This is our final guest post in our 2020 Reader Advice & Tips series where we invited our readers to submit guest posts with their best advice on how to cut out out processed food. Those who were chosen to be featured are receiving a signed copy of one of my cookbooks (their choice)! A big thank you to everyone who turned in a submission. We loved getting to know you!
My name is Emily. I’m a former obese fast-food junkie and pizza addict, now real food crusader and Holistic Health Coach. After trying every diet under the sun, I finally realized that I needed to focus on being healthy, not skinny, and that meant we had to cut processed foods from our family’s diet. Through that process, I lost 70 pounds and have kept it off for more than seven years. More important than the number on the scale is the way I feel. I had no idea I could have so much energy and feel so good in my skin! I can now keep up with my beautiful daughters and my handsome hubby.
My Best Advice
The best advice I can give for cutting processed food is to have at least one backup plan for those nights when everything goes sideways. Meal planning and sticking to a meal plan is very important, but there will always be times when something comes up and you need a Plan B. On these days our family used to hit a drive-through or order a pizza. Now, our normal backup plan is to pick up a rotisserie chicken and a bag of salad. We also usually have a whole-grain pasta in the pantry, or it’s super easy to whip up a batch of homemade whole-grain pancakes with fruit and have “brinner.” Scrambled eggs loaded with veggies is always a really fast win, too!
Be aware of the restaurants around you so you know which ones have healthier, less-processed options. This can save you when you have no choice but to eat out and you’re too hungry to make wise decisions.
Having a few Plan B options in mind has helped us so many times!
My Top 5 Tips For Cutting Out Processed Food
- Decide you are worth it!
I talk to so many people who would like to improve their health, but they keep falling back into old habits, ultimately because they don’t feel they are worthy of taking care of themselves. You are amazing, and it’s time to step back and give your body the tools it needs to work the way it should. It’s OK to feed yourself well!
- Keep it simple.
In the beginning, I felt like I had to make complicated, extravagant meals. Do you have hours to spend in the kitchen every day? I don’t. There is no way I could have maintained that for long! We now make lots of soups, salads, and other things that are easy to throw together and use simple, whole ingredients.
- Eat obscene amounts of fruits and veggies.
We like to play a game where we buy crazy amounts of fruits and veggies for our family, then try to eat it all before it goes bad. That means we are planning meals and snacks around fruits and veggies. Produce is some of the least processed food you can buy, and since our bellies are full of all that fresh goodness, we don’t really have room for the processed stuff anyway.
- Meal planning is 100% crucial!
Sit down with your family with some awesome cookbooks (we use Lisa’s, of course, among others) and pick out meals for the next week or two. Then make sure you go buy what you need. Post the meal plan somewhere that everyone will see it and stick to the plan. And then make sure you have at least one Plan B ready.
- Get the whole family involved.
Your loved ones are much more likely to eat the food if they have taken part in the process, so set the kids loose in the produce section and agree to cook whatever strange vegetables they bring you (there’s a recipe for it on Pinterest, I promise). Have them help plan the menu for the week, and then get them in the kitchen washing vegetables and stirring soups. Even better, plant a family garden in the spring and teach them where food comes from. I have one daughter who won’t touch kale for dinner and cries if it’s on her plate, but she will graze on it while wandering through the garden. Nope, it doesn’t make sense to me, either, but I’ll take it!
Most importantly, just start. And then when you mess up (not if, but when), start again. And again, and again. No one is perfect, but keep taking baby steps toward nourishing your body with healthy, delicious, unprocessed food. As you do this, you will see a big difference in your life, and in the life of your family.