Healthy Eating: Simple Ways to Prepare Meals with Fewer Processed Foods

Instead of focusing on how not to eat processed foods, let's flip the script and concentrate on things we can do to push them out!
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I aim to create more positive habits to replace the not-so-great ones. When we fill our cup with things that improve our minds and body, the cup has very little room for the not-so-great ones. Focusing on what not to eat or not to do can feel exhausting and hard to do — and limiting, so here are some fun ways to start implementing healthier eating habits to slowly push out the processed ones.

Read Labels
If you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t eat it. Food isn’t a science experiment. And if you don’t know what chemical compounds make up an ingredient, then don’t eat it. There are so many excellent and affordable products out there that are cleaner and still affordable.  Remember to also focus on ADDED SUGARS. Some healthy options have sugars — that’s fine. It’s the added sugars we need to hone in on. Anything over 10 milligrams (mg) should be a huge no-no.

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Make It a Healthy Game
Wellness should be fun, not stuffy. Being a human and enjoying what you eat should be fun too! But sometimes we think grabbing the Diet Coke or low-fat cheese is doing us well when it’s not. I won’t get into the weeds about how harmful these processed diet foods are; do your research. 

I also know how nice a Diet Coke with ice is here and there, so I started making it a game —- Do x before having y. Here are some examples:

  • I will drink 2 liters of water before having sodas or fruit juices. Half the time, we are just dehydrated and reach for anything that we think is a liquid, when in actuality, all of the processed empty-calorie beverages are leaching nutrients from our bodies and, in fact, dehydrating us. Get all your daily water intake first, and reach for the other beverages second.
  • I will eat 2 cups of salad before I eat other parts of dinner. Filling up on greens with a simple oil and vinegar will aid digestion, fill us with fiber and nutrients and create less space for an 8-ounce of steak when we only really need 4 ounces.
  • I will have a small handful of nuts before I have a sugary processed afternoon snack. We can all relate when it comes to that afternoon slump. We have been going all day, didn’t have enough protein and need a quick afternoon pick-me-up. Start with something rich in nutrients and healthy fats or protein before reaching for chips. The chips will make the slump worse. The cookie will make it worse.

Make fun guard rails to consume the good before filling up on the bad.

Find Alternatives You Enjoy
I love pepperoni sticks; they are a high-protein, salty, delicious snack. But if you read what’s in most of them, you’ll be paying for it at some point. Take the time to google cleaner alternatives like Nick’s Sticks with zero preservatives. Try a few so you have backups and still enjoy them.

Sometimes I find the things we love have nothing to do with the actual taste and more to do with the addictive chemicals in the ingredients. I always tell my friends that there is a learning curve for our tastebuds as we crowd out over-processed foods. The healthier alternatives will become more appetizing as we stop crushing our tastebuds with harmful dyes, chemicals and preservatives.

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Always Have Items On Hand
It’s not up to others to ensure we eat the right things. Last week I went to the movies and brought ALL my snacks except for the popcorn (cause we all need a treat). I packed a chocolate protein shake, dehydrated strawberries, cassava pretzels and a mocktail. If you work from home, stock your pantry. If you’re constantly on the road, have a basket of snacks or a cooler in your car. Being prepared and fueling our bodies with the better stuff makes a massive difference — you’ll start feeling better from all of your better choices, which will snowball into even more.

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Forget About Cheat Days
You won’t need a cheat day if you try to do some of the above. You will naturally make better choices and crowd out the bad ones. Then when you do sneak in an Oreo (or two), you have a line-up of better decisions behind that Oreo. If you want cola on a Wednesday, you reached your water goal before that. Delegating one day a week to all the things that don’t make us feel great won’t make us feel better. If you need the pizza, and nothing else on the planet will work, then have the pizza. 

Start creating your positive eating habits by implementing one small goal a week. As soon as one is second nature, go on to the next. Step by step, you will create better food choices.

HeadshotWhoever said no good story started with a salad has never had one of mine. (It was me, I used to say that). 

But here’s the truth: I am not naturally fit or thin and don’t naturally reach for vegetables. I am not a chef, but I’m good at assembling ingredients. I put in the work. I believe in feeling and looking my best — but not compromising!  So, here you will find good ingredients, real wellness, and made fun! 

More formally, I cook up clean comfort food, am a passionate health coach, ritual maker and health product queen and a Certified Health Coach from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition with a specialty in hormone health. 

Follow me:
Instagram: @michaelablaney

Categories: BeWell