The vast majority of the foods you find in the supermarket are processed. There are different levels of processing, from the minimally processed among which you can find healthy options, to the highly processed, the latter being the least healthy.
Highly processed or ultra-processed foods are made with ingredients that are not generally used for cooking. They have a high content of salt, sugar, additives, and preservatives to improve texture and increase palatability, which can increase your risk of disease. Plus, they tend to be low in fiber and nutrients.
Minimizing your intake of processed foods has positive effects on your body. Here are 5 ways to eat less processed foods:
Try some natural foods substitutes
Base your meals on natural foods; they are foods that resemble how they are found in nature. Include vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains.
Make healthy exchanges, for example: instead of sugary breakfast cereal, opt for oatmeal with fresh fruit; swap bottled dressings for simple homemade vinaigrettes; replace the nut and granola bars with your own mix of nuts and seeds; Instead of chips or fries, opt for homemade popcorn or fresh vegetable sticks.
Switch up your shopping routine
It’s much easier to limit 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 ingredients like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
Don’t get carried away by legends like “no added sugar”, “100% natural”, “organic”. Always check the ingredient list and nutrition label. A long list of ingredients is a sign that a food is highly processed.
Look for them to contain the least amount of sugar, saturated fat, and sodium. The ingredients are ordered according to the abundance in the product, from highest to lowest. Sometimes sugar can be hidden under other names.
Try meal prepping
By preparing your food at home, you can control the ingredients and reduce your purchases of fast food or frozen ready meals. It is not about complicating your life in the kitchen. Prepare simple, quick to prepare meals that are easy to carry.
Set aside a specific time once or twice a week to cook your food. So you will have your meals ready for the following days. In addition, you save time, energy in the kitchen and make less mess.
Drink more water
Sugary drinks and alcoholic beverages are so frequent in our diet that sometimes we do not realize they affect our bodies. It is not easy to go from drinking soda every day to drinking water, but we can do things to reduce its consumption.
Gradually trading these drinks for water throughout the day is a great way to cut back on your intake of processed foods and improve your overall diet quality.
Sparkling or flavored water are two great options if plain water isn’t your favorite beverage. Alternatively, you can try infusing water with fresh fruit or herbs for an added burst of flavor.
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.
Each week, try experimenting with one or two of the strategies listed above, then gradually implement more.
Keep in mind that you can still enjoy dining out or eating processed foods in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced diet.