People who avoid processed food…
I’ll say this one until I am blue in the face. It’s basically impossible to avoid processed food if you don’t plan ahead. Unless you never leave your house you will inevitably be out and about when hunger strikes. And if you don’t have a stash of healthy snacks on hand or know what and when your next meal will be then you’ll likely succumb to something highly processed (such as a vending machine or the drive-through). Here are 8 meal planning pointers to get you started.
Read ingredient labels
Reading the ingredient list (not the nutrition facts!) on your food labels is the #1 way to know what’s in your food products and how processed they are. It can take some time to learn what to look for, but I created a video for beginners and an ingredient label cheat sheet to reference when you’re at the store.
Shop at the farmers’ market (and buy what’s in season)
Produce in the supermarket travels, on average, 1,500 miles from the farm to your plate! (This applies to both conventional and organic. Learn more about this in my post, How far does your produce travel?). So, not only is the food at the farmers’ market fresher than most anything you can find at the supermarket, but you can also find a much wider variety of produce that’s not even available elsewhere. Your grocery store is concerned about what travels well and has a long shelf-life, not what’s fun to try and tasty to eat. When produce is eaten in season, not only does it taste better and cost less, but it’s better for you! If you are new to shopping at farmers’ markets, here are 10 pointers for farmers’ market shopping that can help. –
Use their freezer
I’m not talking about filling a freezer with packaged foods like Totinos Pizzas and Eggos. I’m talking about a freezer stash full of homemade goodies and high-quality meat products. We actually went out and bought a freezer just for this purpose when we cut out highly processed food. We now store everything from homemade soups and stocks to made-from-scratch waffles to pastured chicken and grass-fed beef from the farmers’ market and all sorts of frozen meals for whenever the mood strikes.
Make a dinner “from scratch” at least 4 nights a week
People who avoid processed food most definitely know how to cook. According to Michael Pollan, cooking from scratch is “the single most important thing we could do as a family to improve our health and general well-being.” And remember, no matter how old you are, it’s never too late to start learning your way around the kitchen!
Avoid the drive-through (see #1)
Even on those nights when you aren’t cooking a yummy dinner from scratch, I guarantee people who avoid processed food aren’t hitting the drive-through. They’re either eating leftovers (from the previous night’s dinner or from a freezer stash made months before) or going out to a carefully selected restaurant that does a decent job of making things from scratch themselves (including house-made salad dressings, soups, and sauces). If you don’t like leftovers because they always seem boring, here are 10 exciting ideas for leftovers you can try.
Eat whole grains
Grains are a huge part of the Standard American Diet so just this one simple decision to switch from refined grains to whole grains has a huge impact, and people who eat real food know all about it. This is where reading nutrition labels can come in handy. The key is to look for 5 or fewer whole food ingredients … and that rule of thumb actually works on any type of product, even if it doesn’t contain grains!
Do you think this is a complete list? Am I missing anything? If so, please share in the comments!