Tips for Eating Less Processed Foods
I get it, processed and pre-packaged foods are so quick and convenient, and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying them occasionally because sometimes you just really need quick and convenient. My cupboards are definitely not void of processed and pre-packaged foods, but I do try to limit these types of foods because most of them are loaded with salt, sugar, unhealthy oils, additives and preservatives that can harm your health.
Limiting or avoiding processed and pre-packaged foods is a great way to improve your diet and overall health. Here are a few tips to help you reduce or avoid processed and pre-packaged foods in your diet:
Make your own snacks
By making your own healthy snacks you know exactly what what is in them. Packaged snacks are often low in protein and fibre, and high in sugar and unhealthy oils. When you make your own, you can control this, and up the protein and fibre content while keeping the sugar content low. Preparing homemade granola bars, protein bites, muffins, and cookies is quite simple and requires minimal ingredients. Try these cookies or these protein bites. Healthy snacks can also be as simple as carrot sticks and hummus, grapes and almonds, or Greek yogurt and berries.
Drink more water
Beverages like pop, fruit juices, and sports drinks are typically high in sugar and low in nutrients. Try swapping these processed drinks out for more water instead. Bored of plain water? Try adding fruit, vegetables, or herbs such as raspberries, lemon, cucumber, or mint for added flavour.
Change your shopping habits
One of the easiest ways to limit or avoid processed and prepackaged foods is to just stop buying them. I know this is easier said than done, but if you start to limit your trips down the centre aisles of the grocery store where you’ll find these items, eventually it will be easier to avoid them. Spend more time shopping the perimeter of the grocery store where you'll typically find fresh/frozen fruits and vegetables, dairy/non-dairy yogurt and cheeses, fresh meats, nuts and seeds.
Try some healthier food swaps
There are so many healthier alternatives to processed and pre-packaged foods. A few of my favourites include:
Homemade salad dressings instead of store bought. This very simple homemade dressing is one of my favourites.
Homemade trail mix.
Popcorn made on the stove rather than store bought microwave popcorn or pre-packaged popcorn.
Homemade granola instead of store-bought granola.
A simple tomato sauce made with tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil, and seasonings.
Oatmeal made with steel cut oats or quick oats instead of boxed cereals.
Cut back on processed meats
Processed meats including hot dogs, bacon, and deli meats are all associated with possible health risks, so limiting or avoiding them can help support a healthier lifestyle. Try swapping processed meats for fresh and less processed chicken, turkey, or fish, or other sources of protein including eggs, lentils, or tofu.
Prepare meals in large batches
Meal prepping and batch cooking a couple of times per week is a great way to have healthy meals prepared and ready to simply heat up when you are in a rush, instead of picking up fast food or ordering out. Find a few recipes you love that are easy to prepare, and make them on a regular basis to ensure that you always have nutritious meals in your fridge or freezer when you are too busy to cook.