Are you guilty of overeating processed foods? If so, you are not alone in this struggle.
Processed food has become more common over the decades. Stores stock their shelves with unhealthy packaged food filled with preservatives and too much salt and sugar. Fast food is inexpensive, and their shops are everywhere, making them accessible. Worse still, these foods taste great because manufacturers engineer them to be addictive to your palette. So it’s hard not to want them!
This is why so many people wind up overeating processed food. They’re cheap, they last long, you’ll find them much everywhere, and they taste good. But they keep you coming back with unhealthy but addictive ingredients. It can be hard to break the cycle of eating and crave these foods all the time, even when you know they’re bad for you! But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. Here are four practical ways to stop overeating processed foods.
1. Add More Of Certain Food Groups To Your Diet
The desire to always eat processed food can often stem from an already not-too-balanced diet. The less healthily you eat, the more your palette will crave unhealthy foods. This is why adding positive food groups to your daily meals is important, so you begin to enjoy those types of food just as much – if not more – than processed options.
Many food groups also benefit things like satiety, energy, positive thinking, and cognitive function. These benefits can help you reduce cravings for processed foods and give you enough energy to avoid the need to reach for snacks. Here are some food groups to add to your diet:
Protein’s great for brain function, reducing brain fog, and helping you build muscle and strength in the process – but that’s not even why it’s so good for reducing processed food consumption! Research has also shown that protein makes you feel satiated, which is more than enough to reduce the need to snack or the desire to fill meal plates with too much food. Lean meats, white meat, fish, nuts, and beans are all great options for protein.
· Whole Grains
Refined grains like white rice, white bread, and white pasta aren’t the worst things for your diet, but they’re processed, and a lot of the nutrients they could have had aren’t present as firmly as they could be. Whole grain alternatives like brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, multigrain bread, and other similar options provide much more fiber and satiety without removing the essence of the refined versions you enjoy. Plus, studies show they’re beneficial for protecting you against various diseases!
· Healthy Fats
There’s a vast nutrition myth that all fats are bad. That’s completely false, and in fact, your body needs some of them! Some of them are even very heart-healthy, thanks to a high content of omega fatty acids. Nuts and avocados, for example, are excellent sources of healthy fat. They taste great and help reduce cravings, which is ideal for reducing processed food intake.
· Fruit and Vegetables
It goes without saying that veggies and fruits are crucial for a healthy and balanced diet, but did you know that they can also help you to reduce your processed food consumption? With the natural, healthy sugars of fruit, you’ll get your sweet cravings filled without the need for sugary candies. And with all the fiber in both vegetables and fruits, you’ll feel full after each meal. Therefore, you won’t need as many snacks!
2. Get Into The Right Mindset
Your mind is a powerful thing. You probably already know just how much the way you think can influence what happens in your life. Plus, you know how you manage decisions. That can be extended to food and regulating your diet, too! You can genuinely utilize your brain to trick yourself into making more positive food choices.
A study published in the Appetite journal revealed that if you negatively look at junk foods, you lose some of your desire to eat them. This even affects your favorite processed food options! This means that viewing craved foods with certain mindsets may entirely remove your desire to eat them. Some of the perspectives used in the study that you can use in your life are to look at the food as if you:
- Just saw someone cough or sneeze on the food.
- Can envision all the potential consequences of eating those foods, such as weight gain, lowered energy, stomach discomfort, blood glucose imbalance, or guilt
- Feel full already and can’t eat another bite
- Would instead save this food to eat for later (in which case you are likely to forget about that food)
These thoughts aren’t accurate or objective, but if you can convince your brain that someone really did sneeze on that muffin or that you’re too stuffed to eat a bite of chocolate, you’ll genuinely start feeling as if it’s happening that way.
Conversely, this mindset works on the other end of the scale, too, according to more studies! If you want to feel more eager to eat healthily, using positive thinking to consider your healthy options can help you wish to partake in them. Think about the great benefits of eating healthy, the end goal you want for your health and appearance, or how good certain healthy foods taste, and your brain will enjoy them more than junk food!
A lot of times, overeating comes from a lack of available options. When you don’t have good healthy options that are easy to grab, you’re likely to reach for quick and simple things instead. After all, with the hustle and rush of daily working life, few people have the time to stop by the kitchen to prepare food every single time they’re peckish.
This is why planning and preparing options in advance is a big part of stopping the habit of overeating. Studies indicate that having a plan like this can reduce “food cue reactivity,” or the human tendency to react to and be influenced by exposure to food-related information during the day. You’ll be less susceptible to that advertisement about the new fast food store if you know you already have lunch packed!
Here are some tips for being prepared in advance to avoid overeating processed foods:
· Plan Meals In Advance
The day before your work week begins, take time out to plan all your big meals. During the days when you work, you’ll be too busy to figure out what you’re going to eat correctly, so if you don’t have a plan already in store, you’re likely to slip up and opt for easy but unhealthy choices that seem more appealing at the time.
· Keep Easy Snacks
Eating well need not be a challenge.
When you’re hungry for a quick bite, your mind may drift to potato chips, candy, and quick fast food options. But if you have even simpler snacks on hand, you can avoid giving in to those cravings. Pack fruits that can be quickly eaten make healthy batches of snacks in advance to bring with you, and if all else fails, do a little research on healthy snack options that you can buy and bring around with you.
· Prepare Large Batches Of Food
You may not have time to cook every day, but you can likely find one or two days to spend doing so. Preparing big batches of food to keep in containers in your fridge allows you to have food ready to go for the next several days. Your easy options will suddenly also be healthy ones! Just make sure that the recipes you choose aren’t too overwhelming and that you like how they taste!
4. Shop Smart
The processed food that you bring home with you is a result of poor shopping choices. Shopping smart will allow you to stop reaching for processed food or buying unhealthy options that pretend to be good for you. When you’re hungry at home, you’re going to go for foods that are accessible in your pantry, so shop well to keep that pantry suitable for a balanced diet! Here are some tips for shopping smart:
· Check Labels For Small Print
The labels on packaged food provide all the information you need to make informed decisions, but it can be hard to decipher that data. Generally, if a food’s ingredients list is filled with long words that you don’t know and can’t pronounce, it’s probably heavily processed. You should also check that data even if the food packaging proclaims boldly that it’s sugar-free, natural, or healthy. Your attention should be on the Nutrition Information Panel, which will list the sugar, sodium, and saturated fats in each food – the less of those are in the food, the better it’ll be for you!
· Shop The Perimeter At The Grocers
In grocery stores, the perimeter aisles are where the fresh food and produce are kept. This means you won’t find the worst of the processed foods there. Instead, whole foods like fresh fruit and vegetables cut meats and proteins, grains, and more. By restricting yourself to these outer areas, you won’t see and be tempted by junk food. And you fill your cart with healthy foods. You’ll probably feel less interested in adding something in garish, bright packaging to it!
· Go To A Local Farmer’s Market
If you have the time and are in proximity of a farmer’s market, patronize it! Make this local market your primary place to stock up on produce. Produce options here will be sold when they’re in season and therefore have the most nutritional value. You can better trust that the produce here is genuinely farmed organically or with as few pesticides as possible. Supporting small local businesses is also a great way to ensure healthier options!
Changing your diet for the better can be a challenging task. You don’t need to eliminate processed foods all at once. Cut down on them one by one, substitute them with healthier options, and take it slow. And of course, remember that the goal is not to stop overeating processed food, not to swear them off permanently. If you want an unhealthy treat now and then, be sure to space those treats out, and you’ll be fine!