One burning question I’m asked all the time by family and friends: What’s the big deal with processed foods? Why do I have to cut it out?
Just take a look at your cupboard. Processed foods are more pervasive than you think. Even that box of organic mac and cheese sitting in the cupboard is processed. Or the vegetable oil you’re using instead of butter is processed.
So what can you do?
10 Ways to Live Processed Free
1. Read the book Processed Free by Robin Konie. It’s simply one of the best books about how to live without processed foods. It’s just $19.95 and you can download the PDF e-book instantly to read on any e-reader, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.
2. Stop buying processed foods. I love this tip from Processed Free. I do this even with snacks in my house because my kids are snack fiends. I’ve given away our processed foods so there’s no temptation to use it. And it’s easy to make your own versions of trail mix, salad dressings and gluten-free pancakes instead of buying pre-packaged versions.
3. Replace processed foods and staples with real-food alternatives. Find processed foods in your home and try to find healthy alternatives. So opt for , butter, ghee or lard instead of margarine or canola and vegetable oils. Go for full-fat raw milk (or low pasteurized – avoid ultra pasteurized), cheese and yogurt instead of skim milk or low-fat cheese and yogurt. Processed Free has a lot of great tips on how to substitute processed foods for real-food alternatives.
4. Start with one meal a day. It can be overwhelming to think about a radical change to a processed-free life, so make it easy and start with one meal a day. I think breakfast is incredibly easy. You can make pastured scrambled eggs cooked in ghee or butter. Or try organic, full-fat yogurt with a little raw honey and fresh organic berries.
5. Make your own food. Take a good look at your refrigerator and pantry. Do you see a lot of boxes or cans? That might be a sign to do a food overhaul. Consider what you have that you can make on your own. Foods like canned fruit, jarred applesauce, breads, cookies, tomato sauce, etc. can all be made in your own kitchen with real-food ingredients.
- Make your own crackers and snacks rather than buy processed store-bought snacks.
6. Opt for farm-fresh foods. It’s deceiving to see a carton of eggs with a photo of a farmer on it and chickens roaming free. But the reality is that in most cases this is far from the truth. The bulk of meat and poultry are given hormones, grains (rather than grass) and live in cramped quarters without sunshine.
What you can do instead is buy grass-fed meats, free range/farm chicken and pastured eggs. Get it fresh from your local farmer so you know where your food comes from. Farm-fresh food tastes better and is better for you – such as higher in omega-3 fatty acids, higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and higher in calcium, magnesium and potassium. There’s a great section on the benefits of grass-fed meat in Processed Free.
7. Buy organic when you can. Check out the EWG’s clean fifteen and dirty dozen lists for recommendations on which fruit and vegetables you should be buying organic. Get the kids involved too. I’ve got tips on how to get kids to eat their fruit and vegetables.
8. Read food labels. GMOs, pesticides, hormones and other food additives are more pervasive than you think. These hidden chemicals lurk in foods beyond fruit and vegetables. Consider that a bag of tortilla chips without any other added ingredients (just corn, oil and salt) probably has GMO corn it it. “Healthy” granola-like cereals on the grocery store shelves are probably made with GMO grains or treated with pesticides.
Rather than buy foods like tortilla chips and granola cereal, make your own instead using organic ingredients.
9. Get back to basics. Don’t put pressure on yourself to make complicated, 5-course meals. Cooking shows on the Food Network are entertaining and certainly can bring out your inner Bobby Flay, but remember all of these chefs have a team of people helping them (and certainly don’t have a toddler hanging on to their legs during meal prep). Focus on giving your family whole, real food.
As Konie explained in Processed Free, “On busy days I even eat like a toddler: A few pieces of raw cheese, some sourdough bread, a handful of strawberries, and a carrot.” I call this picnic food – you can even pitch a picnic in your backyard to get your family in the mood for it.
10. Get the family involved. Don’t go it alone. Get the kids and the whole family involved. Explain why it’s important to give up processed foods. Talk to kids about chemicals in foods and what it does to their bodies. Take your family grocery shopping and explain the rules – shop the perimeter of the store because that’s where all the real food is. Grow your own food or take them to farmer’s markets to see what real, farm-fresh food looks like. And include kids in the cooking process – from finding recipes to prepping ingredients to cooking and cleaning.
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