Processed foods can be dangerous for your health. Especially, if you are eating too much of them. Many people are not aware of how their body feels after eating processed foods. But that's just because they don't know what to be aware of. OR you may think it's normal to feel that way. This is just another case of not knowing. And knowledge is power. So, in this post, I'm going to give you the top examples of processed foods that may be weighing you down. And, ideas on how to cut down on this eating pattern.
Let's Back It Up A Bit
About 3 years ago, before I started learning more about wellness, I was that person who would bring frozen meals to work. You know the excuse... I just didn't feel like packing. A frozen meal was easy. And, when I went to the store that was my excuse for buying them. I would walk past that aisle and think well, what if I don't feel like packing? Then, I won't have anything to eat. So, this was my excuse to always have these meals on hand. Pure laziness on my part.
However, when I started learning more about wellness, I became more aware of how my body was feeling. So, I ran a little experiment. I took 3 leftover meals to work a week and listened to how my body felt on those days. 2 days a week, I took frozen meals and listened to my body after I ate those. I did this for an entire year.
This is what I decided. When I ate home-cooked meals filled with nutrition, I felt more energized, happier, satisfied, and I didn't feel the craving to snack later in the day. On the other hand, if I ate a frozen meal for lunch, I felt sluggish by 2 pm, a little grumpy, still hungry, and I wanted a snack later in the day.
So, this is a tale of two different stories. And, it was all based on how I was fueling my body. You are only as effective as what you fuel your body with. Fuel it with bad nutrition, you get bad outcomes. Fuel it with better nutrition, you get better outcomes.
Now, am I saying I'm perfect with this, NO. These foods are everywhere. It takes up 1 whole aisle of the freezer section at the store!
Examples of Processed Foods
There are many different processed foods out there but the top three are fast food restaurants, frozen meals, and MANY snacks.
Now, the definition of processed foods is very different than what most people think. Processed foods is a food that is changed in any way from its normal state. For example, canning is considered processed, Washing your fruits and vegetables is considered processing. So not all processing is bad.
It gets worse when ingredients are added to the food to change it. And what I mean by ingredients, I mean chemicals, added sugars, and things that just don't need to be in your food. These are the examples of processed foods that I'm talking about. I guess you could call it unnaturally processed foods?
Why Should You Cut Down On Processed Foods?
There are many things we can talk about here but I'm going to stick to the big three.
Most processed foods have high-fructose corn syrup in it. Why is this so bad? Because it is specifically made to activate the part of your brain that gets addicted to things. It's in items ranging from ketchup to cereal! What does this mean? It means you are going to want more. As a result, you will overeat. Most likely, on more processed foods. You can toss satisfaction out the window because you are not going to get it. This cycle can be vicious for some people.
It is filled with hidden sugars. It may not be on the nutrition label but it is in the ingredients label under a different word. Sugar is another addictive chemical that keeps you wanting more and more. Now there's a double whammy! Two addictive chemicals in one product. Yikes!
Not only do you have to deal with addictive chemicals in these foods, but the nutritional value. This means the benefits you think you are getting from the item, you're not. The little apple slices that come in packages that you think are healthy, they're not. The nutrients have been stripped from the products from the chemicals added to them. There are no nutrients to these apple slices. You are better off picking up a fresh apple and slicing it yourself. That's where all the nutrients are.
When you cut down on how much-processed foods you eat you will have more energy, boost your immune system because of all the great nutrition you are getting from better meals, and you will gain more discipline because you will be satisfied with your meals.
How To Cut Down
So, now you know some examples of processed foods, what it really means, and why you should cut it down.
Now, how do you do that? Here are some ways you can cut down your processed foods consumption. These are a few ways that worked for me. Although, as I said above, I am not perfect. These foods are everywhere. But, I have cut a lot of it out. I eat WAY less than I used to.
Create A Dinner Menu
Creating a dinner menu can actually be pretty fun. AND, it can save you money on your next grocery trip.
First, what you need to do is decide what you want your menu to look like. I started with a printed out menu that I found on Google. I slipped it in a plastic sleeve to make it a wipe-on and wipe-off deal. Then, I upgraded to a large stainless steel magnet that I write on now. However you do it, is up to you. But, make sure you make it something that is easy to change each week. Making it dry-erase is your easiest bet.
Next, you need to choose a day that you will plan a week's worth of dinners. I usually give my household a two-day window. This means the menu is always done by Monday. We either plan the meals on Sunday or Monday. But, they have to be done by Monday. So, choose a day that works for you.
Then, decide what you will have for the rest of the week. Make sure you get your meats and veggies on there. I love using Pinterest to help write out the menu. You can also add your favorites there. Factor in your busy days, too. What days are you usually your busiest? If Tuesday is super busy and you know it will be hard to make a longer meal, make that a leftover day or add something to the crockpot.
Finally, write down a list of ingredients you need and go get them from the store. Eventually, you will have a stockpile of things and your ingredients will slim down. Most importantly, this will start saving you money on your next trip!
Make it easy, make it fun, and stick to it!
Set A Goal
Sometimes, it is really hard to not have a frozen meal for work. I get it and I understand. As I said, there are days where a frozen meal is coming with me to work that day.
The goal here is to make it less. Because it is very tempting to bring a frozen meal every day. Life is busy and you're tired the next morning.
But, if you set a goal it can help you cut down how many times you bring a frozen meal to work.
The trick here is to write down your goal and put it somewhere within view. This acts as your accountability body. If you set a goal for only 2 days a week and you've already done it once, you will know you only have one more day left. This system can be very helpful.
Here's my schedule just to give you an idea of what you can do, too. I will have 2 frozen meals a week and if I have less that's even better. Notice I used the word WILL. Because that word gives me the power instead of saying I only am allowed to have. Will gives you the control. And I put a little bonus at the end. If I have less that's even better. So I have control and I am working towards something.
Set a goal that works for you.
Processed Foods Snacking
Snacking is really tricky when it comes to cutting down on processed foods. Research really needs to be done here on your part.
But, what I can say, is opt for snacks like cheese sticks, hard-boiled eggs, organic nuts, dark chocolate. However, if you are looking for something else try to find a snack with 5 ingredients or less. Things such as Moon Cheese. They have a nice crunch to them. Beef sticks are always great, plantain chips, and such. Just make sure you read the ingredients label on these. Not all snacks are created equal!
Once you find better snacks, move them to the front of the pantry. If they are in the back, you will probably forget about them. Move all healthy options to the front and not so healthy options to the back. This will help you make better choices and even possibly forget about those choices in the back.
Check out this post on fad diets... How to Spot Fad Diets and What to Do Instead
To cut down on these examples of processed foods throughout your day create a dinner menu, set a goal, and find better snacks to move to the front.
These three things can help you make better choices, have more energy, and boost your immune system. Because your body is getting better nutrition. Fuel your body with goodness and it will gladly work more effectively for you.
Certified Brain Health Coach
Owner of SustainaBRAIN