How to avoid processed foods? The simple answer would be to not buy them, but we all know that for most people this is very hard to do.Whether you are buying from the supermarket, petrol station or in a restaurant, processed foods come in many different guises.

What are processed foods?

Processed, junk or #beigedeadfoods as I call them generally don’t look like anything natural that grew in the ground or lived. It has undergone some forms of processing, cooking, drying or anything else that can turn it into a food like product that has a shelf life, packaging, food label and advert.

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Some junk foods or convenience foods are more processed than others. If it has more than one ingredient then likely it has undergone some form of processing. If it has multiple ingredients and of those, many are unrecognizable and sound like a chemical, then you can guarantee that this food is processed.

How to avoid processed foods_2

The nature of our modern lives means many of us are time starved and stressed. Often embarking on a new ‘diet’ or lifestyle, no room or time to allow for planning and preparation of real, fresh foods. So often the ‘diet’ or regime is short lived because it is unsustainable and impossible to avoid heavily relying on processed foods.

Most common processed foods

Breakfast cereals – Bread and baked goods – Pastry based products such as pies and quiches – Sandwiches, wraps, rolls – Biscuits – Cereal bars – Sweets, candy and chocolate – Crisps and potato snacks – Ready meals – Pizza – Takeaways – Milk and other dairy – Sauces

The problem with processed foods is how affordable it is and how reliant we are on their convenience. Often a kettle, microwave or toaster is all that is needed to prepare them. Sometimes just the opening of the packet.

How to avoid processed foods_3I have worked with clients for over 10 years and the biggest challenge they all faced was time. Working with them to form new habits to support better choices was the single most important skill that enabled them to avoid the processed foods.

Focus on making it easier to access fresh real food and you will be less likely to reach for the easy options. Here are some of the habits we formed and practiced:

When cooking food, batch cook plenty for future use. Fill the freezer with individual portions for work or larger portions for the family.

Enlist help from other family members by delegating some of the cooking and shopping.

Plan your menus in advance. – Plan simple menus that are easy to pre-prepare and cook.

Shop on-line using your planned menus.

Buy foods that require minimal preparation such as cooked chickens, frozen vegetables, canned fish for the nights you are short on time.

Practice preparing food the night before or get up earlier every morning to put food together.

Enlist a support group at work with colleagues and take it in turns to cook fresh foods.

Always carry healthy, real food snacks such as eggs, nuts and fruit with you to avoid hunger that often leads to purchasing processed foods.

Never shop when hungry.

Try to improve sleep and manage stress better as this can lead to cravings for processed foods.

Allow yourself the occasional indulgence of your favourite processed foods to avoid feeling deprived and to remind yourself how sluggish it can make you feel. The less you eat it the less you will desire it. In time your taste buds will start to revolt at the taste of some processed foods.

Read the labels! If you don’t recognise an ingredient, look it up! This is often enough to put people off.

Learn to eye-ball your food. How beige does it look? How colourful does it look? In time you will begin to crave colourful, nourishing fresh food.

Avoiding processed foods does take some time, patience and learned skill. But start today by banishing all the beige from your cupboards and fridge. Banish the beige, belly and bloat and fall in love with real food again. Pretty soon you will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner!

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