We’ve all head about the dangers of processed foods, but many of them are difficult to avoid. The convenience of the modern world is far too tempting to ignore. The trick is to find an appropriate alternative to the unhealthiest and most processed foods.
The best processed food alternatives are foods that you’ll be more likely choose. Whole foods are real food, and of course some of them are more healthy than others, but almost any whole food is a better alternative to the processed version.
What are Processed Foods?
Food processing uses whole foods and ingredients to produce a marketable products that can be packaged and sold. These foods typically have added sugar and salt for improved taste and shelf life, but there numerous problems with additives and processing. Often times the processing can damage or even remove the nutrients in the foods.
The benefits of processed foods are great for the world as a whole. There is a tremendous logistical advantage to processing. Modern methods increase shelf life, which increases the availability of some foods. Without processed foods, much of the world would go hungry.
However, if we’re trying to eat healthy, and not just satisfy our hunger pangs, we should avoid the dangers and stick to whole foods instead. There are tons of processed food alternatives to choose from, so don’t let your brain play tricks on you.
Soda, Diet Soda, & all Sugary Drinks
We live on planet dominated by water, and our bodies are saturated with water. To stay alive, we have to drink multiple times a day. It’s easy to get bored with drinking water, but that doesn’t mean we can drink gallons of sugar. Soda and fruit juices are some of the worst things we put into our bodies on a regular basis.
Alternatives: Coffee, tea, and flavored water are totally fine in moderation. It’s important to make a conscious effort to identify exactly what you’re craving. Are you thirsty, or do you just want something to sip on? Are you craving something sweet? Eat some fruit instead of downing a 20 oz bottle of juice. Drink water if you’re just thirsty. Save the non-water drinks for the times when you want something special.
All bread is heavily processed, and most breads are made from pulverized and refined wheat, which removes most of the nutrients. Wheat also contains gluten, which can cause irritation to those of us with gluten sensitivity. The short-chain carbohydrates in bread are not good for our bodies either.
Alternatives: Sour dough, rye, and Ezekiel breads are available at virtually all grocery stores and can even be baked at home. While these breads won’t eliminate the gluten or carbs, they are much better choices. Oopsie bread is an amazing new and trendy bread substitute that’s simple and inexpensive to make. The primary ingredients are eggs, cream cheese and salt.
Margarine is a fake food that is designed to look, feel, and taste like butter. It typically contains high amounts of trans fat, which has absolutely no place in our diet.
Alternative: Grass fed butter is slightly more expensive, but at least it’s actually a food that contains nutrients. Personally I think tastes a thousand times better.
Pastries, Cookies and Cakes.
You don’t have to justify your cravings with me. I totally understand. Sweet treats are one of the best parts of living in the modern world. We all need a little something-something at times, but it doesn’t have to be a cream filled doughnut.
Alternatives: Never forget that fruit is delicious! Peaches, bananas, apples, oranges, and blueberries can be equally as delicious as cake and cookies, and they’re extremely convenient and healthy too. Dark chocolate is another amazing processed food alternative that can be perfect for satisfying that sweet tooth, and it has a fantastic nutrient profile.
Potato Chips and Salty Snacks
The next time you’re searching for a quick and salty snack, consider the negative consequences they have on your health. Salty snacks are often loaded with trans fats, unhealthy carbohydrates, and empty calories. They're obviously a terrible choice for a snack.
Alternatives: Almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, baked sweet potato chips, kale chips, and dehydrated fruits/veggies are not only delicious, but they're also loaded with protein and nutrients.
Not everyone can drink black coffee, but that doesn’t mean you need a half of a cup of sugary flavored creamer in your coffee either. Just one individual container of french vanilla Coffee-mate contains 25 calories and 3 grams of carbohydrates.
Alternatives: Just use regular cream or milk. Grass fed butter can also do a great job of thickening your coffee, but don’t forget to count the additives as part of your daily caloric intake.
We don’t always have time or means to prepare a balanced meal. Eating fast food is going to happen at some point, and it’s probably in the near future for most of us. The next time you find yourself looking at the menu in a drive through, take a look at their healthy options.
Alternatives: Virtually all fast food restaurants have some sort of healthy option, even if it’s just a cup of sliced apples. Some of their salads are actually good too. Wendy's apple pecan salad is my personal favorite.
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Whole Foods Not Hole Food
If you’re stranded in the desert and on the brink of starvation, it’s ok to scarf down a bucket heavily processed junk food. These foods exist for a reason, but their high calorie content and nutrient deficiencies make them a terrible choice for every day meals. Use the processed food alternatives listed here to improve your diet and become a healthier human.
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*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on conditioning workouts.