You’ve probably heard of the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen, but if you haven’t, you can check it out here. Basically, it’s a list of the most common produce products that have the least (clean) and most (dirty) amount of pesticides. It’s helpful when deciding which fruits and vegetables you should buy organic.

I thought it would be helpful to make a list of the cleanest packaged foods and compare them to some of their ‘dirty’ counterparts. When food shopping, it’s best to stay out of the center aisles as much as possible, but we all need some packaged food every now and then.

The use of the word ‘clean’ for this list will mean simply the least amount of ingredients in their most natural form. For my “research” I decided to stick to Stop ‘n Shop. I felt that using a more accessible store would pertain to more people than including somewhere like Whole Foods. So for those of you that do shop elsewhere just start to look at labels and be aware of what you might be putting in your body.

I tried to include foods from most categories including, meats, dairy, breakfast food, frozen food, drinks, snacks, sweets, and condiments.

Note that this list is not necessarily in order of “cleanliness.”

The Clean Fifteen

Clean Food # 1- Oatmeal


Oatmeal in it’s purest form. Only 1 ingredient! I’m a fan of mixing in my own cinnamon and pure vanilla extract.

Clean Food # 2- High Quality Maple Syrup

Another single ingredient champ. Obviously maple syrup should be used in moderation, but it’s better than processed sugar. It’s also a good source of manganese and zinc!

Clean Food #3 Lara Bars

Using dates as the base ingredient, these energy bars are the cleanest around. The ‘cashew cookie’ only has two ingredients!

Clean Food #4 Hint Water

Hint’s tag line is: Drink water, not sugar. These flavored waters have no sugar or artificial sweeteners. No way you can get bored with water now!

Clean Food # 5 Annie’s Natural Salad Dressing


Although the cleanest salad dressings are homemade, Annie’s is a close second. One of the only bottled brands I could find that didn’t have high fructose corn syrup. Most of their ingredients are also organic!

Clean Food #6 Plain Greek Yogurt (Chobani, Oikos or Fage)

Most of these yogurts are simply strained milk and probiotics. Bonus points for the protein! More ways to spice up your greek yogurt.

Clean Food # 7 Horizon Organic Half & Half

Two ingredients: organic milk and organic cream. Winning!

Clean Food # 7 Real Butter

Yes, real butter is good for you! Grass-fed butter is superior, but tough to find in regular grocery stores. Read more about the benefits of butter here.

Clean Food # 8 Salsa (many brands)

Most jarred salsa only contain vegetables and spices with no preservatives. Not to mention salsa is delicious.

Clean Food #9 Applegate packaged deli meat

In a world where deli meat can be a very mysterious thing, you can trust Applegate Natural’s; most meat is packaged with just honey and some spices.  Read more about deli meats here.

Clean Food # 10 Nature’s Promise cereal

Nature’s Promise was one of the only cereals I could find that was corn AND soy free. The only downfall is the added sugar (7 grams/serving).

Clean Food # 11 Amy’s Organic Frozen Foods

Sonoma Veggie Burger

Some of Amy’s options are cleaner than others. But they’re pretty good on the frozen-foods list. I’m a big fan of the Sonoma Burger- quinoa and walnuts!

Clean Food #12 Garden Lites

Garden Lites makes a few products: souffles, veggie muffins, and zucchini pasta.  Although I’d probably stay away from the muffins, the souffles and pasta are relatively clean.

Clean Food #13 Unreal Candy

Unreal brand has managed to ‘unjunk’ common candy. Although its much less sugar, it is still candy and should be saved for special treats. Most of their candy has lower sugar, no corn syrup, no GMO’s, no hydrogenated oil, and no preservatives.

Clean Food #14 Food Should Taste Good Sweet potato chips

If you’re craving salty or crunchy, these sweet potato chips are better than conventional. Just 3 ingredients: sweet potato, oil, and salt.

Clean Food #15 French’s Mustard

Mustard is one of the cleanest condiments you’ll find with zero calories to boot. Ingredients in standard yellow are typically just vinegar, mustard seed and spices.

The Dirty Dozen

The Dirty Counterpart #1 Fruit and Cream Instant Oatmeal

Better skip this breakfast option. Unlike it’s healthy counterpart, this variety of instant oatmeal is filled with sugar, artificial coloring, and hydrogenated oils. Woof!

The Dirty Counterpart #2 “Fake” maple syrup (many brands)

Most pancake syrups are actually just high fructose corn syrup, artificial coloring, and preservatives. Stick to the real stuff.

The Dirty Counterpart #3 Skinny Cow Candy Bars (and MANY other brands)

This product has hydrogenated palm oil on the ingredient list multiple times. Not sure how that happens, but steer clear if you’re trying to eat clean. This goes for many other “diet” treats and energy bars as well. Read the ingredients!

The Dirty Counterpart #4 Gatorade or Powerade

Unless you’re a professional athlete, there’s pretty much no need to consume sports drinks. It’s basically sugar water with electrolytes and fake coloring. (You mean to tell me that neon yellow does not occur in nature!?!)

The Dirty Counterpart #5 Most Bottled Salad dressings (especially lite or fat free)

Again, usually filled with sugar, HFCS, soybean oil and preservatives.

The Dirty Counterpart #6 Flavored Lite Yogurt (many brands)

Modified corn start and sugar tend to be high on the ingredient list for lite yogurt.

Dirty Counterpart #7 Fat Free Flavored Half & Half

Seems like an oxymoron to me. Cue the corn syrup and thickeners. You’re better off using the full-fat version, or plain skim milk.

Dirty Counterpart #8 I Dunno… Bologna!?

Who knows what goes in this mystery meat. Other things you want to look out for with deli meat are nitrates, modified food starch, gelatin and corn syrup.

Dirty Counterpart #9 Sugary Cereals (Most cereals, in fact)

I really hope these are not served daily for breakfast in your household. Frosted wheats and Fruit Loops are two of the worst contenders.

Dirty Counterpart #10 Hot Pockets

Some of these ‘meals’ have over 100 ingredients. Whaa? Close seconds in the frozen food department include Banquet and Hungry Man.

Dirty Counterpart #11 Traditional Candy


Enough said.

Dirty Counterpart #12 Fat Free Mayo

Mayo, in theory is just eggs, oil, vinegar, and spices. Pretty clean right? Nay, Nay, poo-poo. Once again, top ingredients include HFCS, modified food starch, soy bean oil, and artificial flavors.


As you can see, there is a common theme in the dirty foods. Corn and it’s derivatives,  soy, sugar, and artificial colors and flavors.

It was actually surprisingly difficult to find ingredients online for most of the ‘dirty’ foods. Funny how that happens, huh?

This is by no means an absolute or exhaustive list, as the ‘packaged foods’ category is exponential more abundant than produce. But it’s definitely a good start; and a warning to be aware of what you’re consuming and feeding your kids. The best rule of thumb when looking at food labels is to choose foods with the least amount of ingredients.

The “fat free” epic fail of the 80’s and 90’s has only gotten us fatter and sicker. Stick to real food– something you can grow or kill– 90% of the time, and you’re on the right track.

Who else has some clean, go-to packaged foods? I’m always looking to mix up my grocery list!

I hope you enjoyed!


Related Readings:

Soy: Healthful or Harmful?

Scrutinizing Soy

Fructose, not HFCS

Is HFCS bad for you?

All About Hydrogenated Oil