The weekly grocery hauls I post on my blog look very different from the food I was buying two years ago. In January 2014 my husband Ty and I decided to do a Whole30 (a program that focus on learning how to eat whole, unprocessed foods). The 30 days we spent eating meat, fruit, vegetables, and healthy fats like nuts, avocados, olive oil, and coconut oil, and cutting out all processed food, dairy, grains, legumes, sugar, and alcohol was so eye-opening that we never turned back.
Over the past two years, our diet has evolved. Even when I first started this blog, I wrote a post called “My Diet Defined“. At that point, we were eating mostly Paleo. Now, we’ve added back in some dairy, grains, and legumes. I believe that as long as you are focusing on whole, real, unprocessed food, it’s important to listen to your body and figure out what makes you feel healthiest.
How I Define Real Food
Real Food is food in its most natural state; think ingredients. Real Food typically doesn’t have a label, and if it does, all the ingredients are common items that you can cook with at home.
How I Define Processed Food
Processed Food is food that can’t be found in nature. It typically comes in a box, can, or package. It has a long ingredient list and is made with chemicals and refined sugars (especially High Fructose Corn Syrup).
How to Cut Processed Food From Your Diet
- Eat whole foods. If it doesn’t have a label, you should be eating it! Think fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, dairy, grains, and legumes.
- Read ingredient labels. Ideally, you will be eating foods that don’t have a label, but if they do, you must read the ingredient labels. The ingredients listed should be all things you recognize, can pronounce, and could cook with at home. Avoid added sugar, especially High Fructose Corn Syrup. By avoiding added sugar, you’ll be cutting out the majority of packaged foods.
- Focus on vegetables. No matter if you’re a meat lover or a vegetarian, for dairy or against grains, I think everyone agrees that vegetables are good for us. As someone who eats meat, I’ve changed my mindset to having meat as the main star of my meals, to thinking of it as a side dish to my vegetables. By filling up on vegetables first, it leaves less room for processed foods to sneak in.
- Clean out your cupboards. If you’re serious about cutting out processed foods from your diet, clean your cupboards! Get rid of the foods you no longer want to eat. Out of sight, out of mind. If you don’t have that package of Oreos in your pantry anymore, you can’t be tempted to eat it! If you’re worried about food waste, consider donating the items to a food shelter or church.
- Keep it simple. I’m sure you have an entire Pinterest board of new real food recipes to try (I do!), but when you’re first starting to cut out processed foods you have a lot to learn. Don’t overwhelm yourself with difficult recipes or get sucked into buying fad clean eating products. Eating unprocessed food should be simple – roasted vegetables with a side of meat is my go-to. See what a typical week of dinners looks like for me here and here.
- Be patient. It takes time to completely overhaul your diet. How I eat now looks nothing like the previous 23 years of my life. That’s a lot of years of habits to change. I’m still learning to listen to my body and to eat what makes me feel my best. Forgive yourself if you make mistakes, and remember that small changes over time will add up to big changes for the rest of your life.
I challenge you to take 30 days to clean up your diet and see how you feel. The health benefits I’ve experienced since switching to a real food diet have been incredible, and I’m sure you will experience many of the same!