This is our fourth guest post in our 2020 Reader Advice & Tips series where we invited our readers to submit guest posts with their best advice on how to cut out out processed food. Those who were chosen to be featured are receiving a signed copy of one of my cookbooks (their choice)! A big thank you to everyone who turned in a submission. We loved getting to know you!
I work full-time (from home) as a software test engineer for a medical device company. My husband also works full-time and we have three busy children—Henry (age 14), Gwen (age 11), and Eli (age 7). In addition to trying to eat as much real food as possible, we have the additional challenge of no gluten and no tomatoes due to intolerances/allergies.
My Best Advice
My best advice for anyone who is trying to move to a real food diet is to not stress about it! Take baby steps and do what you can. It won’t happen overnight, especially if you and your family are used to a lot of processed foods.
My Top 5 Tips for Cutting out Processed Food
In my opinion, this is the most important tip of all. You can buy some special meal prep containers or just use Pyrex or recycled food containers like glass jars. Put aside some time on Sunday (or whenever it is convenient for you) and get some things ready for the week. Some things I like to do are: make muffins and breakfast burritos for the freezer, make rice pudding or chia pudding and put it in single-serving containers in the fridge, plus make artisan bread dough that can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks and used for bread, bagels, pretzels, and pizza crust. Prep can also mean making a double batch of just about whatever you are making so some can be put in the freezer or eaten for lunch or dinner later in the week.
- Enroll in a CSA (community-supported agriculture) or produce box delivery.
This is so much easier than wandering around the busy produce section at the local grocery store and trying to figure out what to buy, and oftentimes, you can get local and/or organic produce for lower prices than at the grocery store. And some of it can be prepped as soon as you get it, like chopping up carrot sticks and making a big green salad to store in the fridge.
- Even better—take up gardening.
It doesn’t get any easier than walking outside into your backyard to find something that can be a snack or part of tonight’s meal.
- If you have kids, get them involved.
They are more likely to eat it if they have a hand in making it. Sign your kids up for a healthy kids cooking class. Buy them cookbooks. Ask them to toss a salad to go with dinner. Have them pack their own school lunches, or at least help. My daughter loves to bake, so she bakes a loaf of quick bread or muffins each weekend (which saves me time as well). My kids would also much rather have healthy pizza at home than delivery because that means they get to roll out some dough and make their pizzas just the way they like them.
- Make convenient snacks available.
One of the reasons we like prepared processed foods is convenience…just open a package and eat. So make sure you have healthier whole foods available that are just as easy to grab and snack on. Have nuts and unsweetened dried fruit in the pantry. In the fridge, have things like string cheese, hummus, carrot sticks, and sliced apples.
Switching to a real food diet may seem like a lot of work, but once you get used to it, it will be no big deal. Things start to become a habit. And you may notice that you and your family start to feel better and even spend less money. There is also the added benefit of creating less waste for the environment from all that packaging. Good luck!