Top tips on how to avoid processed food

  1. Read the ingredients label before buying anything. Many people pick up packaged foods and look at food labels, I was reviewing items such as fat grams, calorie count and sugar content. While this may be important to some (particularly if you have a chronic health condition), 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 names, or numbers, then you may want to reconsider before buying.
  1. Increase your consumption of vegetables and fruits. I am sure you’ve heard similar advice a thousand times, and I hate to tell you that it couldn’t be more true. This will help to displace the processed foods in your diet, and will actually make your food selections in general very simple. No more counting calories, fat grams, or carbs when your only concern is selecting whole foods that are more a product of nature than a product of industry.
  1. Invest in a bread maker, or buy your bread from a local bakery. If there is one food I would recommend you keep yourself and your family away from it is commercial, mass produced, white bread. If you make your bread, or buy from the baker, you will find there are fewer ingredients and certainty less preservatives. If you have a bread maker, the advantage is that you can control the type of flour, the amount of salt, and you can also get inventive – add cheese and chives, or dried fruit, or olives!
  1. In addition to your bread choice, when selecting foods like pastas, cereals, rice, and crackers always go for the whole-grain option. Make sure you read the ingredients to 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.
  1. Cook at home! Bake, pan fry, bbq and sauté… just make sure you are using real, whole food and you can control what is going in the food. It takes a bit of extra time on a Sunday, or late one night during the week, but if health is your priority, it can be done. By baking at home, and even making your own cereal, you limit the salt, flavours, MSG and other preservatives found in the processed versions.
  1. Shop through a local wholefoods retailer and local Farmers Market. This is the easiest way to trace where your food is coming from, buy the exact amount you need, and know exactly what is in it! You will find a wonderful selection of fruit and vegetables in season and local meats. Last time I went to a local market, I bought the most divine fresh olives! It is not only better for our health and our community, but also better for our environment to purchase locally grown products.

Written by our friend and Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist Kathryn Hawkins. 

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