If you’re serious about improving your health, cutting back on processed foods is a great place to start. Breakfast cereals, deli meats, sweets and crisps are all packed with “empty” calories that contain little nutritional value. On top of that, many of these products contain nitrites, additives, preservatives and artificial flavours that can cause long-term damage to your health. Their modified taste and texture is designed to make the body crave more. Whether you’re looking to lose weight or simply improve your health, it’s imperative that you say “No” to processed foods.
Take small steps
Giving up processed foods entirely is a tall order, and one you’re unlikely to achieve overnight. It’s much easier to remove one artificial food at a time. Focus on ditching the fizzy drinks and fruit juices first; after conquering that you’ll be ready to start weaning yourself off the excess sugar that’s lurking in your food. Then you can move on to eliminating processed meats and additive-laden sources of refined carbs including crisps and chips from your diet. Meanwhile, seek out healthier substitutes for your favourite foods. Replace deli meats with fresh meat and drink fruit-infused water instead of juices.
Choose whole foods
The next step is to replace processed foods with whole varieties. Choose brown rice instead of white, whole grains instead of sweetened breakfast cereals, whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta and fresh fruit instead of canned varieties. These simple dietary changes will reduce your intake of junk calories, fuel your body with essential nutrients and leave you feeling fuller.
Read food labels
Many so-called healthy foods contain hidden sugars and chemicals. For instance, fat-free ice cream is often packed with sugar or high fructose corn syrup, while energy bars can be high in carbs and formulated with little or no protein. Make sure you read food labels carefully. Avoid foods containing high levels of glucose, golden syrup, caramel, dextrose, fructose, malt syrup, sucrose, treacle, agave and other forms of sugar. Watch out for processed ingredients too such as unbleached wheat flour, white flour, hydrogenated soybean oil and canola oil.
Avoid canned foods
Canned soup, fruits, apple sauce and other tinned products are higher in sugar and preservatives than their fresh counterparts. Additionally, the cans are lined with BPA, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and infertility. Instead of reaching for the can opener, try making your own soups and sauces and choosing fresh fruit instead.
Cook more often
The best way to cut back on processed foods is to cook your own meals. That way, you’ll know exactly what’s on your plate. Use cookbooks, food blogs and smartphone apps to find healthy recipes and meal plans. Get creative in the kitchen and experiment with new foods and spices. You can even make healthy desserts that are low in sugar but full of flavour, with the aid of some whey protein and a few other choice ingredients.
Whether you have a penchant for pizza or a craving for cake, there are plenty of healthier alternatives available. Cut back on processed foods and not only will you eat better – you’ll look and feel a whole lot better too.