Steps to Cut Down on Processed Food (and start eating real food)

Cut Down on Processed FoodThe average American diet is full of junk foods, processed foods and foods that contain large amounts of calories with little nutritional value.

There are just too many people eating the wrong types of foods—this is why the health status within the United States, and the rest of the globe, is going down the tubes fast.

Most people wouldn’t think of putting a poor substitute for fuel and oil into their cars to keep them running properly. So why are we trying to run a machine that makes a car look like a simple toy on a fuel supply tantamount to garbage? If you feed your body garbage, expect the same in performance.

Fast, Convenient and Cheap Doesn’t Work

Most of the processed food people eat is composed of take-out fast foods, snack foods, frozen entrees, soda, sugar-heavy desserts, confectionary, breakfast cereals and macaroni dinners in a box.

To avoid eating junk food and highly processed foods, you really have to understand why people turn to these types of quasi-foods to begin with. Well, they are fast, convenient and cheap. They require no real thought or planning, and no time or effort: Put food in oven or microwave, unwrap and eat. Done.

How do you break the habit? How do you start to plan, prep and eat real whole foods?

It’s a challenge. You really have to change your thinking and reprioritize your life around your health status issues. Not lip-service or a half-ditched attempt at cutting down on processed foods by taking a different route to work so you can avoid the drive-through.

How to Break the Habit and Eat Clean

Let’s start at the grocery store. Before you go, write down a list of healthy foods that will allow you to eat a cleaner diet free of processed and junk foods. When you actually go to the store, you can only buy those items on your list.

Don’t arrive hungry; you are much more likely to buy items that are not conducive to healthy cooking and eating. Shop around the outside perimeter of the store and hit the produce section first. The only food you will find here is real, whole food.

Have you noticed what everyone else is placing in their carts? That used to be you.

Pick up different vegetables, including those that are brightly colored and leafy greens. Bell peppers, sweet potato, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, broccoli and snow peas will work. Also purchase some fruit like apples, peaches, bananas and blueberries. If they have any raw mixed nuts without salt, these make an excellent snack. If you want something totally different, try an avocado; they are great in a salad.

Now move to the grains and cereal aisle and pick up a bag of brown rice and a bag of quick oats. You may also want to by some whole grain bread, canned salmon or tuna, some Dijon mustard, calorie-reduced barbecue sauce, eggs, Greek yogurt, low-fat milk and cottage cheese. If you want to buy fish, try to get something fresh or frozen. Frozen fruit or vegetables sold in bags are also a great way to purchase your produce and may prove to be much more convenient.

Go Organic When You Can

For meats and poultry, try to buy the free-range, organic type. It’s more costly but worth it. I recommend chicken breasts as they are lean and reasonably inexpensive. Choose the leanest cuts of meat available. If you are not sure, ask the butcher for some advice and don’t forget to also ask what is on sale this week.

Next, pick up a small bottle of extra virgin olive oil, spices like garlic powder, chilli powder and pepper or curry powder, some almond butter, a few cans of lentils, navy beans or black-eyed peas, and some whole-grain crackers, a natural sweetener like stevia and some spring water.

That should be enough food to start you on your way to a healthy eating experience.

So what about cooking? It starts with planning what you are going to make from day to day. My advice? Cook enough rice to last for a few days, add a can of beans, olive oil and some spices. Bake some chicken breasts with the barbecue sauce, steam some veggies and make a big salad with your avocado and nuts.

Checklist to Keep You Fed and Healthy

Here are some pointers to keep you on track:

Always have enough food made in advance. Never go hungry and eat every three to four hours.

Shop every two to three days and only buy enough fresh food to last you that long. Try the local farmer’s market for the freshest foods at the best prices.

Look up some fast but simple healthy food recipes that you can try and repeat them often. Stick to the foods that are healthy but you like. If you have a deep-fryer, get rid of it and never use it again. If you need something sweet, try a drizzle of honey or stevia over some frozen fruit.

In a few weeks, you will begin to feel better and have more energy. Your bowel function will begin to normalize, and you will find that your level of concentration will improve. Sleeping will be much less of a chore and your weight may also start to change for the better—all thanks to replacing processed foods with clean, whole foods in your diet.

Scrap the Fast Food Almost All the Time

Avoiding take-out is another matter. If you must have it, do so for a special occasion only. When you do, look for a healthy alternative to the tacos, fried chicken, meatball sub, double burger and fries. Most fast-food restaurants have somewhat healthier options; if those don’t appeal, order smaller portion sizes. Have a single burger with a small fries and a diet soda. It is a compromise, granted, but at least you are limiting the damage.

However, one cheat meal and then it’s back to business.

Once you have made the transition to healthier cooking and eating, the occasional fast-food meal or processed frozen entree will really not be an issue, but only if it is occasional.

Bring on the willpower and you will feel better for it. Healthy eating and cooking have so much to offer when it comes to improving your long-term health and well-being.