Carry healthy snacks with you

If you're running low on time, it might be tempting to grab a packaged snack on your way out.

However, keeping your pantry stocked with plenty of portable, nutritious snacks can make it easier to make healthy choices on the go. Some healthy snacks include fresh fruit, mixed nuts, edamame and chickpea vegetables. If you have enough time, you can also prepare some simple snacks in advance. Hard-boiled eggs, turkey wraps, homemade kale chips, and overnight oats are some great meals you can make quickly and save for later.

Swap refined grains for whole grains

One of the easiest ways to reduce your processed food intake is to start swapping out processed foods for healthier whole foods.

In particular, you can swap refined grains, such as white pasta, rice, bread, and tortillas, for whole-grain alternatives, such as brown rice and whole-wheat pasta, bread, and tortillas. Whole grains are not only rich in important nutrients like fiber, but they have also been shown to protect against diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer.

Get creative in the kitchen

If you're feeling adventurous, you can make your favorite processed foods healthier by recreating them in your kitchen. This gives you complete control over what you put on your plate while allowing you to try fun new ingredients.

For example, you can make vegetable chips by tossing potato, zucchini, radish, or carrot slices with a little olive oil and salt, then baking them until they're crisp.

Other healthy alternatives to processed foods that you can make at home include chia pudding, air-popped popcorn, granola bars and peels.

Drink more water

Sugary drinks like sodas, sweet teas, juices, and sports drinks are high in sugar and calories but low in essential nutrients. Gradually switching these drinks to water throughout the day is a great way to reduce your intake of processed foods and improve your overall diet quality. If plain water isn't your favorite drink, sparkling water or flavored water are two great options. Alternatively, you can try adding fresh fruit or herbs to the water for extra flavor.

try to cook

Bulk meal prep once or twice a week ensures your refrigerator is stocked with nutritious meals, even if you're too busy to cook. It also makes it more tempting to hit the drive-through at home or turn to frozen convenience meals when you're pressed for time.

First, choose a few recipes to make each week and set aside a specific time to prepare your meals.

Find a few recipes with similar ingredients so I can rotate a few meals throughout the week to avoid repetition.

Eat more vegetable

When you prepare meals at home, include at least one serving of vegetables to increase your intake of healthy, unprocessed foods.

This can be as simple as adding spinach to scrambled eggs, sautéing broccoli as a simple side dish, or adding carrots or cauliflower to a soup or casserole.

Vegetables are nutrient-dense and a great source of fiber, keeping you full between meals and helping to reduce appetite and suppress appetite.

Change your shopping habits

It's much easier to limit your intake of processed foods when you don't have them on hand.

Next time you go to the grocery store, fill your cart with healthy, minimally processed ingredients like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

You can also try staying closer to the perimeter of the store and avoiding the middle aisles, where processed snacks and junk food are often located.

Always read the labels on your favorite foods when shopping. If possible, avoid foods with high amounts of sodium, trans fat, or added sugar.

Try some simple food swaps

Many processed products have countless health swaps. Here are some of my favorites:
  • Swap your sugary breakfast cereal for a bowl of oatmeal and fresh fruit.
  • Put your own popcorn on the stove instead of microwave popcorn.
  • Whip up homemade vinaigrette with olive oil and vinegar and drizzle over salads in place of processed dressings.
  • Make a mix using nuts, seeds, and dried fruits as a healthy alternative to store-bought varieties.
  • Top your salad with nuts or seeds instead of croutons.

Eat less processed meat

Processed meats such as bacon, sausages, luncheon meats, and hot dogs have several drawbacks and have even been classified as carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. You'll be happy to hear that there are many simple ways to reduce your intake of processed meat. First, you can simply swap these foods for less processed meats, such as fresh chicken, salmon, or turkey. You can also substitute other sandwich fillings for packaged lunch meat, including tuna salad, chicken breast, or hard-boiled eggs. Alternatively, you can eat more plant-based proteins such as beans, lentils, tofu, or tempeh.

change slowly

There is 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 studies show that small lifestyle changes can help form lasting habits and make initially difficult actions much easier over time). Each week, try one or two of the strategies listed above, and gradually implement more. Remember, you can still enjoy eating out or eating processed foods in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced diet.


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