Food that has been canned, cooked, frozen, pasteurised, or packed is considered processed food.
Many processed foods, such as canned vegetables, frozen fruits, and pasteurised dairy products, can be consumed as part of a balanced diet. Some highly processed foods, on the other hand, are high in salt, sugar, additives, and preservatives, which can be harmful to your health.
Reducing your consumption of these highly processed foods is one of the most effective methods to improve your health and diet quality.
In fact, when individuals contact me for dietary guidance, one of the first things I recommend is cutting back on processed foods.
Here are some 10 basic, long-term, and doable tactics for eating less processed food.
1.Keep healthy snacks on hand
If you’re short on time, it may be tempting to grab a packaged snack on your way out the door.
Keeping your kitchen stocked with portable, nutritious snacks, on the other hand, can make it much easier to make good choices on the road.
Fresh fruit, mixed nuts, edamame, and veggies with hummus are some of my favourite healthy snacks.
If you have time, you can also prepare some simple snacks ahead of time. Hard-boiled eggs, turkey roll-ups, homemade kale chips, and overnight oats are just a few examples of quick and easy snacks.
2.Swap refined grains for whole grains
One of the simplest methods to limit your intake of processed foods is to begin substituting healthier whole foods for them.
Refined grains, such as white pasta, rice, bread, and tortillas, can be replaced with whole grain alternatives, such as brown rice and whole grain pasta, bread, and tortillas.
Whole grains are not only higher in vital nutrients like fibre, but they have also been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
3.Get creative in the kitchen
If you’re feeling brave, give your favourite processed foods a healthy makeover in your own kitchen. This allows you complete control over what goes on your plate while also allowing you to experiment with exciting new foods.
To prepare veggie chips, for example, sprinkle potato, zucchini, turnip, or carrot slices with olive oil and salt before baking until crispy.
Chia pudding, air-popped popcorn, granola bars, and fruit leather are some other healthy alternatives to processed foods that you may make at home.
Instead of ordering takeaway, I enjoy attempting to recreate dishes from my favourite restaurants at home. Aside from saving money, this makes it easy to consume more whole foods by stocking up on ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
4.Drink more water
Sodas, sweet tea, fruit juice, and sports drinks are high in sugar and calories but poor in critical nutrients.
Trading these drinks for water gradually throughout the day is an excellent approach to reduce your intake of processed foods and enhance the quality of your overall diet.
If plain water isn’t your favourite beverage, try sparkling or flavoured water. Alternatively, for a flavour boost, consider infusing water with fresh fruit or herbs.
5.Try meal prepping
Preparing meals in bulk once or twice a week guarantees that you have plenty of nutritious meals on hand even when you’re too busy to cook.
It can also make it less appealing to stop at a drive-through on your way home or to rely on frozen convenience dinners when you’re short on time.
To begin, choose a few recipes to make each week and schedule a time to prepare your meals.
I also prefer to discover a few recipes with similar ingredients so that I may rotate through multiple dinners throughout the week and prevent monotony.
6.Eat more vegetables
Include at least one serving of veggies in your home-cooked meals to increase your consumption of healthful, unprocessed foods.
It’s as simple as adding spinach to scrambled eggs, sautéing broccoli for a quick side dish, or putting carrots or cauliflower into soups or casseroles.
Vegetables are high in nutrients and fibre, which keeps you feeling full between meals, reducing your appetite and curbing cravings.
7.Switch up your shopping routine
When you don’t have any processed foods on hand, it’s much easier to limit your intake.
Fill your grocery cart with healthy, minimally processed products 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 generally stocked with processed snacks and junk items.
When shopping, always sure to read the labels on your favourite food goods. Avoid foods high in sodium, trans fat, or added sugar wherever feasible.
8.Try some simple food swaps
There are numerous healthy substitutes for many processed foods. Here are a couple of my personal favourites:
- Swap out your sugary cereal with a bowl of porridge with fresh fruit.
- Instead of microwave popcorn, make your own on the stove.
- To replace manufactured dressings, make a homemade vinaigrette using olive oil and vinegar to sprinkle over salads.
- To make a nutritious alternative to store-bought trail mix, combine nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.
- Instead of croutons, top your salads with nuts or seeds.
9.Eat less processed meat
Processed meats such as bacon, sausage, lunch meat, and hot dogs have been linked to a number of negative health effects and are even designated as carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
You’ll be relieved to know that there are numerous simple strategies to reduce your consumption of processed meat.
To begin, simply replace these meals with less processed meats such as fresh chicken, fish, or turkey. You can also substitute different sandwich contents for packed lunch meats, such as tuna salad, chicken breast, or hard-boiled eggs.
You can also consume extra plant-based proteins, such as beans, lentils, tofu, or tempeh.
10.Make changes slowly
There’s no need to eliminate all processed foods from your diet at once.
In reality, making gradual improvements is frequently more effective and durable in the long run. According to some study, simple lifestyle modifications can help create long-lasting habits and make initially difficult tasks more easy over time.
Try trying with one or two of the above-mentioned tactics each week, then progressively apply more.
Remember that as part of a healthy, balanced diet, you can still enjoy dining out or eating processed foods in moderation.
The bottom line
Any food that has been cooked, canned, frozen, or packed is considered processed.
Although many processed foods can be consumed as part of a balanced diet, those 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 adjustments gradually for the best effects.