Cutting back on processed food is not hard to do, but it does require preparing and cooking the majority of your meals. The benefit of eliminating processed food from your diet is that it would be good for your overall health.
However, I understand for many people that’s not practical.
Still, one should at least make an effort to eat less processed food by trying to follow these simple lifestyle changes below.
Eat Less Canned Foods
One way to cut back on processed food is to limit eating canned food. Canned foods are loaded with artificial preservatives, sodium, salt, sugar, and most canned food are lined with a chemical building block called Bisphenol A (BPA), which has come under intense scrutiny in recent years because it mimics human hormones and it is categorized as an endocrine disruptor.
As an alternative, increase your intake of foods that are fresh and natural like fruits and vegetables, and try shopping for your food on the outer perimeters of the grocery store. The majority of food you find up and down the isles are processed and therefore, should be avoided. At the very least, consume processed food in moderation.
Fresh Meat and Fish
Battered covered meats and fish in the frozen isle and packaged deli meats should be limited or avoided if you want to eat less processed food. However, if you do buy meats and fish that are packaged, like frozen fish for example, be sure there isn’t a lot of preservatives and additives listed in the ingredients. The more ingredients listed, the more the item is processed.
Eliminate White Breads, White Pastas, and White Rice
Refined white flour found in breads, pasta, and rice offer the least nutritional value for your diet. Instead, try eating 100% whole grains or whole wheat in breads and pasta, and try eating whole grains found in brown rice, barley, quinoa, and wild rice. Will these items cost you a little more? Yes, but as you begin to cut out processed food from your grocery list, you can save more money in the long run.
Cut Back or Cut Out Junk Food
Junk food is processed food. Not to mention, junk food like packaged cakes, cookies, ice cream, potatoes chips, candy, soda, and fruit juices are loaded with sugar, high in calories, and high in fat. If you want something that’s sweet or want a snack, choose healthy foods to eat that are low in calories and fat like fresh or dried fruit, nuts, low-fat yogurt, unsalted popcorn, whole-grain chips, multi-grain bars, graham crackers, pretzels, pudding, plain vanilla ice cream, or granola.
Avoid Sugary Sodas and Drinks
Extra sugar to your diet can lead to extra pounds, but it can also lead to serious health problems like diabetes. If you must have a sugary drink, drink soda in moderation (including diet soda) or try diluting your fruit juice with water. Better yet, skip the soda and fruit juices altogether and have a glass of water with a wedge of fresh squeezed lemon or lime!
Steer Clear of Sugary Breakfast Cereals
Eating your breakfast every morning? Good job! However, are you eating those sugary cereals? While not all breakfast cereals are bad for you, many are loaded with sugar up to 10 grams or more. Instead, try selecting healthier breakfast options like cereals with less than 5 grams of sugar and at least 5 grams of fiber; cooked oatmeal (not instant); low fat granola; low fat yogurt; eggs; fresh fruit; whole wheat or whole grain toast, bagels, and waffles; bran muffins; homemade smoothie; or a homemade parfait to name a few.
Prepare and Cook Your Meals
Indeed processed food offers convenience, but again, eating too much processed food is not good for your overall health. As you gradually learn how to eat less processed food, you will begin to realize you will have to prepare and cook the majority of your meals. While dinner is easy to do, preparing and cooking breakfast or lunch can be a little challenging.
If you can, try waking up an extra 15-20 minutes early in the morning to cook and eat your breakfast. If pressed for time, reach for food that you can grab on the run like a banana, apple, pear, peach, plum, or even grapes (you can pack a handful in a container or zip lock bag).
For lunch, try cooking enough of your dinner the night before so you can take with you to work or school. If you don’t have access to a refrigerator to store your lunch, buy one of those insulated lunch bags or boxes with an ice pack to keep your food cool. Likewise, if you don’t have access to a microwave to heat up your food, bring food that doesn’t require heating like sandwiches, fresh fruit and vegetables, or salads.
*Photo courtesy of vichie81