You’ve likely heard that processed foods are bad for our health, and while this isn’t always the case, there is a lot of truth to this statement.
Many processed foods contain added and refined sugars, too much sodium, and suspicious preservatives. These unnatural and unnecessary ingredients can wreak havoc on our bodies in a number of different ways; from overworking the digestive system to tricking or short-circuiting our hormones.
These boxed, bagged and easily available products tend to be the easiest things to reach for when it’s time for a snack, but there are some easy and healthy alternatives.
Eat this, not that.
Instead of reaching for a bag of greasy salty potato chips, try popping your own batch of popcorn. It’s cheap and only takes about 5 minutes to make a simple snack. Or you can just purchase some pre-prepared organic popcorn.
Rather than grabbing a pack of gummy bears, snag an organic apple or a banana. These easily-portable fruits will satisfy your sweet tooth without all of the processed sugar and hard-to-pronounce ingredients. Bananas get an extra bonus point for providing potassium and a punch of energy, too!
Ignore sliced, white bread, and opt for fresh, sourdough loaf. The fermentation process helps your body easily digest the grains in sourdough.
Avoid slurping down fizzy drinks and swap for green smoothies or even just filtered water. You’ll be better hydrated and won’t experience that nasty sugar crash an hour or two later.
Pre-made meals aren’t worth the savings.
Are you constantly drawn to the freezer aisle at your local supermarket? Next time you’re there, take a glance at the ingredients in your pre-made dinner. See all of those hard-to-pronounce ingredients? Those are preservatives, unnecessary sodium and sneaky sugars. Even if you are buying packaged meals labelled “low-fat,” or “all natural,” it pays to do your research. There is no guarantee that the manufacturer hasn’t stuck some shelf-stabilisers or artificial flavours in your food.
Now, of course, we understand the need for a quick and easy meal sometimes, but that doesn’t mean you need to rely on microwave dinners or even take away food.
The solution to a hectic weeknight and a growling stomach lies just a few aisles over, in the produce section. Instead of spending $7 on that frozen meal, grab a bag of organic spinach for $3, a head of broccoli for $2, a pack of lentils for $4 and a pack of brown rice for $5. You may be paying more up-front, but these items will last five times as long as that pre-made frozen meal.
Cooking up some grains and veggies will only take you 20-30 minutes and can easily be done ahead of time, like on a lazy Sunday afternoon. That little extra bit of time and money spent cooking will be rewarded with a yummy and nutritious meal that we know your body will be thankful for!
Speaking of lazy Sunday afternoons, they’re a great time to stock up on your staples for the week so that you are never tempted to reach for processed foods.
In addition to pre-cooking your lunches and dinners for the week, we suggest you try DIY-ing some food staples. Not only will they lack preservatives and shelf-stabilisers but they’ll taste better and are a fun activity for the whole family.
So why not give these a go…
Swap dairy milk and try making some almond milk? Pick up a cup of almonds at the store, soak them for an hour or overnight (which helps “activate” them too!), drain, then blend with 3 cups of water. Strain the pulp out of your milk and viola! You’ve got tasty, protein-rich almond milk for your coffee, cereal and cookies all week long.
Instead of buying that super-salty jar of peanut butter, try grabbing a pound of roasted peanuts. Head home and throw them in the food processor along with some honey and salt for 5 minutes and you’ll have homemade peanut butter that the family can’t get enough of.
Instead of a jar of cheesy, oily pesto, snag a bag of basil or arugula, a handful of walnuts, one or two cloves of garlic and head off to the kitchen. Toss these ingredients plus a generous glug or two of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, some salt and pepper in the food processor and blend for 2 minutes. This homemade pesto will last a while because there is no cheese in it, and you can feel great about eating a handful of nuts and greens every time you make a simple bowl of (gluten-free) pasta!
Eating organic whole foods is not just better for your body, it can be fun, easy and cheap, too. Try setting some time aside this week to plan ahead and see how much money and bloating you end up saving.
What kinds of processed foods do you normally reach for and are there any healthier alternatives you can swap them for? Please share your tips by leaving a comment below.