Simple Ways to Cut Down on Processed Food Consumption
Any food that has been canned, cooked, frozen, pasteurized, or packed is considered processed food.
Many processed foods, such as canned vegetables, frozen fruits, and pasteurized dairy products, can be eaten in moderation as part of a healthy diet. Some highly processed foods, on the other hand, are high in salt, sugar, additives, and preservatives, all of which are harmful to your health.
One of the most effective strategies to improve your health and increase the quality of your diet is to reduce your intake of these highly processed foods.
When individuals ask me for dietary advice, one of the first things I offer is reducing down on processed foods.
Here are some basic, long-term, and doable tactics for eating less processed food.
- Always have nutritious snacks on hand.
If you're short on time, it could be tempting to grab a pre-packaged snack on your way out the door.
Keeping your kitchen stocked with a variety of portable, nutritious snacks, on the other hand, can make making healthy choices on the move much easier.
Fresh fruit, mixed nuts, edamame, and veggies with hummus are some of my favorite healthy snacks.
You can also prepare some basic snacks ahead of time if you have spare time. Hard-boiled eggs, turkey roll-ups, homemade kale chips, and overnight oats are just a few of the quick and easy snacks you may make.
- Substitute whole grains for processed grains.
Starting to substitute healthier whole foods for processed meals is one of the simplest strategies to lower your intake of processed foods.
Whole grain alternatives, such as brown rice and whole grain pasta, bread, and tortillas, can be substituted for refined grains like white pasta, rice, bread, and tortillas.
Whole grains have been demonstrated to protect against heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer, in addition to being higher in vital nutrients like fiber.
- Experiment in the kitchen
If you're feeling brave, recreate your favorite processed meals in your kitchen for a healthier spin. This allows you complete control over what you place on your plate while also allowing you to try out new ingredients.
Vegetable chips, for example, can be made by tossing potato, zucchini, turnip, or carrot slices with a little olive oil and salt, then baking them until crispy.
Chia pudding, air-popped popcorn, granola bars, and fruit leather are some other healthy alternatives to processed foods that you may make at home.
Instead of ordering takeaway, I enjoy trying to recreate dishes from my favorite restaurants at home. This not only saves money, but it also makes it easy to eat more whole foods by stocking up on fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
- Increase your water intake.
Soda, sweet tea, fruit juice, and sports drinks are high in sugar and calories, but low in essential nutrients.
Gradually substituting water for these drinks throughout the day is a terrific approach to reduce your processed food intake and increase the quality of your diet.
If plain water isn't your thing, sparkling or flavored water are great alternatives. Alternatively, for an extra flavor boost, try infusing water with fresh fruit or herbs.
- Consider meal prepping.
When you prepare meals in large amounts once or twice a week, you'll always have healthful meals on hand, even if you're too busy to cook.
It can also make it less appealing to stop at a drive-through on the way home or rely on frozen convenience dinners when you're short on time.
To get started, choose a few recipes to make each week and schedule your meal preparation time.
I also like to discover a few recipes with similar components so that I may rotate through various dinners throughout the week and prevent monotony.
- Increase your veggie consumption.
Include at least one serving of veggies in your home-cooked meals to increase your consumption of healthful, unprocessed foods.
Adding spinach to scrambled eggs, sautéing broccoli for a simple side dish, or putting carrots or cauliflower into soups or casseroles are all examples of this.
Vegetables are nutrient-dense and high in fiber, which keeps you feeling full between meals, reducing your appetite and curbing cravings (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).
- Change up your buying habits
When you don't have any processed foods on hand, it's much easy to limit your intake.
Fill your grocery cart with healthy, less processed foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and legumes the next time you go shopping.
You can also try sticking to the store's perimeter and avoiding the central aisles, which are often filled with processed snacks and junk items.
When you're out shopping, make sure to read the labels on your favorite foods. Avoid foods high in salt, trans fat, or added sugar as much as possible.
- Experiment with some simple food swaps.
There are numerous healthful alternatives to many processed foods. Here are some of my personal favorites:
- Instead of sugary cereal for morning, try a bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit.
- Instead of using the microwave, make your own popcorn on the stove.
- Instead of using manufactured salad dressings, make a homemade vinaigrette with olive oil and vinegar to sprinkle over salads.
- For a healthier alternative to store-bought trail mix, make your own with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.
- Instead of croutons, top salads with nuts or seeds.
- Limit your intake of processed meat.
Processed meats such as bacon, sausage, lunch meat, and hot dogs have been linked to a number of health problems, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer has even classed them as carcinogenic.
You'll be relieved to learn that reducing processed meat consumption is simple.
For starters, you can simply substitute less processed meats like fresh chicken, fish, or turkey for these dishes. Other sandwich contents, such as tuna salad, chicken breast, or hard-boiled eggs, can be substituted for packaged lunch meats.
You can also eat more plant-based proteins such beans, lentils, tofu, and tempeh.
- Make gradual modifications.
It's not necessary to eliminate processed foods entirely from your diet all at once.
In reality, making gradual improvements is frequently more successful and long-lasting in the long run. According to some study, little lifestyle modifications can help build long-term habits and make challenging tasks more simpler over time.
Experiment with one or two of the tactics suggested above each week, then gradually add more.
Keep in mind that, as part of a healthy, balanced diet, you can still enjoy dining out or eating processed foods in moderation.
Last but not least
Any food that has been cooked, canned, frozen, or packed is considered processed.
Although many processed foods can be included in a healthy diet, those that are heavy in sodium, sugar, chemicals, and preservatives should be avoided.
Try out a couple of the suggestions in this article to see what works best for you, and remember to make gradual changes for the best outcomes.