Moving Away from Processed Foods – 8 Tips

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More and more people are moving away from processed foods toward a more whole-food diet. We, too, decided more than 10 years ago to move away from overly processed foods. I’ve posted about how we’re using the Nemechek Protocol along with a whole food gluten-and-dairy free diet, people have asked questions about where to begin eating less processed foods.

coca cola cans beside pizza
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on

Why to look twice at ingredients

Processed foods are known to contain added salt, sugar, and oils, and can be harmful to your health. Moreover, they contain artificial colors and hard-to-pronounce chemical preservatives so that foods withstand an extended shelf-life.

Processed food comes in many forms – it’s not just what you order at the McDrive thru. White bread, boxed cake mixes, macaroni and cheese, cereals, microwave dinners, and other pre-made foods for convenience have been processed. As a result, I read labels and am still amazed at how many foods that look healthy containe added sugars, salts and artificial ingredients.

To start our processed food reduction, we followed the Feingold diet (click here to learn more about our experience) to learn more about food additives and their impact. Moving toward whole foods and away from processed food was the first time we saw positive gains in our daughter — less behavior issues, improved focus, and less stomach complaints.

Scan your pantry to get an idea of how many of the food you’re using are highly processed. Read labels to see whether or not the list contains easy-to-pronounce ingredients.

I’ts not as hard as you think

Reducing processed foods may seem daunting, but once you get the hang of it, you won’t look back. My advice? Moderation. Moving away from processed foods doesn’t mean we NEVER eat them, but we actively try to steer clear of ingredients we cannot pronounce. Because we eat mostly whole foods, my kids don’t crave processed foods, and rarely ask for them. Here’s some advice about 8 steps you can take to reduce your intake of processed foods.

1. Make a list of whole foods that you and your family like

Include favorite meats, fruits, and veggies. Make sure to include these favorites – it will help get buy in from the whole family.

2. Learn to read labels

Know what the “top offenders” to avoid are – such as all of the different names for sugar. I quickly learned that there is not a whole lotta food in some of those packages and cans.

3. Make a list of processed and frozen foods that your kids love

Now look for substitutes. That might mean changing to a minimally processed food with 5 ingredients or less, or making it yourself. Some make-it-yourself examples are breakfast muffins, or chicken nuggets.

4. Batch cook and freeze

I make panakes and muffins that freeze well, and are a fast school morning breakfast. I like to buy10 lbs of ground beef to make-ahead-and-freeze meatballs, hamburgers and meatloaf.

5. Love your slow cooker

Using a slow cooker is a great way to have a hot, healthy meal after a long day at work. There are tons of recipes online for make-ahead slow cooker freezer meals! My kids’ favorite is cranberry pork. This recipe uses canned whole cranberries – I use organic since it doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup.

6. Try an Insta-pots or airfryer

Both can make quick work of dinner, especially on the days where I’ve forgotten to pull something out of the freezer. I took 3 frozen chicken breasts tossed them into the instapot, and in about 15 minutes it was pulled BBQ chicken.

7. Try something new

My girls and I love to watch cooking shows as inspiration on Saturday mornings. When we see something that looks good, we get the recipe and give it a whirl! We saw ice cream tacos one morning, and made our own gluten and dairy free version!

8. Moderation is the name of the game

There will be times when the kids want to eat something that their friends have, that is sugar filled and red-dye-#40 laden, or a night when life happens, and you run through the drive through. It’s not the end of the world, and tomorrow’s another day.

Eating less processed foods will become easier with time. We’ve been doing this for quite some time, and it quickly became second nature! My kids have learned a lot about cooking and making good food choices, and we’ve had a lot of fun trying new recipes.

Related Links
Nemechek Protocol – 2 years later
4 Diets that support Autism
Starter Guide to the Nemechek protocol – a Mom’s Perspective

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