Welcome to our 2020 Reader Advice and 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 made the decision in 2014 to make significant changes to our eating habits after our pediatrician said my daughter’s chronic constipation (she was 6 at the time) could only be solved with over-the-counter laxatives. This did not sit well with me, especially when the doctor seemed unapologetic about us having to do this for several months to achieve and maintain stool regularity.
It seemed wrong to me—there had to be a more natural way to avoid constipation. I began by switching to organic foods and eventually stumbled on the 100 Days of Real Food blog. I joined the Real Food Mini-Pledge Program in 2015 and never looked back. Our family’s health is dramatically improved with fewer illnesses and more energy. My daughter no longer battles constipation, and I feel more informed about proper nutrition.
My Best Advice
Find what works best for your family. You don’t have to be entirely on the real food plan if only 80% works for you. Some changes are better than none!
My Top 5 Tips For Cutting Out Processed Food
- Make the change gradually and arm yourself with knowledge.
The changes don’t have to come overnight. Become informed and do the research. You’ll be shocked to learn how you’ve been deceived by the food industry for so long. But information is powerful. Read labels. Research ingredients. Slowly rid yourself of highly processed foods.
- Be prepared for resistance but model good choices for your kids.
This is a big change so understand your family (kids) may not understand or like it at first, but stay mindful that you’re making a good change. It will be difficult for children to turn down a soda, cake, chips, and pizza at their next birthday party, but it becomes easier if they watch you make the tough choice to only have one treat during the class Halloween party or say “no thank you” when offered your favorite soda at a friend’s pool party.
- Planning is critical.
In order to cut out processed food, you essentially have to “process” the food yourself—i.e., you have to cook everything in-house. It is a time commitment, albeit a valuable time commitment. Here is how I plan:
- I have a list of meals my family likes, which is organized by protein/vegetarian. The list also includes the cookbook or binder where the recipe can be found.
- I sit down each Saturday and review the calendar for the upcoming week. Then, I make a weekly menu of breakfast, lunch, and dinner based on our family’s schedule.
- If I have time, I look through cookbooks, Pinterest, and Lisa’s blog posts to try incorporating at least one new recipe each week. This makes the process more fun for me because I love experimenting with new ingredients and recipes.
- Then I make my grocery list and head to the store (or utilize the grocery delivery services available in my area).
As a working mom, I sacrifice the extra time spent primping myself in the morning and instead spend more time now preparing our breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner for the day. I can make it through the day with mascara and a ponytail as long as my family is healthy.
- Be prepared to pioneer the concept for your family and friends.
Our lives are hectic, and many people put their health and nutrition toward the bottom of the priority list. The majority of your friends, family, schools, and sports teams have no idea what good nutrition looks like nor do they know how to read nutrition labels. You will go to birthday parties and school functions where the food distributed will make you want to cringe. As you learn, you can politely pass along information and hopefully play a part in the change that is already happening around us. Teaching your kids proper nutrition will set them up to live a healthy lifestyle as adults.
- Show yourself some grace and allow yourself a break.
As you navigate this new lifestyle, you will hit some bumps in the road and make some food that will not turn out good. Be patient and allow yourself a day off. Go out for a meal (but not fast food!) and enjoy a glass of wine—you’ve earned it.
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to change; it’s not. —The Lorax
I live by this motto and feel the more we arm ourselves with knowledge and further the movement towards improving the dietary lifestyle of our families, our country can overcome this epidemic of obesity and illness. Our children’s generation is the first in history to have a shorter life expectancy than that of their parents. This is unacceptable and alone should be the reason for change.
I want to personally thank Lisa for the movement she started with 100 Days of Real Food. Without your guidance, information, and experience, I may not have pin-pointed processed foods as the culprit for my family’s health problems. You are a role model for many and a resource for all.