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They send a mouth watering aroma from fast-food joints, tempt us from store shelves, and are even on the menu at our favorite restaurants. What are they? Processed foods. Components in a food are modified when processed, which changes the way that our bodies are able to digest it, regardless if the food is fully processed, minimally processed or refined. Frozen meals from store freezer isles, packaged potato chips, the bread basket on the table, and fast-food menu items are processed foods made for convenience and are usually ready-to-eat. In this busy world, it’s often easier to just grab something pre-made, fast, and often cheap. We get it. You’re hungry and running around, but is it worth your health?

With way too much added salt, sugar, and oils, processed foods are addictive and can be harmful to your health. It’s a scary fact that processed foods are made to withstand an extended shelf-life. Additives, preservatives, and chemicals are added to ensure that a product’s flavor and texture is maintained through its long shelf-life. Even with exercise, having too many processed foods in your diet can contribute to serious health issues, like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, strokes, cancer, and others. Processed food comes in many forms and is not just what you order at a fast-food chain’s drive thru. White bread, boxed cake mixes, instant macaroni and cheese, cereals, frozen pizza, candy, microwave dinners, high sodium canned vegetables, and other pre-made foods for convenience have been processed.

Alternatively, switching out unhealthy and addictive processed foods in your diet for whole foods can be better for your health. Whole foods are foods that are left in their natural form, or as close to its natural form as possible. They are unprocessed and unrefined. So, are you ready to make a change? Here are 10 tips for shifting from processed foods to whole foods.

Recognize That a Change is Needed

The first thing you need to do is realize that processed foods are not good for you and that you need to make a change. If you do not truly believe that a change is needed, then you will have a harder time succeeding. Are you eating a lot of junk food? Low on energy? Listen to your body; it will let you know when it needs a change.

Do Your Food Research

Don’t begin changing your current diet to a whole foods diet until you have done some research. Educate yourself on which foods at the grocery store and restaurants are processed and make the effort to avoid them. Read food and health blogs, or join forum discussions online. There are others making the same changes that you are!

Have a Plan for Shopping

Start by writing a list of what foods you currently eat and mark the ones that are processed. Those are the foods you are going to want to switch out for whole foods. An easy way to start this is to exchange one processed food for one raw organic fruit or vegetable. Then, take a look into your pantry and start by subtracting just a couple of processed food ingredients at a time and replacing with a whole food.

Willpower. Do Not Give in to Fast Food!

The truth hurts, but you are not getting proper nutrients when you consume fast-food. It is meant to keep you full, yet wanting to come back for more thanks to its addictive chemical flavor additives. A good way to keep from giving in to the fast-food craving, while making the shift is to make sure you are always satiated with healthy and nutrient rich whole foods. Beat That Snack Attack with 5 Healthy Snack Ideas! If you want to eat out, try Chipotle; there are no GMOs in the food and it’s possible to get a healthy meal. Your burrito bowl will be all fresh and tastes great.

Increase the Amount of Fruits and Vegetables in Your Daily Diet

It’s super simple to always have fruits and vegetables on hand. You can keep them in their whole form and eat as is, and they don’t require much work to prepare – just slice vegetables and place in a container in the refrigerator and pair with a delicious homemade spread or dip!

Read Labels, But Don’t Become Obsessed

When it comes to packaged and pre-made foods, it’s important to read labels. Some of these foods may be slightly processed or refined, and you may want to try to avoid. Look for ingredients that indicate added salt, sugar, oil, or red flags like scientific sounding ingredients that you cannot pronounce.

Cook Meals at Home

Cooking and preparing your own meals at home is one of the best things you can do for your health. It will taste better and ensures that you know what ingredients are in your food, and cooking is fun! Start out with a simple recipe like a Lemon-Butter Fettuccine with Parsley and Pine Nuts. We’ve got hundreds of other recipes you can choose from! 

Try Healthier Condiments

Ketchup and mustard can contain a high amount of added salt and sugar. Try stocking your pantry with a new assortment of non-traditional condiments like Sriracha, Thai curries, and hummus. You might just find a new favorite go-to sauce or dip.

Watch a Food Documentary (or Several … It’s Addicting!)

If you are going to watch just one food documentary, watch Forks Over Knives. This eye opening documentary promotes a whole food, plant-based diet to stave off disease and discuses the “idea of food as medicine.” It is well worth the 90 minutes to view and will have you changing the way you eat. We also encourage you to also check out these 10 Documentaries that Will Make You Rethink Everything You Know About Food and Health.

If You Slip Up…

Most changes are not easy, and giving up processed foods is one of them for many people. If you slip up, give in, accidentally consume, or willing eat a processed food, don’t kick yourself and give up! We are all only human. Learn from your slip up and continue on with your goal of shifting from processed foods to whole foods. Happy eating!

We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 8,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!

Lead image source: Stacy Spensley/Flickr

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