Un-processing your Diet
Recent studies have found that people who eat more processed food, consume about 500 more calories per day than those that eat wholefoods. Why? Because processed foods provide limited nutrients and are not as filling, so you tend to eat more to feel full and an extra 500 calories per day, can lead to quite a significant weight gain!
It’s quite a big challenge to switch to an entirely whole-foods diet overnight. But you can start to make healthier choices most of the time by making some small, sustainable changes to “unprocess” your diet.
What are Processed foods?
Most packaged foods such as crisps, sweets, chocolate bars and biscuits are considered ultra-processed along with fast food, most take-out food and packaged bakery items, refined grains such as white rice, sugary cereals and white bread also are processed. However, foods such as canned or frozen vegetables, whole-grain bread and rice, are considered less processed because they are closer to their original forms (and have more nutritional value).
Here are six practical tips to help you make nutritional improvements that will improve your energy, health and fitness, by switching from a processed to wholefood diet, increasing your fibre and protein intake and making you feel fuller without going over your calorie requirements.
1. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
When it comes to foods high in nutrients, fruits and vegetables can’t be beat. They contain fibre (which will make you feel full) and they also aid digestion.
- Batch chop and prep salad and veg so it’s ready to go.
- Add a side salad to your meal.
- Snack on raw vegetables.
2. Avoid sugary drinks.
Fizzy drinks, alcohol, smoothies and canned coffee drinks often contain a surprising amount of sugar and calories. For example, a Costa caramel latte contains a whopping 34g sugar and 331 calories!
- opt for tea or black coffee in coffee shops.
- Choose spirits rather than beer or wine.
- Read labels on smoothies/canned drinks.
3. Read labels.
In most cases food packaging does not give an accurate representation of a food’s nutritional value no matter what the claim on the front of the pack says! so it’s best to look at the nutritional label on the back of the item and check:
- Serving size.
- Amount of added sugar.
- Ingredient list (keeping in mind that ingredients are listed by quantity, with highest listed first).
4. Skip convenience foods when possible.
There are a lot of foods that although marketed as healthy (such as bars or snacks) are often full of sugar and lack fibre and protein. Carry your own snacks to avoid temptation!
- Nuts or seeds (portioned) and an apple.
- Chopped veg with hummus.
- Greek yogurt with fruit.
5. Eat mindfully at restaurants.
Eating out can feel like an occasion to indulge, but if you’re eating out regularly, learning to make healthy choices is essential.
- If eating out is an infrequent occurrence, order what you love, but stop eating when your full.
- You don’t have to go for all 3 courses!
- If eating out is a common occurrence choose a protein and vegetable meal with whole grains as often as possible. Such as:
- Sandwich on whole-grain bread with salad.
- Fish, Chicken or Steak served with veg.
- Salad (dressing on the side).
Small and sustainable changes are much easier and more beneficial in the long run when it comes to improving nutrition, rather than trying to make too many big changes all at once but to see a change you’ve got to make a change!