What are processed foods?
By definition, processed food is a food item that has had a series of mechanical or chemical operations performed on it to change or preserve it. Processed foods are those that typically come in a box or bag and contain more than one item on the list of ingredients.
Why are processed foods bad for you?
Processed foods lack nutrients and fiber that help fill you up, which can lead to binging later. Plain and simple, processed foods are lacking in nutritional value.
Heavily processed foods often include unhealthy levels of added sugar, sodium, and fat. These ingredients make the food we eat taste better, but too much of them leads to serious health issues like obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
The truth is, processed foods are so incredibly rewarding to our brains that they affect our thoughts and behavior, making us eat more and more.
How to identity processed foods:
Avoid Boxes, Bags and Cans (BBC’s). If something comes pre-packaged, it has been touched. Commonly, food manufacturers dehydrate, bleach, enrich salt, sweeten, and fatten food to compensate for the nutrition lost during the process it took to put the food into the box. Though boxed, canned and frozen foods are very convenient, they're not healthy for you in the long run.
Stay away from anything white. These are some of the most highly processed foods on the planet. Though naturally white things like potatoes and eggs are fine, the food manufacturers really modify wheat flour and rice in these white products.
Shop on the outside edge of the store. One of the easiest places to find unprocessed, healthy, whole foods is to purchase your groceries on the outside edge of the store. The edges are where you'll find produce, meat, eggs, dairy, and seafood. These items are not processed, or if they are, they are usually minimally processed.
Helpful tips for grocery shopping:
Make sure you have a plan before you go into the store. List = Plan.
Eat a meal and hydrate before shopping.
Take your time in preparing your weekly list. Be mindful of your list and personal goals.
When meal prepping, never shop and prep on the same day, it's just too much work and tends to become overwhelming.
Meal prepping is the key to success. We all know that “abs are made in the kitchen”
STAY AWAY from the center aisle. Don’t justify going down the baking aisle because you need spices, get your spices from the bulk section.
Dining out and making healthy choices:
• Cocktails! If you're going to indulge in pre-dinner drinks try to have a spirit-based drink. It's best to have something straight or on the rocks. Mixed drinks contain a lot of empty calories and processed ingredients. Keep it clean. If your friends are out to have a good time and you are not wanting to indulge in that excess, set a limit for yourself. Or order bubbly water with lime – you don’t have to drink alcohol to be fun and hang out with your friends. If they are truly your friends they will respect your decision.
Have a plan - just like going to the grocery store. The same principles apply. Having a lite meal an hour or so prior to dinner so you’re not “starving” will aid in decision-making. Your plan starts before you enter the restaurant. Take a minute to look at the menu before going in (pretty much everyone has their menu online). Make an appropriate decision based on your goals. Look for healthy whole food options that aren’t processed (think meat and veg). Avoid high-calorie appetizers and opt for a salad with a vinaigrette if your company is ordering apps.
Entrees! Look for options containing meat and vegetables. Is there sauce? Ask for no sauce or to have it on the side. Look for grilled options when it comes to meat. Don’t get a bun, get it over a bed of greens. There are literally a million ways to make a meal better for you. Don’t be afraid to ask the server to change it up a bit.
Remember this is about making things better for you, so choose a restaurant that is going to cater to these things. “From scratch” restaurants are always going to have better whole food options compared to chain and/or fast-food restaurants.
Your mode of travel will change how you prepare. Remember the same principles apply to any and all situations when avoiding processed food. Have a plan, eat a meal before your trip, and hydrate.
Stay at a hotel that has a refrigerator for your prepped meals. Airbnb's and VRBO rentals are ideal for traveling. These options allow you to have your own kitchen and to stay on track. Find a local grocery store nearby so you can purchase what you need to be successful.
Traveling by car is the easiest to prepare for. Pack a cooler of healthy options made up of unprocessed foods. Prepare full meals to eat while traveling and always bring enough groceries to get you through your drive. If you “have to snack” eat veggies, fruits and nuts – just be conscious of how much you eat.
Traveling by plane may seem difficult, but it really is not. Cook some protein before you go. Taking a cooked chicken breast, steak or pork chop on a plane is not illegal. Bring raw vegetables, fruit, and nuts with you as well. Airport food can be tempting, so if needed, find a sit-down restaurant where you can order a meal that is going to be as clean as you can get it. If you’re traveling for 5+ hours really think about the amount of food you’re going to need in that time frame. It is all about the preparation - prepare your meals so you succeed!