General Question

syz's avatar

How can I avoid processed foods without going "food-Nazi"?

Asked by syz (35804points) April 1st, 2013

It’s a long story, but my GI tract is incredibly unhappy these days (no real answers after the upper GI scope, the colonoscopy, the biopsies, the cultures, the emergency room trips, the medications….). I’m thinking that I may try a general, healthy approach and want to cut down on sugar, increase my fiber, reduce my sodium, etc.

But here’s the kicker; I know myself, and if I can’t make it relatively easy, I won’t stick with it. So I’m going to start gradually.

1. No more soda. This is not much of a hardship, I’ve done it in the past and I actually like to drink water.

2. No more fast food. This is an issue of convenience mostly; sneaking off for a quick bite during a busy work day is just harder if I don’t go for fast food.

3. Stop “cheating” on the vegetarianism. No more chicken.

So what else can I do in a step-wise approach to eat healthier? What’s worked for you?

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19 Answers

Judi's avatar

Planning and environmental control.
Plan ahead of time and prepare the foods before you get stuck with nothing to eat. Always have a plan b as well.
Don’t bring any of the foods you are avoiding into your home and avoid places where they are in abundance. If you MUST go into an environment where the foods you are avoiding are being served, prepare for it and eat ahead of time and/or bring your own food.
Also, don’t be afraid to make your needs known.

janbb's avatar

Shop around the perimeters of the food store where the basics are and don’t go into the aisles where the more processed junk food is displayed. Find some quick natural snack foods or meals – like natural peanut butter, fruit, etc. – to have on hand for pick me ups. Bring a prepared lunch from home.

syz's avatar

Has anyone read Salt, Sugar, Fat? I’m always cautious about doctors/authors who make sweeping pronouncements and promises, but I’ve been hearing a bit of talk about this one.

sinscriven's avatar

What’s helped me a ton is generating a meal plan. I will spend an evening browsing vegetarian friendly sites, or youtube channels and drown myself in food porn and I’ll get ideas on what things to make and write them down in a notebook.

Through the recipes I’ll generate a shopping list. sticking to that has saved me a ton of money. My grocery bills have been cut in half because I know exactly what I’m getting and am not gravitating towards convenience foods. Having that meal plan also directs you to what you should be eating that day, and cuts down the likelihood of you staring at the fridge looking for random things to eat.

When the food is bought, My Fiancee and I batch cook for the week, or whenever we make food we make family sized portions and store them. She’ll make pancakes during the weekend, and we’ll freeze the rest and then I have a breakfast option. Saturday night I made pasta w/ spinach pesto, and now today that’s what I have for lunch. There are also little baggies of cut finger food veggies and nuts to use for snacks ready to grab and go.

After a while eating homemade, you will start to really notice the amount of salt and fat in the convenience and restaurant food you eat and you’ll no longer want them in much the same way you can wean yourself off of soda and after a while be repulsed by how it tastes

gorillapaws's avatar

Just to piggyback off @sinscriven, making a huge batch of soup on Sunday and then freezing individual servings for lunch for the week is a great approach. Soup freezes and reheats very well. It’s filling, flavorful, can be very healthy, and makes a perfect meal for lunches when convenience is a priority (bring a nice piece of healthy bread for dunking).

Inspired_2write's avatar

Hang around health nuts.
Join a grow your own garden group ( organic).
Join a gym. Usually healthy people eat healthy foods..a part of their daily regime.
Its a life pattern choice.

marinelife's avatar

Cook for yourself. Start with fresh ingredients. You might have to have a cooking session on the weekends to prepare food for the week ahead.

bossob's avatar

I quit eating processed foods 1/1/12 after I started paying attention to sodium content. As @janbb suggested, nearly all my food shopping is around the store perimeter.

The biggest adjustment for me was carving out the time to prepare my food. It’s not a diet of convenience. I usually take leftovers or pieces of fruit to eat when I’m not home at mealtime. Most restaurant food has become unappealing to me; too much salt and fat.

reijinni's avatar

Is there a way that you can do all of your food shopping at a farmer’s market?

zenvelo's avatar

Follow Michael Pollan’s Food Rules

7 Words & 7 Rules for Eating

Pollan says everything he’s learned about food and health can be summed up in seven words: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

Probably the first two words are most important. “Eat food” means to eat real food—vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and, yes, fish and meat—and to avoid what Pollan calls “edible food-like substances.”

Here’s how:

Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. “When you pick up that box of portable yogurt tubes, or eat something with 15 ingredients you can’t pronounce, ask yourself, “What are those things doing there?” Pollan says.

Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.

Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop on the perimeter of the store. Real food tends to be on the outer edge of the store near the loading docks, where it can be replaced with fresh foods when it goes bad.

Don’t eat anything that won’t eventually rot. “There are exceptions—honey—but as a rule, things like Twinkies that never go bad aren’t food,” Pollan says.

It is not just what you eat but how you eat. “Always leave the table a little hungry,” Pollan says. “Many cultures have rules that you stop eating before you are full. In Japan, they say eat until you are four-fifths full. Islamic culture has a similar rule, and in German culture they say, ‘Tie off the sack before it’s full.’”

Families traditionally ate together, around a table and not a TV, at regular meal times. It’s a good tradition. Enjoy meals with the people you love. “Remember when eating between meals felt wrong?” Pollan asks.

Don’t buy food where you buy your gasoline. In the U.S., 20% of food is eaten in the car.

ninjacolin's avatar

Examine the layout of your grocery. Generally, processed and whole foods are kept seperate from eachother so that makes it easier. Figure out where processed foods are stored and stay away from them.

For example, where I live:
Processed foods are in the center of the store in the isles.
Whole/fresh foods are at the edges, where the refrigeration is.

Coloma's avatar

Just a snack suggestion…no time right now…but…..Nuts, nuts, nuts!
Low or unsalted nuts of all kinds are a great snack and always ready and handy.
I eat tons of walnuts, almonds, cashews and sunflower seeds.
I love to make big salads with chick peas and sunflower seeds. Deeelicious!

Bellatrix's avatar

In terms of the food for during the day, take your food with you. In my work environment the food available isn’t what I would want to eat. So I take some salad and cold meat (I’m not a vegetarian) or veggies and meat and heat it up at work. I have a banana or other fruit with me and some nuts, perhaps some greek yoghurt. Keep some nuts in your drawer for when you get caught short and have to grab something quickly.

It helps if your partner is on board with you too. Then you support each other in avoiding food that isn’t healthy for you.

rooeytoo's avatar

For us and the dogs and birds, we eat nothing that will not rot. If it can sit on the counter for days or weeks without spoiling, we don’t eat it.

And for me sugar is the enemy. I never considered salt because I run and sweat and have no bp probs so I never think about it. So I don’t know if cutting down on that would make a difference to my gut. But I really have to stay away from soda, ice cream, chocolate. A little bit now and then is okay but too much too often and my gut is wrecked.

It is more difficult when away from home. And we eat meat so I can imagine eating only veg makes it really a pain. I know many say don’t eat potatoes, but really they come out of the ground and they rot so I eat them. And a boiled potato with some avo and tomato and balsamic dressing makes a great fast lunch, easy to carry or put together as long as you have access to a microwave.

Do you eat eggs? Hard boiled eggs are easy to carry and keep and are filling. We eat a fair bit of tuna too. Left over stir fry is good cold, no rice needed.

It takes a little thought and planning but is doable. My biggest problem is Cokey cola, I love the damned stuff!

gailcalled's avatar

I will stick with breakfast.

Cook five days worth of steel-cut oats. Then reheat, add a little cinnamon, walnut pieces, some ground flax, chia and sesame seeds (I grind a jar full and keep in fridge). I also dribble a tiny splash of dark amber maple syrup.

(How to cook steel-cut oats. Bring 3.5 cups cold water to boil, add 1 heaping cup of oats, cover. Turn heat off and leave over night. Voilå.

gailcalled's avatar

Moving on to other meals, I can buy beautiful home-made vegan or veggie soups locally. I often get several quarts and freeze in pint portions. (Nothing with potatoes, however. They turn mushy.)

Making my own split pea, bean or lentil soup is easy in theory but I know just how much I loathe cooking these days.

i do cook up a pot of barley or quinoa and leave it in the fridge. I toss it into salads and soup,

Here’s how to cook the quinoa overnight like oatmeal, the lazy way. Rinse the quinoa several times in cold water (use a fine strainer).

Then in a ratio of 3 parts water to 1 part quinoa, bring water to boil, add quinoa, cover, turn flame off and leave over night. Nice with dried cranberries, pecan bits and a vinaigrette, for example.

And the almighty salad. Even beets, if sliced really thin, can be eaten raw.

Adagio's avatar

All the food I eat is unprocessed, I have never considered myself as or been accused of being a food Nazi, it’s just food pure and simple, out there all around you.

Crumpet's avatar

I can always remember my PE (Gym) teacher in school telling us that as long as we lead an active healthy life style, and eat fruit and veg every day, you can eat anything you want in between, and not to worry too much about food.
This has been true for me most of my life. When i went to university i stopped being active and put weight on.
I now cycle nearly every day. I’ve eaten McDonalds twice in the past week, but I’m still getting my athletic physique back.

As for cutting back on foods that are bad for you, I would still do it. But not cut them back entirely. Soda can be replaced with fruit juice and smoothies (which are nicer anyway IMO)
And you can replace chicken with things like quorn.
Cutting out food entirely is a bad thing though, because it will eventually lead to a binge.
Why not just treat yourself once a week.
And find some form of excersise you will enjoy doing.
Swimming is great fun.

snowberry's avatar

Read the labels, and learn what all the ingredients actually mean. Especially learn the meaning of the stuff that doesn’t sound like food (it’s not).

Most frozen food has preservatives in it, so stay away from frozen food, unless it reads organic, or actually has no preservatives (that’s rare, but it happens).

Do shop the exterior of the store, but do buy things like dry beans. They’re healthy for you- healthier than canned, because canned have preservatives (I know, weird, right?)

Eat small amounts of, or no meat, unless it’s wild, organic, or pasture raised. Organic or wild is best, pasture raised is next best. That’s because the way farm animals are raised is not healthy for them, or for us to eat.

Lots of foods cause inflammation, which is part of your problem. The body takes its cues on inflammation from the foods and chemicals we put into our bodies. If you eat a diet of inflammation causing foods, you’ll feel worse than if you don’t. If you’re a smoker you’ll have more inflammation than if you don’t.

That said, there is an inflammation diet, and lots of inflammation reducing diets, (look it up), but I think it’s easier to go with an alkaline diet. It accomplishes the same thing without having to do as much mental work. Here’s a link. Scroll to the bottom to find the healthy foods (in green).

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