8 Proven Tips To Avoid Processed Food
Written by: Kat Gal
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” – Wise words by Michael Pollan.
You’ve heard it a million times: eat whole foods, preferably organic, mostly plant-based. Avoid processed and artificial “food-like” items.
This sounds simple, if you have been on a journey for a while or are living on some magical organic farm. But it can sound overwhelming if you are in the beginning of your journey coming from a Standard American Diet (SAD) diet. Where do you even start?
These 8 proven tips are here for your rescue to help you avoid processed food.
1. Read the ingredient labels. Educating yourself is the key. While looking at calories, fat grams and sugar content can be helpful, it is better to move on to the ingredient list. Highly processed foods have lots of ingredients, many are unfamiliar, unpronounceable and don’t sound like food substances at all.
Opt for items with the least ingredients and ingredients that you know. Better yet, pick items with fresh ingredients: they are found in the produce and bulk aisles, such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans and whole grains.
2. Eat more whole foods, especially vegetables and fruits. The best way to avoid processed food is simply skipping the packages section of your grocery store. Go for fresh produce, vegetables and fruits. You may visit your bulk section for beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds and your frozen section for frozen veggies and fruits.
3. Buy bread from your local bakery. The bread coming from your grocery store is usually highly processed, especially when pre-packaged. Just look at the ingredients. Buying fresh baked breads from your local bakery or farmer’s market stand will likely have fewer and healthier ingredients. You can even ask them about it. Instead of buying white bread, opt for whole grain, spelt, rye, or gluten-free varieties.
4. Select Whole-Grain Options. When eating cereal, rice, crackers and pastas, select whole-grain options. Read the ingredients to make sure it is really 100% whole grain – sometimes big tacky signs on the box lie. You can opt for gluten-free options, such as quinoa pasta and quinoa puffs for cereal. Buying from the bulk section at a health food store is usually a safe way to go. You can always ask for advice from one of the employees too.
5. Stay away from high-fructose corn syrup. Read the labels and check for high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). It is worse than any other sugar out there, even worse than the evil white sugar. Just a warning: some cheap honey is not even honey, but straight HFCS. Check the labels!
6. Don’t order off the children’s menu. While the portion sizes may sound good and the menu items may sound tempting to your child (or even you), the selections are usually not healthy. The kids’ menu usually includes things like pre-made chicken nuggets, pasta from white flour with processed sugary spaghetti sauce, deep-fried French fries and sugary, fatty desserts.
Instead, build a meal of sides, such as baked potato and vegetables, or ask for an extra plate to share yours.
7. Visit your local farmer’s market. Going to the farmer’s market is a safe bet to find nutritious produce that’s locally grown and seasonal. You have a high chance of finding pesticide-free produce, organic dairy and meat products and locally made artisan foods grown and made with love.
8. If you are craving junk food, cook it yourself. Who doesn’t want some French fries, pizza, mac ‘n cheese and cakes once in awhile? Come on, everyone does. Instead of going to a fast food joint or picking up a boxed or frozen option, make it yourself from fresh ingredients. By cooking it yourself, you will know what goes in it, you will have fun cooking and you will likely reduce your consumption of it as well.
Remember to be patient with yourself. It is a fun learning experience. Enjoy the process of reducing your processed food and increasing your whole foods consumption. Your body will thank you.
Do you have any other tips to reduce processed foods from your diet? What is the one step you are going to take this week to reduce your processed food intake? Share with us in the comments below. As always, we’d love to hear from you.
Kat Gál is a multi-passionate writer, world traveler, nomad, runner, and cat-person. She is a lifelong learner who lives outside of her comfort zones stretching her boundaries and discovering beauty around the world. She is a Certified Holistic Health and Life Coach who encourages others to embrace their unique authentic selves, follow their heart and find their own version of freedom in life.
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