One can have many processed foods, including canned vegetables, frozen fruits, and pasteurized dairy products, as part of their healthy diet.
However, most of the highly processed items are loaded with salt, sugar, additives, and preservatives, which may have a negative impact on your health.
Reducing your intake of these highly processed foods is one of the most effective ways to improve the quality of your diet. Additionally, this will result in improving your overall health also.
Moreover, cutting down on processed foods is one of the first things, which is recommended, when people ask for nutritional advice.
What are processed foods?
Food processing consists of a process that changes the natural form of food.
Moreover, processed food is any food item that has been canned, cooked, frozen, pasteurized, or packaged.
Some common processes of food processing are.
- freezing i.e. frozen vegetables and fruits
- canning i.e. canned tuna, canned veggies
- drying i.e. dried lentils, and pluses
- baking i.e. roasting nuts,
- milling i.e. wholemeal flour.
Highly processed foods have multiple levels of processing.
Few examples of highly processed foods include breakfast cereals, puffed rice, snack foods like crackers. And biscuits, processed meat products, ready meals, sauces, canned fish, and vegetables.
However, some foods need to be processed to make them usable i.e. olives can be pressed to make olive oil, and milk needs to be pasteurized to make it safe to drink.
What causes some processed foods to be less healthy?
Well, added Salt, sugar and saturated fat are the major culprits.
Very often these are added to processed foods for a variety of reasons, like making foods taste more appealing or extending their shelf life.
However, eating higher levels of sugar, salt, and saturated fat than is recommended is associated with a high risk of heart disease.
Let’s take sweet corn as an example. When found in nature, it can be cooked and eaten straight off the cob.
Corn kernels might also be canned, which means the sweet corn has undergone some processing but is still close to its natural form.
While when it is highly processed, sweet corn is used to manufacture corn-based products like corn chips and cornflakes.
Moreover, these get lower in fiber and are more likely to contain added saturated fat, sugar, or salt in them.
simple tips to eat less processed food
So Here are 10 sustainable, and realistic strategies to help you eat less processed food.
1. Swap your refined grains for whole grains
One of the easiest ways to reduce your intake of processed foods is to start swapping them with healthier whole foods. As Whole foods are foods that resemble how it is found in nature.
In particular, you can swap refined grains like white pasta, bread, rice, and tortillas for their whole-grain alternatives, such as brown rice and whole-grain pasta, bread, and tortillas.
Moreover, Not only are whole grains higher in important nutrients like fiber, but they’ve also been shown to protect you against conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
2. Drink more water to eat less processed food
Sugary beverages like packed fruit juice, soda, sweet tea, and sports drinks are high in sugar and calories but low in essential nutrients.
Gradually Swapping these drinks for water throughout your day is a great way to cut back on your intake of processed foods and improve your overall diet quality.
Try, Sparkling or flavored water if plain water isn’t your favorite beverage.
Additionally, you can try infusing water with fresh fruit or herbs for an added burst of flavor.
3. Keep healthy snacks handy
When you’re running short on time, grabbing a packaged snack on your way may be easy and tempting.
However, keeping your kitchen stocked with portable, nutritious snacks can make it easier to make healthy choices ready on the go.
Some of the healthy snacks options include mixed nuts, fruit, edamame, and veggies.
If you have a little extra time, you can also prepare some snacks in advance also.
Additionally, snacks such as boiled eggs, turkey roll-ups, homemade kale chips, and overnight oats are always great treats.
4. Get creative in your kitchen
If you’re already feeling excited about it, just give your favorite processed foods a healthy twist by recreating them in your way.
Moreover, it will give you complete control of what you’re putting on your plate while letting you experiment with interesting new and loving ingredients.
For example, try making veggie chips by tossing potato, zucchini, or carrot slices and a bit of olive oil and salt, you can bake them until they’re crispy.
Other healthy alternatives to processed foods that you can make up at home include air-popped popcorn, some chia pudding, homemade granola bars, and fruit leather, etc.
Try and recreate meals from your favorite restaurants at home instead of ordering takeout.
In addition to saving money, this makes it easier to eat more whole foods by filling up on ingredients like fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and legumes instead of eating processed foods.
5. Try Eating more veggies
When you’re preparing your own meals at home, try including at least one serving of vegetables to increase your intake of healthy, unprocessed foods.
It can be very easy, like just add spinach to your scrambled eggs, sautéing broccoli for a simple side dish, or tossing carrots or cauliflower into soups.
Veggies are highly nutritious and great sources of fiber, and it keeps you feeling full between meals to help decrease your appetite and curb cravings.
6. Try meal prepping at home
Preparing your meals in large batches once or twice each week will ensure that you have plenty of nutritious meals ready in your fridge even when you’re too busy for cooking.
It can also make it very less tempting for you to hit the drive-through on your way home or turn toward frozen convenience meals when you got a tight schedule to follow.
To get started on meal prep, pick a few recipes to make each week and make aside a specific time to prepare your meals.
Moreover, prefer finding a few recipes that share similar ingredients so that you can rotate through several meals during the week to avoid repetition.
7. Try some simple food swaps to eat less processed food
There are numerous healthy swaps for many highly processed food products and here are a few that you may like:
Trying swapping your sugary breakfast cereal for a bowl of oatmeal with a fresh fruit bowl.
Make and pop your own popcorn on the stove in place of microwave popcorn.
Whip up your own homemade vinaigrette with olive oil and vinegar to drizzle over salads in place of processed dressings.
Try making trail mix using nuts, seeds, and dried fruit for a healthy alternative to store-bought varieties.
Try topping your salads with nuts or seeds instead of croutons.
8. Switch up your shopping routine and Shop smarter
Think this way, it will be much easier to limit your intake of processed foods when you don’t have any on hand.
So, next time when you go, for your grocery shopping, fill up your cart with healthy, minimally processed ingredients like fruits, whole grains, vegetables, and unprocessed foods.
Moreover, you can also try sticking to the perimeter of the store and avoiding the middle aisles, which is where processed snacks and junk foods are typically found.
And be mature to read labels on your favorite food products when you’re shopping.
Additionally when possible, steer clear of foods with lots of sodium, trans fat, or added sugar.
9. Always eat less processed meat
Now, processed meats like bacon, sausage, lunch meat, and hot dogs are linked to several downsides. And even classified as carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
You’ll be amazed to hear that there are plenty of easy ways to cut back on processed meat.
However, for starting, you can simply swap these foods for less processed varieties of meat. Such as fresh chicken, salmon, or turkey meat.
One can also swap packaged lunch meats with other sandwich fillings, including tuna salad, chicken breast, or hard-boiled eggs.
Alternatively, you can also try more plant-based proteins, such as beans, lentils, tofu, or tempeh.
10. Make changes slowly and be realistic
As you start your journey of eating less processed foods there are certain things you should consider. As there is no need to completely eliminate processed foods from your diet all at once.
In fact, making slow dietary changes is often found to be more effective and sustainable in the long run.
Research also suggests that minor lifestyle changes help form long-lasting habits. Additionally, actions that are initially difficult get much easier over time
Just try experimenting, with each ongoing week. Keep trying one or two of the strategies mentioned above, then gradually implement more over time.
Always mind that you can still enjoy dining out. Or eating your loved processed foods in moderation as part of a healthy, and balanced diet.
Processed foods are any food that has been pre-cooked, canned, frozen, or packaged.
Although there are numerous processed foods that you can have as part of a healthy diet. But you should limit those that are high in sodium, sugar, additives, and preservatives.
Try a few of these simple tips to eat less processed foods outlined in this article. And find what works for you, and remember to make changes slowly and for the best results.