Hooray, you’re here. If you’re reading this article, you’re probably interested in increasing your wellbeing by reducing the processed foods in your daily diet. That’s a great step to take. And we’re here to help you put your intentions to become a ‘well-being’ into practice.
In case you haven’t yet, you might like to read part 1 in our series.
Don’t implement major changes to your diet all at once. If you eat a lot of processed food throughout the week, instead of going cold turkey (or is that cold salami?), try making small, incremental changes. You could try swapping your sugary cereal for organic porridge a few days a week, or establish healthier snacking habits before moving on to more complex recipes. Making these changes one by one will help you make your good habits stick.
Looking for fresh ways to unprocess your day? These five suggestions will help you take it to the next level.
1. Learn your labels 101
Nutrition labels can help you choose between products and keep a check on your fat, salt and sugar intake. Most pre-packed foods have a nutrition label on the back or side of the packaging that lists calories, fat (including saturated fat), sugars, carbohydrates, protein and salt. While official nutritional guidelines differ according to age and life stage, here’s a bit of shorthand to help you at the supermarket.
- High: 17.5g or more per 100g
- Low: 3g or less per 100g
- High: 5g or more per 100g
- Low: 1.5g or less per 100g
- High: 22.5g or more per 100g
- Low: 5g or less per 100g
- High: 1.5g or more per 100g
- Low: 0.3g or less per 100g
Note: If nutrition information is given by portion rather than weight, you may need to do some rough calculations. And remember too, that ‘standard’ portion sizes have grown, (along with our waistlines) over the last 20-30 years.
2. Zero in on numbers
In his book In Defense of Food, (a must read) Michael Pollan says “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food.” Imagine grocery shopping with your great-grandma. Would she need to ask you what a certain product in your trolley is? What about a particular ingredient? If the label has more E numbers than Einstein’s calculations or reads like a chemical formula (we’re looking at you, propylene glycol)… Step slowly away from the packet.
3. Retrain your tastebuds
Not all processed foods are unhealthy. But ultra-processed foods contain high levels of salt, sugar and fat. Partly this is to make up for flavour and texture lost during processing. But it’s also a trick of food manufacturers to create what’s called ‘hyper-palatability’, and appeal to our overstimulated palates. When you cut down on highly processed foods, it takes time for your tastebuds to start loving the taste of ‘real’ food again. But as the average lifespan of a tastebud cell is 10 days, give it two weeks and you’ll start noticing the difference.
4. Cut back on processed purchases
You can’t decide how much salt, sugar, fat and weird chemicals manufacturers put into the processed foods you eat, but you can control what you to choose to buy. For example, could you swap a bag of fluorescent orange savoury snacks for a bulk pack of popcorn kernels or Tamari Roasted Almonds? If convenience is a big factor in choosing processed foods, switch to something that still makes your life easier, while being much closer to nature, like Chantal Organic Pasta Sauces. Even breakfast on the go can be healthier, with Probiotic Easy Oats.
5. Think about your drinks
Sugary drinks including sodas and most juices are usually full of empty (nutritionally devoid) calories. Many of us crave fizzy or sports drink occasionally, but once you’ve broken the habit, they lose much of their appeal. By cutting back on these processed drinks, we cut a lot of sugar, artificial flavouring and colouring out of our lives.
To make a water habit stick, it helps to make it appealing and convenient – by keeping a water jug in the fridge and infusing plain or sparkling water with fruits, herbs, and even veges like refreshing cucumber.
If you’re on the road to a healthier lifestyle and getting back to eating real food, take a look at 5 easy ways to unprocess your day, part 1. High five!