After traveling to a few countries outside the US I quickly realized how unhealthy my diet had been up to that point. While I was raised on 90% processed and 10% fresh foods, I found that most other cultures were the opposite.
It also didn’t take me long to realize how much better I felt when eating less packaged and processed food. The amount of plastic waste avoided was not lost on me either.
If you’re in the US and want to make a transition to eating more fresh food and less processed or packaged food, here are some things that might help:
- Gradual Integration: Start by slightly altering the balance of fresh to packaged foods in your grocery cart. Instead of a complete overhaul, try replacing 10% of your packaged food items with fresh alternatives every couple of weeks. This gradual shift allows your taste preferences and shopping habits to adapt comfortably.
- The Economics: A common concern I get when switching purchasing decisions is controlling cost. If you want to get analytical you could calculate the cost per meal based on processed ingredients vs natural. What you’re going to find is that unprocessed ingredients are less expensive but require more of your time. If you’re willing to boil your own beans, create your own taco seasoning, and maybe even make your own tortillas… it will take you longer to cook dinner but you’ll quickly realize how pre-made and processed foods are actually much more expensive.
- Increased Shopping Frequency: Embrace the routine of shopping more frequently to account for having produce be a larger percentage of your shopping cart. There are some simple tips to help produce last longer, which I will let you Google on your own.
- Track Your Energy: Keep a journal or log to monitor changes in your diet and how they correlate with your overall well-being. I notice a clear shift in energy when I’m on a processed-food-free diet vs the standard American diet (like over the holidays). Knowing how my energy level are affected keeps me from slipping back to the easy-but-deadly processed foods.
- Awareness of Waste Reduction: You may also want to track how much your plastic and paper waste is cut down… and consider starting a compost. I realized how less frequently I had to take the garbage out since most of my refuse was green waste. This awareness can serve as an additional motivator, reinforcing the positive impact your dietary choices have beyond just your health.