I can hear you whining already! STOP THAT! It really isn’t that bad. I promise.
The number one reason Americans are overweight is because of what we shove into our pie holes. PROCESSED FOODS! They are poison. I am not kidding. They are full of terrible ingredients that not only don’t help us with health or nutrition, they make us FAT! I said it, the “F” word. But, it is true. I am here to tell you that changing your life from processed garbage and bad food choices does not have to be painful. It doesn’t have to be a bank breaker, either.
I hope at this point I have at least piqued your interest. The journey to your new and healthy life style starts with you. You will have to make the choices at the grocery store. You will have to chop veggies and cook meals. It is called real food, BTW. It is imperative that you start eating this stuff. There are added benefits…aside from weight loss. You will feel better. You will look better. Your skin, hair, and nails will amaze you. You will no longer have that midday crash. You will STOP craving junk food. Yes, I know, that sounds crazy. But, it is TRUE. I can tell you that it is, because I live it. I did it. I am doing it!
The very first thing I want you to do is go to your fridge and pantry. Look at the items that you currently have in there. I bet you have items like milk, Oreos, crackers, chips, soda (no it doesn’t matter if it is diet), canned veggies and fruits, some kind of peanut butter and jelly, white bread, and so on. What you should see when you make the right food choices in your fridge and pantry are items like almond milk, coconut milk, rice, fresh fruits and veggies, farm-raised fish, free-range eggs, nitrate-free bacon (yes, you can eat bacon), nuts, nut butters, real butter, etc.
To make this change you will need to commit yourself to being rid of processed foods. If you are not ready, hang out at steps 1 and 2. You really must be ready, 100%. All in. Because, when you commit yourself to living a life free of processed foods, you are going to be a NEW YOU!
WHAT IS PROCESSED FOOD?
Well, first of all, processed foods are foods that have been chemically processed and made solely from refined ingredients and artificial substances. Yum, right?
This is why processed foods are bad for YOU:
- Processed foods and beverages are the biggest sources of added sugar (and HFCS) in the diet. Sugar is very unhealthy and can have serious adverse effects on metabolism when consumed in excess.
- Food manufacturers spend massive amounts of resources on making their foods as “rewarding” as possible to the brain, which leads to over-consumption.
- Most highly processed foods are loaded with artificial chemicals, including flavorants, texturants, colorants, and preservatives.
- For many people, junk foods can hijack the biochemistry of the brain, leading to downright addiction and cause them to lose control over their consumption.
- The carbohydrates you find in processed foods are usually refined, “simple” carbohydrates. These lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels and cause negative health effects.
- There are many nutrients found in whole foods that are not found in processed foods. The more processed foods you eat, the less you will get of these nutrients.
- Soluble, fermentable fiber has various important health benefits, but most processed foods are very low in fiber because it is lost or intentionally removed during processing.
- We only burn half as many calories digesting and metabolizing processed foods compared to whole foods.
- Processed foods are often high in unhealthy fats. They usually contain cheap fats, refined seed- and vegetable oils (like soybean oil) that are often hydrogenated… which turns them into trans fats.
Examples of common processed foods include:
- breakfast cereals
- canned vegetables
- snacks, such as chips
- “convenience foods”, such as microwave meals or ready meals
- soft drinks
Avoid These Guys
- Artificial Ingredients – Rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t cook with it and/or can’t pronounce it, you probably should avoid it.
- Refined Sweeteners – Sugar (or corn syrup or cane juice or brown rice syrup or whatever creative name is on the label) is no longer reserved for truly special occasions anymore, and instead is lurking in yogurts, breads, crackers, flavored oatmeal, beverages, and even innocent-looking salad dressings.
- Refined Grains – When grains are refined the most nutritional part of the grain (the bran and germ) is removed.
- Factory Farmed Meats and Seafood – “Factory farms” raise animals in incredibly crowded and confined quarters so some (literally) never see the light of day. What’s more these animals are oftentimes fed unnatural diets (for instance cows were meant to eat grass, not corn that, by the way, is likely GMO) and given unnecessary synthetic hormones and antibiotics to ensure they produce the most abundant meat products as quickly and efficiently as possible.
- Refined Oils – Shortening, soybean oil, and even canola oil are fairly new on the scene. That’s because they are basically science experiments that were dreamed up in a lab by the food industry. These highly processed vegetable oils are cleaned with chemicals, genetically modified, and sometimes even hydrogenated so as a result we like to avoid them as much as possible.
- Pre-flavored Packaged Products – Food factories are going to use a lot more sugar, salt, oil, and unrecognizable ingredients than you would use to flavor these foods at home.
- Imitation Foods – Margarine (or vegan “butter”), processed cheese products, imitation crab meat, pancake “syrup,” and “lemonade” powder. Believe it or not there used to be a regulation requiring manufacturers to clearly label foods like these as an “imitation.” But of course these products were looked down upon so it’s no surprise that the ever-so-powerful food industry got that regulation thrown out the window.
- Low-Fat and Fat-Free Products – “Diet” foods are not only more processed (to get the fat out). When they take the fat out of these foods they no longer taste good so they have to add in a bunch of sugar. Binging on sugar and other refined sweeteners is the real issue here…not eating healthy fats like our ancestors have survived on for centuries.
- Fast Food – Fast food places have somehow managed to screw up the most innocent, wholesome-sounding real food meals like oatmeal, sandwiches, and salads.
THE GOOD STUFF
Don’t freak out. Perhaps you’re checking out all the stuff you should not eat and are thinking that there is nothing left. But oh contraire, that is not the case at all. You have so many options. You’re going to be on a journey of food and health and its going to be AWESOME! Now we can get to the good stuff. Literally!
When you are shopping, try to stay away from the center aisles. That is where the processed foods tend to be, primarily. Still be consciencoius of what you’re buying. In the beginning you are going to have to read labels, understand ingredients, and educate yourself about good food choices. The good news is, after a few trips, you will be a good food choice pro!
- Whole foods that are more a product of nature than a product of industry
- Lots of fruits and vegetables (shop for these at local produce stands)
- Dairy products like milk, unsweetened yogurt, eggs, and cheese
- 100% whole-wheat and whole-grains (buy from a local bakery or make it yourself)
- Seafood (wild caught is the optimal choice over farm-raised)
- Organic grassfed meats such as pork, beef, and chicken (preferably in moderation, to find a local place click here)
- Beverages limited to water, milk, all natural juices, naturally sweetened coffee & tea, and, to help the adults keep their sanity, wine and beer!
- Snacks like dried fruit, seeds, nuts and popcorn
- All natural sweeteners including honey, 100% maple syrup, and fruit juice concentrates are acceptable in moderation
Shopping on a Budget? No Problem!
Spend $20 on Fresh Produce
Always keep $20 of your food budget for fresh produce. If possible go for organic. This is very easy to do these days with more stores offering affordable organic foods.
Sample Produce Shopping List
- One bag of chopped organic kale or spinach – $5
- One head of broccoli and/or cauliflower – $3-$5
- One bag of organic apples and/or bananas, etc. – $5-$7
- One bag of organic carrots – $2
- Two Avocados or Sweet Potatoes, Onions, etc. – $4
If you want to designate $5 more dollars to your budget here, choose lettuces like romaine, or a spinach mix instead. Don’t want apples one week? Choose some oranges and bananas instead. If you don’t like one of the above options, buy a different veggie or more fruit instead. If you need to carry a calculator with you, do it!
Spend $10-$15 in the Bulk Section
Now it’s time to head to the bulk bins. Here you’ll want to buy some grains, beans, nuts, and seeds, except … don’t go crazy with amounts. You don’t need a pound of almonds to eat all week long and don’t need a pound of beans either. Or, skip the bulk beans if you don’t like soaking them, and spend a few dollars on some canned options instead. Purchase nuts and seeds in one ounce amounts and only choose a few varieties each week. Remember, you can try a new kind next week.
Sample Bulk Foods Shoppping List
- $3 worth of whole grain oats
- $3 worth of raw almonds
- $2 of beans
- $2 of whole grain quinoa or rice
Options in the Aisle
If you prefer, you can also purchase oats and rice in larger bags found in the aisles (or in containers) that are roughly around the same price. Choose this option if you’re fine with eating the same grain all week and save a new grain for next week. Canned beans are also pretty affordable, which makes them a great option if you don’t have time on your hands and don’t want to go through several steps to cook them. However, make sure you rinse them thoroughly prior to use.
Sample Aisle Foods List
- Two cans of chickpeas – $4
- One bag of lentils- $3
- One container of oats- $3
- One bag of organic flax seed- $3
$7-10 on Dairy/Non-dairy Items
Pick up a non-dairy milk or whole milk. Buy a container of whole milk yogurt or non-dairy if you enjoy it, you can throw in some fresh fruit or granola. So good! Also pick up a dozen cage free eggs.
Sample Dairy/Non-Dairy Shopping List
- One carton of organic whole milk or non-dairy milk (almond) – $3-$4
- One large container of whole milk yogurt or non-dairy yogurt – $3-$4
- One dozen cage-free eggs – $4
$7-10 on Frozen Veggies and Fruits
Don’t neglect frozen foods when you’re trying to eat healthy and on a budget; they’re actually very healthy for you! Plain frozen greens, berries, and veggies like broccoli are must-haves for budget-savvy individuals. A pound of organic frozen spinach costs around $3 per bag, which would easily last you several servings. A pound of frozen fruit is usually around the same amount and you won’t have to worry about it spoiling before you eat it all. You can use frozen veggies in meals when the fresh veggies run out, and you can use the greens in fruits in your morning smoothies!
Sample Frozen Shopping List
- One bag of frozen spinach – $2-$3
- One bag of frozen berries – $3-4
- One bag of frozen broccoli or mixed veggies – $4
ESTIMATED TOTAL – $69 – See, it can be done.
Another option for finding supplies is to shop online. I shop at Thrive Market for most of my pantry items. I save quite a bit of money this way and can get products that are not always easy to find at my local grocer.
You can still enjoy desserts. They key is to limit them to once or twice a week. Furthermore, choose desserts that won’t sabotage your efforts. Instead of a piece of chocolate cake, try a homemade tapioca pudding. You can also opt for fresh fruits with yogurt or just the fruits alone!
The good news is you will stop craving sugary, processed foods after you remove them from your diet. It is amazing how quickly your body will respond. Within a few weeks of eating healthier food options, your body will be purging that junk out of your system and then the cravings will subside.
I won’t lie, the first few weeks you will probably stumble…just don’t fall. You are human and prone to making mistakes. If that is the case, don’t beat yourself up. Just get back on track.
Lastly, it is very important to know what you are eating on a daily basis. You may be surprised. Regardless, you should get a notebook and keep track of what you are eating. At the end of each week, reflect back. I bet you will see that your food choices improve! You will also notice your waistline is shrinking! You will probably notice that your energy level increases, too! So exciting!
I am excited you have decided to change your life and become fit and healthy. You are in charge of your body, so make good choices! Go get ’em!
IT CAN BE DONE!
I hope you now see that making good food choices is not impossible, it’s not going to break the bank, and it will not be awful. I have lots of recipes that will help ease you into Step 3 – FOOD CHOICES on your journey to overall health and well-being. Stay tuned for the Step 4 – EXERCISE. If you missed Step 1 – SLEEP or Step 2 – HYDRATION, go back and check out the series. You will be glad you did.