5 Ways to Cut Back on Processed Foods

food feature image
Image by: National Institutes of Health
By Robert Spencer

Eating healthy isn’t just about eating quinoa over white rice or eating salad instead of French fries. Sure, those are easy choices to make but sometimes those healthy foods are also packed with preservatives and are over-processed.

“Eating clean” is a way to eat healthy and avoid processed foods. Eating clean means that you are choosing natural and organic foods instead of over-processed foods, and foods that are packed with preservatives.

Here are 5 ways to help you eat less processed foods, eat “cleaner”, and tricks to help you choose a healthier lifestyle.

#1) Choosing the Right Grains

Baked goods and grains that are paler in color (normally) are more processed than its tanner brethren. So instead of choosing white rice, white bread, and other bleached baked goods, go for foods that say “whole grains”. You can also choose grains like quinoa, brown rice, and oats.

A healthy diet requires about three servings of whole grains a day (and a serving is about a half of a cup of grains). If you’re afraid that you will get bored of brown rice and quinoa, then try some of these healthy and unique grains:

Image by: Burgkirsch_2004

Amaranth (pictured above) has some killer nutritional value. It has great essencial nutrients like magnesium, calcium, and squalene (which has been linked to cancer prevention).

Image by: Kristen Taylor

Freekeh (pictured above, sauteed with some vegetables) has a great smokey flavor and has four times the protein as regular brown rice. It’s also low on the glycemic index which means that it’s great for people with diabetes. They go great in pilafs and risottos too so impress you’re girl with an awesome and healthy freekeh dinner.

Image by: Rasbak

Spelt (pictured above) is a fantastic and healthy grain as well. It is higher in protein than most grains and makes a great substitute for wheat flour when in flour form.

#2) Choose Water

The point of drinking liquids is to replenish the water that’s left your body. It also quenches your thirst and keeps your body in tip-top shape. So why bother drinking anything other than water? Water quenches your thirst, replaces lost hydration, and keeps your body running well.

If you’re drinking for pleasure, try to stay away from drinks that contain too much sugar and chemicals (like diet sodas and processed juices). If you want juice, buy a juicer and do it yourself. That way you know what’s going in your body.

If you want a cocktail or a beer, keep to the recommended limit – which is a about 5 ounces of wine, 1 and a half ounces of liquor, or 12 ounces of beer. A moderate amount of alcohol is good for your heart but you have to watch out for overindulgence.

When you let it get out of control you risk dehydration, added sugar, and extra calories. If your drink is an unnatural color (like neon blue), it’s safe to say that it’s not all that clean.

#3) Slow Down

This is less of a “clean eating” trick and more of a choosing healthier food and pacing. When you grab a piece of fruit to eat, really stop to enjoy it. That’s often why we turn to Cheetos and Doritos, right? Because we enjoy them.

Well, if you can stop and enjoy more natural foods, you’ll find that you won’t be as interested in the processed kinds. So the next time that you grab an apple, don’t forget to feel the texture with your hands, smell it, taste it, and really savor it.

Slowing down to enjoy your food will also help regulate just how much you eat. If we don’t scarf down our food, it gives our stomach enough time to register to our brain that we feel full. This goes for all of your food too – not just apples. Really slow down and enjoy that serving of pasta or chicken.

#4) Read the Labels

Eating non-processed foods doesn’t mean that you have to make everything by hand or eat all of your fruits and vegetables raw. Just make sure that you read the labels of the foods that you do buy at the grocery store. Look for canned and boxed “prepared” foods (like tomato sauce) that have actual foods in them. Watch out for foods that are loaded with preservatives and salt.

#5) Give Yourself Time & Make Small Changes

You can’t make this change overnight. In fact, if you try, you may just fail. You have to give your palate time to adjust and get used to the new foods that you are enjoying. When you turn to a less processed and much more natural diet of food, you’ll find that the flavors are more earth-toned and mellow.

Once you start, don’t turn back. Make small changes every day until you get used to what you are eating. Soon, you’ll find that you’re not craving those processed foods anymore.