4 Steps to Help You Quit Processed Foods
We all have those busy life phases when we find ourselves cooking less and eating out more. And during these busy times if we don’t eat out, we succumb to processed foods that can be easily made at home. Recently, I have noticed that my processed food consumption has increased drastically! It’s not something that I am proud to admit as a nutritionist, but I find these moments inspiring to share with you as these phases come and go.
These processed food phases come once in a blue moon but when they do occur, I pick-up on the habit and work towards eating whole foods again. My method is a bit different from most. There is no purge of bad foods from the pantry or fridge. I often see a lot of elimination diets resulting in binge eating. The elimination of all bad foods works for some, but many of us need a slower, realistic approach. Below are key steps to help you (and myself!) break a processed food habit. Remember– we are taking it one step at a time.
I first notice my processed food habit by paying attention to my body. How your body feels and reacts to certain foods can tell you exactly what is wrong. Start paying attention to your rising health problems. For me, if I eat a lot of gluten, my eczema above my neck will begin to surface. If I don’t drink enough water, my lips and skin become increasingly chapped. Right now, eating a lot of processed foods (aka chemicals) has caused mild rosacea to slowly make an appearance on my cheeks. Many of our health issues come from within and show themselves physically. So it’s important to assess what we are putting in our bodies first and then analyze what foods could be causing these health issues.
Be mindful of the processed foods you are consuming. First and foremost, look at the ingredients on the food you are purchasing. If you are new to decreasing processed foods from your diet, look at the first five ingredients. These five ingredients are the five most used ingredients within the packaged food. A good rule of thumb when looking at ingredients, if you can’t pronounce all the ingredients listed, you shouldn’t be purchasing it.
For those who don’t want to give up their obsession of TJ’s veggie dumplings or oven ready falafels (my two current favorites), it is okay! You can slowly decrease your processed food purchases by choosing one processed food a week to have on hand. Yes, I only encourage one as this forces you to make better choices in the kitchen but doesn’t cut you off completely where you feel deprived. This week I chose TJ’s veggie dumplings. In my head, I know I am trying to eat whole foods, but this one purchase allows me to enjoy a personal favorite without too much restriction.
Work your way up to healthier options. Instead of a regular bag of potato chips, try baked potato chips! You can also start pairing your processed foods with whole foods for a fast transition. I ate 4 dumplings with a big salad loaded with olives, tomatoes, almonds, sunflower seeds, kale, and romaine lettuce. This combination actually made me want more salad! It’s all about the simple changes that can make a large impact on your day-to-day habits.
Remember the goal is to feel your best! A lifestyle change is about imperfection. You will have slip-ups and the occasional four dumplings from a package. It’s perfectly fine! Enjoy the lifestyle journey you are on and keep learning to become your best self.
Photo: Dennis “DieTa” Klein via Unsplash