Any food that has been canned, cooked, frozen, pasteurized, or packed is considered processed. Many processed foods, such as canned vegetables, frozen fruits, and pasteurized dairy products, are safe to consume as part of a healthy diet. Some highly processed foods, on the other hand, are high in salt, sugar, additives, and preservatives, which can be harmful to your health.
One of the most effective strategies to improve your health and 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 recommend is limiting processed foods.
Here are some easy, long-term, and practical techniques to help you eat less processed food.
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1. Use your imagination in the kitchen
Whether you’re feeling brave, give your favorite processed foods a healthy makeover in your kitchen. This allows you ultimate control over what goes on your plate while also allowing you to try out new foods.
To make veggie chips, for example, sprinkle potato, zucchini, turnip, or carrot slices with a little olive oil and salt, then bake until crispy.
Chia pudding, air-popped popcorn, granola bars, and fruit leather are all healthy alternatives to manufactured foods that you can make at home.
Instead of ordering takeaway, I enjoy attempting to replicate dishes from my favorite restaurants at home. This makes it easy to eat more whole foods by allowing you to stock up on fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes, in addition to saving money.
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2. Maintain a supply of nutritious snacks
If you’re pressed for time, it may be tempting to grab a pre-packaged snack on your way out the door.
Maintaining a well-stocked kitchen 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 hummus-covered veggies are some of my favorite healthy snacks.
You can also make some basic snacks ahead of time if you have the time. Hard-boiled eggs, turkey roll-ups, homemade kale chips, and overnight oats are just a few of the quick and easy snacks you can make.
3. Increase your water intake
Soda, sweet tea, fruit juice, and sports drinks are heavy in sugar and calories but deficient in critical nutrients.
Gradually substituting water for these drinks throughout the day is a terrific approach to reducing your processed food intake and increasing the quality of your diet.
If plain water isn’t your thing, sparkling or flavored water is a fantastic alternative. Alternatively, for an extra taste boost, consider infusing water with fresh fruit or herbs.
4. Increase your veggie consumption
Increase your consumption of healthful, unprocessed foods by including at least one serving of veggies in your home cooking.
Mixing spinach to scrambled eggs, sautéing broccoli for a quick side dish, or putting carrots or cauliflower into soups or casseroles are all simple ways to do this.
Vegetables are nutrient-dense and high in fiber, which helps to suppress your appetite and prevent cravings by keeping you feeling full in between meals.
5. Make a few easy food swaps
There are numerous healthful alternatives to many processed foods. Here are some of my personal favorites:
- Substitute a bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit for your sweet breakfast cereal.
- Instead of using the microwave, make your popcorn on the stove.
- Toss salads with a homemade vinaigrette made with olive oil and vinegar instead of manufactured dressings.
- To make a nutritious alternative to store-bought trail mix, combine nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.
- Instead of croutons, add nuts or seeds to your salads.
6. Prepare your meals ahead of time
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 begin, 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.
7. 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.
8. Processed meat should be avoided.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified processed meats such as bacon, sausage, lunch meat, and hot dogs as hazardous.
You’ll be relieved to learn that cutting back on processed meat is simple. For beginners, you can simply substitute less processed meats like fresh chicken, fish, or turkey for these dishes.
Other sandwich ingredients, such as tuna salad, chicken breast, or hard-boiled eggs, can also be substituted for packaged lunch meats. You could also eat more plant-based proteins like beans, lentils, tofu, and tempeh.
9. Slowly introduce adjustments
There’s no need to go cold turkey on manufactured meals. In reality, in the long run, making little improvements is typically more effective and durable. According to some studies, little lifestyle modifications can help build long-term habits and make tough tasks simpler over time.
Experiment with one or two of the above-mentioned tactics each week, then add more as time goes on. Remember that, as part of a healthy, balanced diet, you can still dine out or eat processed foods in moderation.
10. Change 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 foods.
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.
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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.