Tomorrow is independence day in the United States. A day where we celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in which our forefather’s declared a fledging country’s independence from Great Britain.
Although it may seem silly, I think it is important for you to think about your independence from unhealthy, processed foods both when you are losing weight and when you are in the weight maintenance stage of your diet.
Because a diet that relies mainly on processed foods is often a diet that does not give you the best nutrition for your body. Take potatoes versus potato chips, for a simple example.
Here’s a food label from a 1 ounce bag of potato chips:
Here’s a label for a whole potato:
Do you see the difference in a bag of potato chips versus a potato? Better fiber, more protein, less sodium, less unhealthy fats, etc. You can do this kind of comparison with a variety of foods from sugar sweetened cereals to Hamburger Helper. An all-natural chicken breast has superior nutrition to a tin of canned chicken. A serving of Greek yogurt is better for you than cereal with “Greek Yogurt” in the title.
I could go on and on, but you get the point.
If you are trying to increase the amount of natural foods you eat and decrease your dependence on processed foods, I’ve put together five tips that may help you get started. Remember that you can do these steps incrementally because it can be overwhelming to make huge, sweeping changes all at one time.
1. Take a look at your pantry right now.
Here’s a shot of my pantry taken yesterday morning. You cannot see the large bins on the floor that hold wheat berries, organic popcorn, brown rice, oats, and 7-grain mix. There are also some cereal boxes, pasta, beans, baskets that have raisins, nuts, and other snacks, coconut oil, baking supplies, etc.on the shelves in the picture. On the other side of the pantry I have potatoes, onions, canned foods, and my kitchen appliances.
2. Decide which foods you currently eat fit within your goals and which do not.
This is highly individual and as I’ve talked about before in my post about why I accept a variety of diet plans, needs to fit with your lifestyle and dietary needs. Some people would say I should not buy any boxed cereals, but that fits in with my diet plan. We do not eat beef or pork but you might, and that’s fine. Only you can decide which foods you currently eat should stay part of your diet and which foods should go bye-bye.
For us, Cheese Nips and those types of snack crackers, Oreos and store bought cookies, any kind of boxed meals, sweetened cereals, white rice and white pasta, seasoned canned vegetables (like Glory Food vegetables), store bought loaf bread, and a bunch of other foods gradually got eliminated from our diet. We still eat chips and pretzels on occasion, I make cookies every once and a while, we used canned and frozen fruits and vegetables when we need to, but only eat at restaurants once or twice a year.
3. Make use of cookbooks, online recipe sites, and friends to develop new meal plans.
There are tons of healthy recipe websites out there. Find ones you like and try some of the recipes there. I use Evernote to store the recipes I find online and use tags to organize them. It is awesome and if anyone is interested, I can do a post about it another time.
4. Plan your meals in advance, shop from a list, and cook your own food.
Part of limiting processed food is planning what meals you will have, shopping with a list, and cooking the meals yourself. It will be very hard for you to reduce your dependence on processed foods if you do not cook. You do not have to be a chef to put a piece of chicken on your grill, roast some sweet potatoes or other vegetable, and put together a green salad. That’s easy and quick. That being said though – knowing how to cook is a huge benefit and I’d recommend you learn the basics if you do not feel comfortable in the kitchen.
5. Continually check in with yourself and tweak things if needed.
It has taken me a long time to change my diet to what it is today and I’m certainly not perfect. (Whatever perfect is. . .) I encourage you to review your food choices regularly and see if you need or want to make changes. What is acceptable to you this month may be different next month.
While just eating unprocessed foods won’t automatically help you lose weight, it can help provided you keep your calorie intake at the level you personally need to lose weight.
How far have you come in becoming more independent from processed foods? Were there some that were harder to let go of than others? Diane