Healthy eating doesn’t require a complete overhaul of your pantry. Instead, start by balancing processed foods and sugars with whole, nutrient-dense foods that make a big difference. Knowing the difference between processed and whole foods will give your family members more energy, stronger immunity, and good nutrition.
Processed vs. Nutrient-Dense Whole Foods
Healthy eating is not about demonizing processed items. Instead, it’s about learning how the process removes nutritional benefits from food and how that impacts your family’s health when these foods are consumed in excess.
What are processed foods?
Processed foods refer to anything modified from its original state before entering your mouth. Some processed foods contain high amounts of salt, sugar, additives, and preservatives. It’s usually hard to read their nutrition labels because these ingredients can go by a long list of names, such as “natural flavoring” or “sucrose.” Many people think of cake mixes and sugary cereals as processed foods. They are surprised to learn that many pantry stables, like canned vegetables and breadcrumbs, have a high level of processing to preserve them.
The more processing a food undergoes, the more nutritional components it loses. That’s why nutrient deficiencies are more common when you consume processed foods at every meal. The body requires much more processed food to receive nutrients like healthy fats, fiber, protein, and whole-grain carbohydrates than whole food.
What are whole foods?
Whole Foods remain nutrient-dense because they offer the body nutrients in their most natural form. As a result, they supply the body with what it needs to perform optimally. Add raw nuts, fresh fruit, and other grains to the processed food mix.
4 Habits to Reduce Processed Food For Your Family
- Do a Pantry Cleanout
Your kitchen is the best place to start reducing processed foods and sugars. Get your family involved, or surprise them with a clean and organized pantry. A few hours of ditching highly processed products is a powerful way to encourage healthier eating habits.
You may want to keep some processed items like cake mixes for that last-minute celebration or foods with sentimental value. Store them on the highest shelves or in the back of cabinets and drawers where they’re less visible. It’s less tempting to grab a sugary or processed treat if you don’t look at it every time you go for a snack. Whether you find the inspiration to go full-on like Netflix’s home organizing show The Home Edit, or stick with some simple rearranging, build a system around the eating style you’re after.
- Introduce New Options
Once you remove anything that doesn’t serve you from your cabinets and pantry, replenish the highly-visible areas with nutrient-dense whole foods. How about fun trail mix ideas for a sweet and savory snack that packs in the protein and nutrients of raw nuts and dried fruits? Stock your shelves with whole grains like brown rice, oats, barley, and other cooking staples that keep meals easy.
When it comes to fresh options, fill a fruit bowl on your counter where people are most likely to see and enjoy it. Next, head to the fridge to stock it with precut veggies, dips, hard-boiled eggs, plain yogurt, and meal staples like fish and meats.
- Cook More at Home
Setting up your pantry and fridge makes cooking much more accessible. You might not realize that many restaurants and fast-casual chains use a lot of processed oils and ingredients. But, again, this isn’t something to give up entirely, but another area to be mindful of as you commit to healthier eating.
The more meals you prepare at home for your family, the more fresh, whole-food ingredients make their way into the weekly lineup. Here are a few great healthy food blogs to turn to for some recipe inspiration using nutrient-rich ingredients:
- RachLMansfield (@rachlmansfield)
- Half Baked Harvest (@halfbakedharvest)
- Ambitious Kitchen (@ambitiouskitchen)
- Create a Balance
Navigate meals at home around your family members’ busy lifestyles with creative and balanced food pairings. When you eat whole foods with processed foods, you digest the processed ingredients more optimally than if they were on their own. The nutrients from whole foods assist your body in breaking down everything you’re eating into energy and keep you full for longer.
Some examples of food pairings to get your wheels turning are:
- Chips with hummus or salsa
- Hot chocolate with whole milk
- Granola or cookies crumbled over whole milk yogurt
- Crackers with fresh and unprocessed cheese, like fresh mozzarella
- Nut butter and cookies
Take Your Time to Make Habits Last
Remember that any health change takes time. However, you’re building habits that will benefit you and your family for years to come, so keep it simple and enjoy it. Patience and creativity are all you need to make meaningful transformations for happy and healthier lives.