Any food that has been cooked, canned, refrigerated, pasteurized, or packed is considered processed food.
Many processed foods, such as frozen fruits, canned vegetables, and pasteurized dairy products, are acceptable as parts of a balanced diet. The excessive levels of salt, sugar, chemicals, and preservatives in some highly processed foods, however, can be harmful to your health.
In fact, one of the first things advised when individuals seek nutritional guidance is to limit their intake of processed foods.
Here are 10 practical, doable, and easy ways to help you consume fewer processed foods.
1. Keep healthy snacks on hand
It could be tempting to grab a prepackaged lunch on your way out the door if you’re pressed for time. Making healthy decisions on the fly may be made much easier by having your kitchen well-stocked with a variety of portable, nutrient-dense snacks. Some healthy snacks include fresh fruit, mixed nuts, and vegetables with hummus. You can also prepare some straightforward snacks in advance if you have additional time. Some delicious snacks you can quickly prepare and save for later are hard-boiled eggs, turkey roll-ups, homemade kale chips, and overnight oats.
2. Substitute whole grains for refined grains
Start substituting healthier whole foods for processed ones as one of the simplest strategies.
In particular, whole grain substitutes like brown rice and whole grain pasta, bread, and tortillas can be used in place of refined grains.
Whole grains have been demonstrated to be protective against diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer in addition to being higher in essential nutrients like fiber.
3. Be inventive in the kitchen
If you’re feeling creative, recreate your favorite processed meals in your kitchen to add a healthy spin. Slices of potato, zucchini, turnip, or carrot, for instance, can be turned into veggie chips by mixing them with a little salt and olive oil, then baking them until they are crisp.
Instead of ordering takeaway, attempt to recreate dishes from your favorite restaurants at home. Including more items like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes, not only saves money but also makes it simpler to eat more entire meals.
4. Increase your water intake
Sugary drinks with a few vital elements, such as soda, sweet tea, fruit juice, and sports drinks, are heavy in calories and sugar.
It’s a fantastic idea to gradually replace these beverages with water throughout the day to reduce your consumption of processed foods. If plain water isn’t your preferred beverage, sparkling or flavored water are two excellent alternatives.
5. Try meal prepping
Once or twice a week, prepare a significant amount of food so that you always have plenty of nutritious meals on hand in the fridge, even if you’re too busy to cook.
Set up a certain time to prepare your meals and choose a few dishes to make each week to get started.
6. Consume more vegetables
Include at least one serving of veggies when you prepare meals at home to enhance your consumption of wholesome, unprocessed foods.
This can be as simple as sautéing broccoli for a quick side dish, adding spinach to scrambled eggs, or adding carrots or cauliflower to soups or casseroles.
The high nutritional value and high fiber content of vegetables help you feel satisfied between meals.
7. Switch up your shopping routine
When you don’t have any processed foods on hand, it is much simpler to restrict your use of them.
Fill your shopping cart the following time you visit the supermarket with wholesome, minimally processed items like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. When you’re shopping, make sure to check the labels on your favorite food goods. Avoid foods high in sodium or added sugar wherever feasible.
8. Try some simple food swaps
Numerous healthier alternatives exist for many processed goods. Some are listed here:
- Switch to a cup of oatmeal with fresh fruit instead of sugary cereal for breakfast.
- Make your own popcorn on the stove rather than using the microwave.
- Prepare a homemade vinaigrette using olive oil and vinegar in place of store-bought dressings to drizzle over salads.
- Create your own trail mix using nuts, seeds, and dried fruit for a nutritious substitute for commercially available kinds.
- Use nuts or seeds as a substitute for croutons when topping salads.
9. Make changes slowly
You don’t have to immediately cut out all processed foods from your diet.
In fact, long-term sustainability and effectiveness generally favor gradual change. According to some studies, small lifestyle adjustments can help create enduring habits and gradually make tough acts considerably simpler.
Try experimenting with one or two of the techniques as mentioned above each week, then add more over time.
Remember that you can still occasionally eat out or consume processed foods as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
The bottom line
Any food that has been cooked, canned, frozen, or packed is said to be processed.
A healthy diet can include many processed foods, but you should avoid the ones that are heavy in sodium, sugar, chemicals, and preservatives.
Try a few of the suggestions in this article to see what works for you, and keep in mind that gradual improvements will yield the best outcomes