cups, trust me – you don’t want to), but you can certainly get a good stir-fry-style skillet going with some veggies. If you don’t have sesame oil available? Don’t sweat it. The olive oil will work fine.
- Garlic – In the form of minced garlic in a jar, regular garlic cloves, or garlic powder… garlic rocks. It definitely has its health benefits, but it is a light flavor that packs a mean punch. Combine the garlic with the extra virgin olive oil (maybe a half teaspoon of garlic to 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a big pinch of oregano and a big pinch of basil), and you get a nice sauce for the occasional pasta and chicken dish.
- Almond Milk – Regular pasteurized milk and I don’t get along. It made my skin feel slimy and I hated the way it felt sliding down my throat. I used to drink rice milk, but then I gave up drinking milk altogether. Then… I discovered almond milk. Now, I keep a carton of the original and vanilla versions on the fridge. I will tell ya, though – it is pricey, but Whole Foods sells it at a price much higher than your local grocery might (if they have it.)
- Berries! – Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries… you name it. Around this time of year, the price goes down quite a bit from winter, and the berries come out to play. Chop ’em up in your cereal, your oatmeal, pancakes or give yourself a nice light snack throughout the day. They are an awesome source of “sweet” taste, and can serve multiple purposes (remember.. I make strawberry vinaigrettes, blueberry preserves. I’m gettin’ the most out of my money!)
- Seeds – Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and poppy seeds. Oh yes. I use poppy seeds in my vinaigrettes, salads, pastas and chicken dishes as an additional little bit of texture. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds, tho? That’s just for me to munch on throughout the day. I’m a fan of snacking. Yes I am. Poppy seeds should be available in your grocery’s spice section.
- Peppers – No matter whether they’re green, red or gold… I love peppers! You can cut them into strips, toss a little olive oil on ’em and roast them. You can chop them into little bits and throw ’em into a diced chicken dish. You can cut it into big chunks, bake it with some garlic and vinegar and make your own hot sauce (toss a little mango in it for extra points.) You can make your own alfredo sauce and toss a few in there. Make strips, throw ’em into a salad. Very versatile. Depending on where you are, they might be as pricey as $2 a pop. Dice it up thinly, and use sparingly. They’re really sharp to the tongue, so you don’t need much, anyway.
- Vinegar – Plain white vinegar is only about a dollar, with apple cider vinegar coming in at maybe fifty cents more. You can get red wine vinegar for a little more, and generic balsamic vinaigrette may top out at about $3.50. Use ’em to add a little tang to meats without salt, mix with spices and olive oil to create your own vinaigrette, or use it as a base for a pasta salad. Try that balsamic vinegar with garlic and wrap it in your ground meat before you cook your burger… you’re welcome in advance! Either way, it’s an inexpensive way to get a lot done.
- Dried beans, lentils, quinoa – I’m heavy on the black beans. I live for ’em. One bag goes for about $1.50, and they can last forever. Toss ’em in a big pot with some water, chopped onions and cumin and just let it soak overnight (or before you head off to work… if you have that kind of time during the week.) That’s right… no heat. Wake up, cut ’em on medium heat for about an hour, and I promise you’ll love ’em. Pinto beans cook pretty much the same way. Without all the excess salt. Lentils are closer to peas than they are beans, but they’re awesome too. Soak these overnight with a little garlic in the pot, and then cook ’em after a few hours. Golden. Quinoa is more like… a soft yet chewy kind of seed, but it acts more like rice in a dish. They don’t have to soak overnight, but give ’em ten minutes in the pot before you cut on the heat.
You may not love all of these things, but if nothing else, take from this list an idea of how versatile you can make food items. Apples in your salad, cooked with your chicken, or stewed to make apple butter. I can buy a bag of apples for $3 and stretch it for almost a month. $3 is a box of 20 taquitos, that lasted me maybe a week. My money stretches like you wouldn’t believe, now.
Aside from the basic staples – brown rice, tomatoes, broccoli, lemons and limes, your meat of choice, etc etc – these are some of the things that I live for and love, and the different ways I take advantage of them in my healthy, clean eating kitchen. I cook three times a day for two people and with appropriate portion sizes, most of these last me about a month and total about $22.
What’s in your healthy kitchen? Help me compile a list so we can all do this challenge together!
I love this post! Erika, you really should write about your journey. You are a genius! I don’t know if I will be doing the 7-day challenge, but I certainly will work on adding at least 2 days of clean eating into my diet. My goal is to work up to completely clean eating system for me and my family.
Don’t count yourself out just yet! We’re going to spend the week talking about making this kind of living more feasible for the everyday woman, and that includes time AND cost. Both are big factors, and we want to give equal attention to both!
If there are issues that you foresee, bring ’em out! Let’s hear ’em! I want to help make this as possible for as many women as I can. We’ll find the answers together. 🙂
I meant to say “write a book about your journey”!
Great post! I’m really loving your blog. I’ve been a fan for a while but just now getting some down time to comment,lol. My kitchen has all of the things you posted except the almond milk. I still drink organic milk, but only from happy cows,lol. My other staples include:
Veg/Fruit: mache’, arugula, asparagus, watercress, brocolini, rapini, okra, baby beets, carribean sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, assorted eggplants, bananas, baby bananas, kiwi, blueberries, mango, avocado, pineapple.
Grains: organic whole grain pasta, brown basmatic rice,
Protein: seitan, tofu, shrimp, chicken breast, fish, eggs
Dairy: organic milk, stilton cheese, parmesean (the real stuff that costs an arm and a leg), wild card cheese (whatever’s in the $3 bin at Whole Foods), greek yogurt.
I have nothing to add but just know I’m reading & taking notes. 🙂 and awaiting that strawberry vinaigrette joint. 🙂
I got you covered, mama! Strawberry Vinaigrette a la BGG2WL!
Great list – I’ve been trying to get on the clean eating myself so I’m looking forward to joining the challenge!
Some things I like to keep in my kitchen:
– frozen fruit and veggies – random combination of strawberries, blueberries, peaches, mangoes with a banana and some apple juice for smoothies. I also keep frozen broccoli and squash on hand b/c I cook for one and don’t always do well with maintaining fresh produce.
– whole wheat pasta
I’d love some clean eating tips for shopping/cooking/food maintenance for one busy, busy girl.
Also, I’ve been looking for a milk alternative – is almond milk tasty? Does it do well for baking also?
You’re a bit ahead of me, but I’ve got you covered!
I went grocery shopping yesterday and I when I read your post this morning, I realized that I have everything on your grocery list, except for the seeds and almond milk. It was a wake up call that I may be eating the right foods, but definitely not in the right amounts.
Will you have any tips for those of us who are used to eating large protions and feel like we are still hungry after eating a “normal sized” amount? This is something that I have been really struggling with since I started losing weight. I wrote a whole blog post on my plan for next week (and life) and personally I have found that scheduling my snacks helps me to not overeat at my meals, but if you have any other suggestions, Im open to them!
Sign me up! I want to join the challenge. You’ve got an excellent starter list and I eat just about every thing up there. I do great for breakfast and lunch (mostly greens and fruits) but dinner is always a challenge b/c I’m so lazy. Can’t wait to join y’all!
I’m so joining the 7-day challenge!!! Getting the grocery list together now, but I get my almond milk pretty cheap. I usually find coupons for $1 off, it’s just sometimes difficult to find it at regular grocery stores.
Always enjoyed your posts!! Finally decided to comment, no longer feeling like a stalker….:-) Keep writing.
Great list! I’m def going to add some seeds to my list.
Almond milk is my new staple, I use it in the protein/fruit smoothies I make for breakfast. My favorite brand is Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, I use the unsweetened because the fruit makes it sweet enough. I also keep some type of nuts (other than peanuts) on hand at all times. They are high in calories and good fat so you have to be careful not to eat TOO many of them.
To make things easier I like to make big batches of some of my favorite meals and then freeze them into single size portions for easy “frozen meal” lunches. It is much better than a Lean Cuisine.
Erika, thank you for providing this much needed information.
I am looking forward to this challenge!
Great list. I have all of these things. I use the almond milk in my smoothies, and I drink rice milk. In addition…
-whole wheat pasta
I love it! Great tips, and I did find some favs on the list: strawberries, apples and sunflower seeds! And I think I want to try the Almond milk out…I love getting tips from those who have been there…thanks for being open and willing to share with the world!! ~mz deeva~
Just curious – why no canola oil? I know that EVOO is a superior oil for eating but from my understanding and research canola is much better for cooking (it has a higher smoke point than EVOO) and its low in saturated fat, high in unsaturated fat and a good source of omega-3’s. If there’s something about canola I’m missing please let me know (and if you’ve already written about it please direct me to the post – I’m new to your blog!). Thanks.
And also thanks for posting the challenge and this shopping list…I will definitely be trying your method for cooking beans this week!
I don’t use canola oil for two reasons – 1, I don’t use that much oil in my cooking anyhow; and 2, I’m too frustrated with its popularity in the foods I used to overdo to revert back into it. Much like the same visceral reaction I have to high fructose corn syrup, lolol.
There are lots of different issues with the talk of fats, none of which are really ideal to have in the comments section.. but I’ll just say that I cling pretty closely to my EVOO! 🙂
@Tricia and Erika: Re: oils for cooking over high heat: I’ve found good luck with grapeseed oil. Plus, it’s super-low in saturated fat.
Great list Erika!
I use/have pretty much everything you listed. The only thing is…quinoa. We tried it once using regular preparation and the reviews were not good from my 3 guys. Is there any way to give it some flavor?
I have my oldest son making smoothies using frozen fruit and organic yogurt. The fruit is a winner year-round.
BTW, I am already using some of the recipes from the site and I must say that the pizza sauce is tops in my house (my guys LOVE pizza and I have to make it every week), so needless to say that I make extra sauce and keep it in the fridge. 🙂
THANK YOU!!!! This helps a lot!!!
My list is similar to yours few with a differences;
I buy extra virgin coconut oil
I prefer Braggs apple cider vinegar to regular acv
I prefer rice milk to almond milk although I drink both, but I used to drink skim milk when I drank cow’s milk so almond milk sometimes taste too thick to me
I buy kale as regularly as possible
onions – I think i try to season everything with onions and garlic.
In addition to black beans I also buy red kidney and chickpeas
You’ve got everything I’ve got! I also use coconut oil sparingly but I eat a lot of other coconut products like coconut kefir and yogurt.
It’s ESSENTIAL to have a pro-biotic in my diet. I generally don’t eat much dairy but I always have something, if not the coconut pro-biotics (which are costly), then some sauerkraut or kimchee. I know it all sounds crazy foreign but trust it keeps things moving and yeast free. Don’t act like you don’t know what I mean!
I always make sure to have avocados, sunflower seeds and KALE!!! They’re perfect in a salad together with a little apple cider vinegar and ginger.
Another staple is a good food-based green drink powder. Its important for those on-the-go smoothie breakfasts to make sure you get a good dosage of greens to start the day!
Man, where do I start? Lol first, I have EVERYTHING you listed already. Second, I love vegetables! I keep veggies like radishes, peas, corn, carrots, beets, kale, cabbage, fresh basil (not ground or dried), squash (including butternut and pumpkin), zucchini, onions, peppers, red potatoes, lettuce, and other general leafy greens like swiss chard. I also keep broccoli. I admit I don’t eat as much fruit as I probably should but I keep apples, oranges, lemons, bananas, cranberries (and other berries), grapes, and best of all, THE CANTALOUPE! I also keep pears and mangoes occasionally. I forgot to mention eggplant as part of my veggie inventory. Sometimes I have pineapples as well. Every now and again I’ll have some Bok Choy and cucumbers. I keep so much that I can’t list everything! I make my own seasoning (no longer using Lowry’s). I even bake my own breads (not sandwich bread, though lol). I have a pretty decent variety of cheeses, oils, and spices. If one of my friends or family members came to spend the night, then he/she would be ordering takeout. My kitchen is full of good, clean, healthy things. I’m sure I have foods that my friends and family members have never even heard of! Lol. I can happily say that my kitchen has been completely and successfully transformed!
Oh, and you probably frown on magazines but I’ve fallen in love with the “Clean Eating” magazine. It is filled with so many great recipe ideas for the clean eaters.
I would like to suggest trying Flax milk. The vanilla flavor. Whole Foods carries it. Its made ny a company called Good Karma. DE-LI-CIOUS!
I love Almond Milk!
I also usually have chickpeas, sometimes I grind them up with garlic and lemon juice for a quick hummus for dipping veggies into.
A can of almonds for snacking (they can get expensive though).
Spaghetti squash! So awesome, I sometimes nix the regular pasta altogether and just serve the steamed spaghetti squash ‘noodles’ with the tomato sauce I make. So yummy. I save the seeds and then toast them for a quick snack that tastes kinda like popcorn (you can season the toasted seeds with cajun or curry etc).
My parents garden supplies collards, tomatoes, and peppers galore.
I also love couscous cause its quick, although I’m not sure how ‘clean’ it is.
Lentils are also great. My crockpot is one of my best friends.
I accidentally happened up on this site through Facebook and I love all of the great information! Thanks ladies!
I just got home w 3 1/2 gallon almond breezes for less than $3 w coupons. Yaay! My neighborhood store has not idea how happy the make me :-). Thanks for the dressing recipe!
I find it hard to fill my cabinets now that I’ve gone clean. Everything is in the fridge/freezer. I’ve got a couple bags of nuts, some bags of dried beans, brown rice and maybe a package or two of wheat pasta (also a box of granola bars for cheating, I know, I know so much sugar). Basically out of my 3 food cupboards about half a cupboard is filled up.
You guys are giving me ideas. I’ve never tried quinoa, maybe I’ll give that a go. Also maybe I should buy flour and try to bake something (yikes).
Okay, I buy some of the same things mentioned but I seriously need a complete overhaul of my pantry and fridge. Can you give me a list of breakfast items and snacks I should be eating? Perhaps a weekly menu for all meals and snacks to include portion control.
Is oatmeal a part of your diet?
Yep, but not regularly.
This wasn’t an exhaustive list, though, so don’t worry.
Just a comment about beans. I’m a veg and my DH and I eat them a lot. I’ve never found a way to get them from dry to the consistency of canned (but I hated the sodium) until I learned this: sort out the bad beans, put a pound of beans in a crockpot, season the water or use stock, and cook on low for 8 hrs, No soaking, no extra gas–it’s fantastic and always works whatever the bean. Had to share!
I’m really feeling this blog, I have been trying for years to eat
right and lose weight. I like your ideas keep them coming!
Haven’t had much time to review all that is on the website, but I am enjoying what I have.
I’ve been eating clean for the last two year with some relapses, basically when I don’t plan I seem to pick up foods that really don’t agree with me and it shows through my skin and how I feel the next day. So thank you for the reinforcement. You have definitely found a new fan.
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