With people being busier than ever, the demand for fast food, even in the form of seemingly healthy energy bars is only growing. Although most people would agree that eating whole foods is healthier for them, the reality is that few people actually take the time to grow and prepare their food from scratch. One way to clean up a diet is to cut out processed foods. Here are the 3 best tips for cleaning up an overly processed diet.
What Are “Processed” Foods?
The initial step in cleaning up an unhealthy diet is to identify what processed foods truly are. Anything commercially packaged and not in its natural state would be considered processed. For instance, a granola bar that is made up of ingredients such as oats, nuts, and fruits would still be considered processed since none of those ingredients are in its original state. Buying the fruit before being cut up, dehydrated or cooked would be the original state. In general, foods with labels attached to them with a long ingredient list can be assumed to be processed. Learning to read labels diligently is a major step to a healthier diet. In general, the less processed, the better.
What To Get Rid Of First
When reading labels, a rule of thumb should be the fewer ingredients, the better. Additionally, when reading the ingredients, if they are difficult to pronounce, or you simply do not know what it is, it is probably best to avoid that food. The worst offenders tend to be any food that is microwaveable such as frozen meals, as well as most foods found inside a vending machine. Cutting out processed foods entirely can be challenging, so it is important to take baby steps, rather than quitting processed foods cold turkey. There are also many processed foods that have very few ingredients, such as tomato sauce. Buying or better yet, making pasta, then adding a jar of tomato sauce is a much healthier alternative to microwaving a frozen spaghetti entrée.
Going Au Naturel
After eliminating the worst offenders when it comes to processed food, it is time to tackle the rest of the pantry. Ensuring that most mealtimes and snacks are made with whole foods takes some planning. If eating on the go is a regular habit, consider making home-made trail mix or granola bars with only a few ingredients. When it comes to meals, making a plan in advance for the week can make it easier to avoid processed foods. Start with lunches if you are the type of person who purchases lunch every day. Consider batch cooking, or making an extra serving of dinner to pack for lunch the following day. There are several great apps and blogs focused on meal planning with whole foods, so take advantage of these resources while customizing the recipes to your tastes.