Processed food is any food item that has been canned, cooked, frozen, pasteurised, or packed.
You can enjoy many processed foods, like canned vegetables, frozen fruits, and pasteurised dairy products, as part of a balanced diet. However, certain highly processed goods are filled with salt, sugar, chemicals, and preservatives, which might impair your health.
Reducing your intake of these highly processed foods is one of the most effective methods to improve your health and enhance the quality of your diet.
In fact, when individuals ask me for dietary advice, cutting down on processed meals is one of the first things I offer.
Here are 10 simple, sustainable, and realistic techniques to help you eat less processed food.
1. Keep nutritious snacks on hand
If you’re running short on time, purchasing a packaged snack on your way out the door may be tempting.
However, having your kitchen stocked with plenty of portable, nutritious snacks can make it much easier to make good choices on the road.
Some of my favourite healthy snacks include fresh fruit, mixed nuts, edamame, and veggies with hummus.
If you have spare time, you can also prep some simple snacks in advance.
Hard-boiled eggs, turkey roll-ups, homemade kale chips, and overnight oats are a few fantastic delights that you can make up fast and keep on hand for later.
2. Swap refined grains for whole grains
One of the simplest methods to limit your intake of processed foods is to start swapping them for healthier whole foods.
In instance, you can exchange refined grains like white pasta, rice, bread, and tortillas with whole grain alternatives, such as brown rice and whole grain pasta, bread, and tortillas.
Not only are whole grains higher in vital nutrients like fibre, but they’ve also been shown to protect against illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer (1Trusted Source) (1Trusted Source).
3. Get creative in the kitchen
If you’re feeling experimental, give your favourite processed meals a healthy twist by recreating them in your kitchen. This provides you complete control of what you’re placing on your plate while allowing you experiment with exciting new components.
For example, you may make veggie chips by tossing potato, zucchini, turnip, or carrot slices with a little of olive oil and salt, then baking them until they’re crispy.
Other healthy alternatives to processed foods that you can whip up at home include chia pudding, air-popped popcorn, granola bars, and fruit leather.
Personally, I adore trying to recreate meals from my favourite restaurants at home instead than buying takeaway. In addition to saving money, this makes it simpler to eat more whole foods by filling up on ingredients like fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
4. Drink more water
Sugary beverages including soda, sweet tea, fruit juice, and sports drinks are heavy in sugar and calories but poor in important nutrients.
Gradually substituting these drinks for water over the day is a terrific approach to cut back on your intake of processed foods and enhance your overall diet quality.
Sparkling or flavoured water are two wonderful options if plain water isn’t your favourite beverage. Alternatively, you can try infusing water with fresh fruit or herbs for an extra blast of flavour.
5. Try meal prepping
Preparing meals in large batches once or twice each week guarantees that you have lots of nutritious meals available in your fridge even when you’re too busy to cook.
It can also make it far less tempting to hit the drive-through on your way home or turn to frozen convenience dinners when you’re rushed for time.
To begin started, pick a few dishes to make each week and set up a specified time to prepare your meals.
I also enjoy finding a few recipes that share comparable components so that I may rotate through various meals during the week to prevent monotony.
6. Eat more vegetables
When you’re preparing meals at home, incorporate at least one serving of veggies to maximise your consumption of healthful, unprocessed foods.
This can be as easy as adding spinach to your scrambled eggs, sautéing broccoli for a simple side dish, or putting carrots or cauliflower into soups or casseroles.
Vegetables are incredibly nutritious and wonderful sources of fibre, which keeps you feeling full between meals to help decrease your appetite and curb cravings (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).
7. Switch up your shopping routine
It’s much easier to minimise your intake of processed foods when you don’t have any on hand.
Next time you go to the grocery store, fill your cart up with healthy, minimally processed items like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
You can also try staying to the perimeter of the supermarket and avoiding the middle aisles, which is where processed snacks and junk foods are generally available.
Be sure to read labels on your favourite food goods when you’re shopping. Whenever possible, avoid clear of foods with loads of sodium, trans fat, or added sugar.
8. Try some easy meal swaps
There are innumerable healthy replacements for many processed items. Here are a handful of my favourites:
Trade your sweet breakfast cereal for a cup of oatmeal with fresh fruit.
Pop your own popcorn on the stove in instead of microwave popcorn.
Whip up a fresh vinaigrette with olive oil and vinegar to sprinkle over salads in place of artificial dressings.
Make trail mix with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit for a healthier alternative to store-bought varieties.
Top your salads with nuts or seeds instead of croutons.\
9. Eat less processed meat
Processed meats including bacon, sausage, lunch meat, and hot dogs are related with several downsides and even recognised as carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (4). (4).
You’ll be delighted to know that there are plenty of straightforward ways to cut less on processed meat.
For starters, you can simply replace these dishes for less processed kinds of meat, such as fresh chicken, salmon, or turkey. You can also replace packed lunch meats with alternative sandwich contents, including tuna salad, chicken breast, or hard-boiled eggs.
Alternatively, you can eat more plant-based proteins, such as beans, lentils, tofu, or tempeh.
10. Make changes slowly
There’s no need to completely eliminate processed foods from your diet all at once.
In fact, making changes slowly is often more effective and sustainable in the long run. Some research suggests that minor lifestyle changes help form long-lasting habits and make actions that are initially difficult much easier over time (5Trusted Source).
Each week, try experimenting with one or two of the tactics described above, then progressively adopt more.
Keep in mind that you can still enjoy dining out or eating processed foods in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
The bottom line
Processed foods are any food that has been cooked, canned, frozen, or packaged.
Although you can eat numerous processed foods as part of a healthy diet, you should limit those that are high in sodium, sugar, additives, and preservatives.
Try a few of the tips outlined in this article to find what works for you, and remember to make changes slowly for the best results.
Also Read ABout The Definitive Guide to Healthy Eating in Real Life