#HealthyMe: Ditching Processed Foods

Julie Bitely

| 3 min read

whole foods
For the past 21 days, I’ve been on a challenge to kick processed foods out of my life.
I’ll be honest. It wasn’t easy and I wasn’t perfect. However, I did want to share some of the wins I experienced and some of the reasons why breaking up with processed food is so good for you.
There were really only two “rules” I was trying to follow: no packaged foods and fewer dinners out. Here’s how I did:
No packaged foods.
The good: I rely on processed foods mostly for grab-and-go breakfasts or snacks. I usually eat things like breakfast bars and Greek yogurt cups already mixed with fruit, or bread to make toast. I also really love crackers and cheese as a snack.
I did really well in the breakfast and snack department. Instead of my usual yogurt or bar, I turned to eggs with veggies, smoothies, and fruit with peanut butter (the natural variety with one ingredient on the label: peanuts.) For snacks, I stuck with fruit or cut up veggies and almonds. I also started using oil and vinegar for salad dressing instead of the ranch I usually use – I actually really liked this change!
The not-so-good: There might have been a night where I broke down and bought a prepared pizza at the grocery store for dinner. In my defense, it was late and I didn’t feel like cooking, and mmmmm, pizza.
Lesson: Try to plan meals for the week on the weekend when you’re not ravenous and pressed for time.
Fewer dinners out. I think we did pretty well on this goal as a family. Over 21 days, we ate out a total of four times. One birthday dinner, one wedding meal, a post-playdate Thai excursion, and one just-because-it’s-a-lazy-Sunday pizza (did I mention we like pizza?). Life happens, even if you’re trying to shake up your eating. I feel fine about the lovely local establishments we supported and even better that the other 16 nights (see takeout pizza, above) were home-cooked meals, heavy on veggies.
So, why forego processed foods? They’re typically overloaded with salt, sugar, and preservatives. Eating whole foods provides greater nutrition, meaning you get more of what’s good for you and less of what isn’t.
Personally, over my 21-day eating experiment, I didn’t find it overly difficult to make some easy switches and it felt good knowing exactly what I was putting in my body. I don’t plan to stop eating this way, knowing that even if some processed foods slip in at special occasions, I’m on a better path to health by making it my goal to eat whole foods a majority of the time.
Photo credit: Aurimas

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