People consume a lot of their daily calories at home. Unfortunately, home has also become a place for convenience snack foods and fast food. It’s where we grab a candy bar or a bag of chips and sit in front of the television. It’s where we sit down to eat after stopping at the drive-thru. It doesn’t have to be this way. The key to changing these types eating patterns is to have more healthy foods available to eat at home. And a good way eat more healthy food is to start with whole foods as the ingredients for your meals. You can reduce the amount of junk food your family eats by increasing their consumption of healthful, homemade meals and healthy snacks, made from healthy foods.
There is no doubt that preparing healthy food may be more challenging than serving the pre-packaged, over-processed foods that you may be used to having in your kitchen, but the health benefits and cost savings are well worth the effort. Here are some of the healthy, real foods that you should have in your fridge, freezer and cupboards for healthy breakfast meals, lunches, snacks and dinners.
- Whole Foods – food in its most natural state, more a product of nature than a product of industry.
- Lots of Fruits and Vegetables – local and in season when possible.
- Dairy Products: Milk, Yogurt, Eggs & Cheese – low fat, unsweetened and pasture raised if available.
- 100% Whole Wheat and Whole Grain Products – made with only a hand full of wholesome ingredients.
- Seafood – wild caught is preferable over farm raised.
- Meats – Pork, Beef and Chicken – lean cuts, locally raised if possible and eaten in moderation.
- Natural Sweeteners – Honey and Pure Maple Syrup – also eaten in moderation.
- Snacks – Dried Fruit, Seeds, Nuts and Popcorn – unsweetened and raw (when applicable).
- Beverages – water (lots!), low fat or skim milk, all natural juices, naturally sweetened coffee and tea in moderation.
Here are the kinds of things you should avoid if you want to eat more healthy foods.
- Refined grains such as white flour or white rice – items containing wheat should say “whole wheat”, not just “wheat”.
- Refined sweeteners such as white sugar, any form of corn syrup, cane juice, or any artificial sweeteners.
- Anything out of a box, can, bag, bottle or package that has more than 5 ingredients listed on the label.
How to Avoid Processed Food in General
|Read the ingredients label before buying anything. Looking at things like fat grams, calorie count and sugar content is always a good idea, but the best indicator of how highly processed a food is can actually be found in the list of ingredients.|
If what you are buying contains more than 5 ingredients and includes a lot of unfamiliar, unpronounceable items you may want to reconsider buying it.
Increase your consumption of whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables. This will help replace the processed foods in your diet, and will actually make your food selections in general much simpler. You won’t have to bother so much with counting calories, fat grams, or carbs when you select whole foods that are more a product of nature than a product of industry.
Find a good local bakery and buy your bread there. If you were to check the ingredients of a loaf of a brand-name whole wheat bread you would likely see about 40 different items on the list, including white flour and sugar. Why have so many items if it only takes a handful of ingredients to make bread?
In addition to your bread choice, when selecting foods like pastas, cereals, rice, and crackers always go for the whole-grain option. And don’t just believe the health claims on the outside of the box. Read the ingredients and make sure the product is truly made with only 100% whole grains – not a combination of whole grains and refined grains, which is unfortunately how a lot of “whole grain” products are made.
Avoid products containing high-fructose corn syrup and those that have some form of sugar (or sweetener) listed among the top three ingredients. Although research is mixed on weather high fructose corn syrup is really worse for you than white sugar, it often indicates that the product has been highly processed.
Try to avoid the kids menu at restaurants. They are often things like pre-made chicken nuggets, french fries, and pasta made with white flour, and are highly processed. Instead, try putting together some sort of side dish plate of healthier items like an appetizer and a salad.
Visit your local farmers’ market if there is one near-by. Not only will you find food that is in season, which is usually when it is most nutritious and flavorful, but you will also find a selection of pesticide-free produce and more naturally fed meat products.
Here's a Thought!
Eat all the junk food you want, as long as you cook it yourself. If you have to peel, chop and deep fry potatoes every time you want french fries, you might not eat them as often. Eating “junk food” such as cakes, sweets, and fried foods only as often as you are willing to make them yourself will automatically cut down on the frequency that you have them. Cooking real food is more fun anyway, and it is much better for your health and your waistline.
You probably won't be able to cut all the junk food out of your healthy diet, but making it more dificult to eat those junk foods along with having lots of healthy foods to eat in your kitchen will certainly make it much easier.