Healthy Ingredient Cheat Sheet

A salad is still a salad if called by another name, but it is no longer a healthy salad if filled with unhealthy ingredients!

Each meal you cook is made up of many ingredients and if you were anything like me you are not exactly sure what is in your bottle of ketchup or your salt shaker. Just by finding the healthiest replacement to these pantry staples we can greatly change the level of nutrition in what we eat.

Whenever I ran out of an ingredient I thoroughly researched what the healthiest version would be and replaced it with that. Each of these ingredients is what I have bought or would buy myself.

It’s going to cost more. But don’t underestimate the money you will save by:

  • Cutting out processed foods

  • Needing to eat less because you get more nutrition

  • Lessening the need for allergy, pain and other medications (that’s saved us over $300/year!)*

  • Cutting down on future health care costs

  • Making better decisions because you feel better and think more clearly

*please speak to a doctor before quitting any prescribed medication

What if you could put a price on:

  • Waking up feeling great every morning

  • Minor and severe health issues getting better or going away completely

  • Lessening your risk of getting cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s, just to name a few

  • Having enough energy to outlast your kids

  • Having a sharper mind

  • Feeling more relaxed

  • Not getting sick as often or as bad

  • Less tantrums and moodiness from your children (and husband)

How much would you pay?


Click ingredient to learn more:

  • Almonds

    The almond that packs the biggest nutritional punch is going to be organic and truly raw (unpasteurized). These are hard to find since labels are now allowed to say “raw” when they have actually been steamed, oxidized, and/or even chemically treated with PPO (which is so toxic that it has been banned in the EU). All of this of course mitigates the nutritional value, even to the point where you cannot truly sprout these almonds.

    To get truly raw and organic almonds, I typically buy in bulk when offers a bulk group discount in November, but if I run out here are my top choices:

    Food to Live (available on Amazon)

    Bremner Farms

    Blue Mountain Organics

    Second best:Organic Almonds without any added ingredients (Costco carries some)

  • Almond butter

    This follows the same pattern as almonds. Try to find truly raw (unpasteruized), organic, and without any chemical additives. The best way to do this is to make your own. It’s really pretty simple! If you want to buy some, here are some good options:

    Almondie – use this to make almond milk!

    Sprouted Almond Butter

    Second best:Organic almond butter

  • Almond milk

    Sadly, almond milk typically contains a lot of additives. If you really want to go pure, make it yourself! It really is not that hard. However, sometimes there’s just not enough time. The two best easily accessible brands I have found to date are:

    365 Organic Almond Milk

    Silk Unsweetened Original Almond Milk

  • Applesauce

    Get organic, pure applesauce with no added sweeteners or extra ingredients! Your kids will probably not even tell the difference. Or they will just get used to it.



    They also carry organic, unsweetened applesauce pouches at every major grocery store, including Trader Joe’s and Costco.

  • Arrowroot powder (or tapioca starch)

    This is nice to have on hand for making a fish fry since it fries up with a light and crispy crust, and is a good alternative to flour in many recipes.

    Feel Good Organic Arrowroot Powder

    Bob’s Red Mill (not organic)

  • Avocado oil

    Great oil for salads or cooking at high temperatures. I really like the Primal Kitchen brand since it is a name I trust, but it is not organic. The next time I run out I am going to search for an organic brand.

    Primal Kitchen

  • Bacon

    Try and find a brand with only meat and spices listed in the ingredients (no sugar, nitrates, nitrites, or other chemicals).

    Options coming soon!

  • Baking powder

    You want to find something without added aluminum since a debate has begun in the scientific community linking it to neurological disorders and even Alzeheimer’s. I’m not going to wait until they confirm it. As far as I can tell, most chemicals and unnatural ingredients like that do not mix well with our bodies so if its as easy as buying a different brand just to lessen my exposure, heck yeah. Plus, aluminium free baking powder tastes better (Baking powder is technically not considered Paleo because it includes cornstarch).

  • Barbecue sauce

    I have not been able to find a recipe for homemade BBQ sauce that is anything close to the real thing and by the time I found out about these other brands I was pretty happy with my low carb diet (BBQ sauce is not low carb). However, I am a big fan of slowly weaning your tastes, and your family tastes, from a sugar lifestyle so if thats your approach, or you want to stick with a higher carb Paleo diet, then check out these two brands.

    Paleo & Whole30

    Paleo only (not Whole30 approved)

  • Beef jerkey

    The best brand I have found to date is Nick’s Sticks. I am very sensitive to MSG and soy and have absolutely no reaction (they state no MSG and their ingredients are clean, but ya never know with this type of product).

    Nick’s Sticks

    Other brands coming soon

  • Beef sticks

    See Above

  • Butter

    Kerrygold grass fed butter is the best, and cheapest, easily accessible butter I have found. Costco sells a 3 pack for $6.50 – best price I’ve found. You really want to use grass fed butter. That way you can have as much butter as you want and feel good about eating it!

    If you’re short on time, you can also find it on Amazon

  • Cashews

    Cashews are similar to almonds in that you want to find them truly raw and organic. I also buy these in bulk when GreenSmoothieGirl offers a group order in November, but if you cannot wait that long, check out these options.

    Jiva Organics

  • Cashew butter

    This is on the pricey side so it is not something I buy often, but again, you’re looking for raw and organic.

    Jiva Organics

  • Cheese

    Dairy is one of those food groups that you want to eliminate for at least 30 days before reintroducing it just to see how it affects you. After doing this, I realized that me, my husband, and my infant cannot handle dairy. The good news is we realized we did not miss it as much as we thought we did. However, my toddler can in small quantities The best type of cheese is raw, organic, full fat and made from grass fed milk, and ideally aged. This is hard to find, so go for raw and non-homogenized dairy if that’s all you can find.

    Here’s a more in depth article:

  • Chia seeds

    These are great to have around since they make an easy, nutritionally packed addition to smoothies, frozen fruit bowls, and baked goods. My personal favorite is just mixing them with some coconut milk and vanilla extract powder to make a chia pudding. Add some fruit and/or cocoa powder to make it a crowd pleaser.

  • Chicken

    The healthiest chicken is going to be organic and free range from your local farmers market or grocer. Costco carries a great deal on two whole chickens I use to make the perfect roast chicken. Yum!

    If that’s too pricey, try and stick with just organic. After that, find a brand free from added hormones and antibiotics.

  • Chips

    Chips are not allowed on Whole30, and shouldn’t be on Paleo, for good reason. They trick your body into eating too many carbs and all that rancid fat and salt tricks your brain into receiving reward signals that make it hard to stop. And hard to be content with just normal (ahem, healthy) food. Not to mention zero nutrition.

    However, if you live in proximity to other people, there is going to be a situation that calls for chips, so you might as well make the best of it. In those cases, we always go with an option containing only potatoes (or sweet potatoes), coconut oil, and salt in the ingredients list, and preferably organic. Most large grocery stores (including Costco at times) will carry an option, and all health food stores will have some as well.

    Here are some options:

    Jacksons Honest Potato Chips: Coconut

    Jacksons Honest Potato Chips: Non GMO

    Boulder Canyon Kettle Cooked: Coconut

  • Chocolate

    Try and find chocolate that is as dark as you can stand it (minimum 72%) and that contains the fewest filler ingredients. Also, organic is preferred. Definitely stay away from adding dairy to chocolate since that mitigates any antioxidants the cocoa contains which is why we can convince ourselves to eat it in the first place. If possible find some without lecithin or soy.

    If all you are concerned about is the health value of chocolate (let’s be honest, who is really), then go for some raw, organic cacao nibs or cacao powder (not the same as cocoa powder! See below for more info).

    Heres about as good as it gets:

    Green Blacks Organic Chocolate

  • Chocolate chips

  • Cinnamon

    There are two types of cinnamon: ceylon and cassia. Both have good health benefits, but cassia cinnamon, which is the most common because it is the cheapest, contains more coumarin, which can be toxic in high doses. Ceylon is called “true cinnamon” and contains much less coumarin. If you have a lot of cinnamon, go for “Ceylon Cinnamon” which can be found in most grocery and health food stores.

  • Cacao nibs

    These are great for an added crunchy topping to a smoothie bowl or some Greek yogurt. Beware – they do NOT taste like chocolate chips! They are very bitter since there is no sugar added, but they still pack that chocolate-y punch (if taken in small quantities).

    Try and find some raw and organic, with no added ingredients.

    Viva Naturals Organic Cacao Nibs

  • Cocoa powder

    This is a trick one because cocoa powder is not the healthiest version! However, most people are looking to replace this, and not its healthier alternative.

    All chocolate and chocolate-y derivatives come from the cacao bean. This is good and healthy and contains tons of antioxidants. However, when the beans are roasted, they lose nutritional value. Roasted cacao beans are called cocoa beans, and when these are ground up, you get cocoa powder. Plus, most cocoa powder has a lot of filler ingredients not necessary to flavor.

    The best and purest way to get all this nutritional goodness is to keep it as close to its natural state as possible. Try and find raw, organic cacao nibs and raw, organic cacao powder that was cold pressed (which keeps it truly raw thereby keeping nutrition fully intact). Cacao powder is just as good, if not better tasting, than cocoa powder and can be used in a 1:1 equivalent. Don’t you just love it when you can become healthier with no sacrifice of taste?

    Kiva Organic Cacao Powder

  • Coconut butter

    Oh how I love thee!! A true must in a low carb, high fat kitchen. This supplies just what you need to thrive in a fat burning lifestyle. Plus its delicious. Try it by the spoonful (my favorite), or as a topping, smoothie or coffee additive, or dip.

    As usual, raw and organic is best (or make your own). Just a warning, in my opinion all brands are not created equal. Artisana has so far been the best in texture and taste by far.

    Artisana Organics

    Bulk option (yeah, I love it that much)

  • Coconut Flour

    This is a good substitute for flour in some recipes, but if your goal is to go low carb then watch how you use it. My favorite way to currently use it is for a fish fry!

    Viva coconut flour

  • Coconut milk

    Buying it in the can (international food aisle near the Thai food) is the best way to get it free from added ingredients. My favorite brand is Thai kitchen. I love getting the coconut cream too for bulletproof lattes.

    Thai kitchen coconut milk

    Thai kitchen coconut cream

  • Coconut oil

    Unrefined, virgin, organic and cold pressed are the things to look for. Thankfully Costco carries a 2.48 lb tub at a great price.

    Online option: coming soon!

  • Crackers (coconut chips)

    There are not many Paleo crackers out there, and probably even less that are Whole30 approved. Crackers don’t really work if you’re trying to become fat adapted because they are too easy to consume thoughtlessly and for the amount of carbs they contain they include very low nutrition. However, they are great if your goal is Paleo or if you want to use them to slowly transition your family off of conventional crackers. My children eat Paleo so these are great snacks for them.

    Jill’s crackers

    Plantain chips or coconut chips

    Simple Mills

    Flackers (low carb)

  • Dates

    Organic medjool dates have been the healthiest option I’ve found so far. They are easily available in health food stores and online.

  • Eggs

    The ideal egg is from a long ancestral line of organic, fully free range chickens that were never fed grains. Ha! Not sure they even exist anymore. That being said, the closest I have been able to find are free range chickens at the local farmers market that are fed soy-free and corn-free feed

    Second best: free range and organic eggs

    This is one area where I truly think it’s worth putting your money since eggs are a really helpful part of a high fat, low carb diet. They pack the most nutrition into a small amount of space than any other fat out there.

    I wasn’t able to eat conventional eggs due to an allergy, but I can have as many free range eggs from the farmer’s market as I want!

  • Fish oil

    After doing extensive research on fish oil, our preferred brand is Viva Naturals Omega-3 Fish Oil. It is from wild, sustainable-caught fish and contains 2200 mg fish oil, 1400 mg EPA, and 480 mg DHA per serving. They extract the oil with a method that removes the toxins and heavy metals with the use of heat.

  • Fish sauce

    The cleanest fish sauce out there is Red Boat due to the way it is made. Great for Thai lettuce wraps!

  • Fruit strips

    There are plenty of fruit strips out there that have very clean ingredients. Costco carries an organic brand, as do most grocery stores.

  • Honey

    The most nutritious way to eat honey is if it’s organic and raw. If it’s not raw then most of the nutrition is completely destroyed. Local is even better!

    Costco carries a great deal for three 24 oz. containers for around $15.

  • Hot dogs

    There are decent hot dogs out there! Try and find ones that only list meat and spices in the ingredients (avoid sugar, nitrates, nitrites and other process ingredients).


  • Hot sauce

    A nice bonus to the pantry since if a dish I make is a little bland, my husband pours this on and is a happy camper.

    Schultz’s Spicy Original Cooking Hot Sauce

  • Granola bars

    Not many low carb options out there so for all you Paleo campers out there, my favorites are:


    Rx bars


  • Ketchup

    Toddlers. Enough said.

    Organicville Ketchup (made with agave nectar)

  • Mayonnaise

    Egg salad, chicken salad, tuna salad, or burger bowl anyone?

    Primal kitchen brand works great

  • Mustard, Dijon

    Again, try and find one without sugar, wine (for anyone doing Whole30), or “spices”.

    Annie’s Dijon Mustard

  • Olive oil

    Extra virgin and organic is best, but most importantly make sure it’s made in the USA (or from a known source) otherwise it may not even be olive oil at all.

    California Olive Ranch extra virgin olive oil

  • Pickles

    Pickles were originally made as a fermented food. That means you get all the benefits of gut-healing probiotics in the form of a tasty pickle!

    Making pickles with vinegar, like how they commonly are in the store, can still be healthy if free from sugar and added processed ingredients, but they will not have any probiotics.

    The good news is they are very easy to make! Most health food stores will carry real, fermented pickles.

    Recipe Coming Soon!

  • Pickling spice

    If making pickles, try and find some without cinnamon (unless you like cinnamon-y pickles…). This is what we use:

    Marshall’s Creek Spices Pickling Spice Seasoning ($8 for 16 oz on Amazon)

  • Probiotics

    Our favorite brand is RenewLife Everyday Ultimate Flora (15 billion)

  • Protein bar

    RX Bars


    Homemade (recipes coming soon)

  • Pumpkin seeds

    Seeds are similar to nuts in that you ideally want raw and organic. However, this is hard to find. Check out Trader Joe’s nut aisle for some options.

    Coming Soon!

  • Salad dressing

    The cleanest brand I have found to date is Primal Kitchen. They have a variety of choices and are Whole30 approved.

    Primal Kitchen Salad Dressing 3 Pack

  • Salt

    If you still think that salt is bad for you, throw that thought out the window! Salt is not only good for you but it is necessary for your body to function optimally. The key is to get the right kind of salt.

    Unrefined sea salt provides trace minerals, electrolytes, helps avoid dehydration, and promotes digestion and brain, muscle and nervous system health. Regular table salt has been stripped of its trace minerals (the good stuff) and contains added chemicals and sugar. Seriously!

    The only good thing in table salt is the added iodine. If you eat a lot of iodine rich foods (like seaweed or fish) you will probably be fine, but since most of us do not consume them regularly, and as our soil has become depleted of this necessary nutrient, it’s good to have it added into your diet. Salt is a good way to do this so along with pink Himalayan sea salt I also buy sea salt with added iodine and use both daily (just be sure to read the ingredients!).

    The most natural form of salt is going to be unrefined Pink Himalayan sea salt or Celtic Sea Salt.

    Pink Himalayan Sea Salt

    Seasonello fine sea salt

  • Sesame seeds

    See Pumpkin seeds.

  • Soy sauce

    Soy is a common culprit of many health issues so it’s important to try and avoid it if you are trying to clear them up. Try using coconut aminos instead. I like coconut secret’s original, garlic, and teriyaki flavors.

    Coconut Secret Coconut Aminos 3 Pack

    Bragg’s Coconut Aminos

  • Sugar

    Your best source of sugar is going to be organic raw cane sugar. The brown color actually denotes the nutrition left intact. As far as I can tell raw sugar does not work if you’re making Kombucha so in that case stick with organic cane sugar if the price is right.

    Check out coconut sugar as a good alternative and try some recipes sweetened with honey, maple syrup, bananas, and dates.

  • Sunflower seeds

    See pumpkin seeds.

  • Vanilla extract

    The purest form of vanilla extract is powdered organic vanilla bean. This can be used in a 1:1 ratio with liquid vanilla extract and is more cost effective than trying to buy liquid extract organic. It is also whole30 approved since regular vanilla extract contains alcohol.

    Kiva Organic Pure Vanilla Powder

  • Walnuts

    Try and find them raw and organic. Around Christmas time many stores will carry them in the shell and do they ever taste better!

  • Yogurt

    The purest form I have found so far is full fat organic Greek yogurt with live cultures. If I can’t find that then I stick with a non-organic version (Costco carries an organic kirkland brand at a great price). Most important, use one with live cultures in the ingredients and the more fat the better.