Ditch the Processed Foods

Welcome to Week 7 of 52 Healthy Habits 2021 Edition!  

How are you doing on your healthy habits? Don't worry if you aren't ready to move on to this week's habit. Stick with the habit that you really need to keep working on until it becomes a habit. 

OK, like so many of our other healthy habits, this week's habit is one we all know we should be doing but is one that we all need to work on a little bit more --- ditching the processed foods for whole foods.

The word “processed” often causes some confusion, so let me clarify what I mean.

Obviously, most foods we eat are processed in some way. Apples are cut from trees, ground beef has been ground in a machine and butter is cream that has been separated from the milk and churned.

But there is a difference between mechanical processing and chemical processing.

If it’s a single ingredient food with no added chemicals, then it doesn’t matter if it’s been ground or put into a jar. It’s still real food.

However… foods that have been chemically processed and made solely from refined ingredients and artificial substances, are what is generally known as “processed food.”

Cheez-Its are a great example of a processed food (and yes, one I used to love!) The reason that box of Cheez-Its can sit on the shelf in the grocery store so long unspoiled is the same reason you should leave it there.

Processed foods tend to have a long shelf life, thanks to the added sugar, salt, and preservatives within. If that wasn't bad enough, they're often stripped or void of nutrients. As a result of their less-than-stellar nutritional status, they steal away an opportunity where you could be nourishing your body with whole foods--and may do some damage in its place. "Processed foods can be so dangerous because you end up getting a lot of excess sugar, salt, and added ingredients that most people are not aware of," says Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, registered dietitian and founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition.

From weight loss to migraine relief, you can reap the health benefits if you ditch the boxes. Here are the top reasons to ditch them:

  1. Weight Loss - many processed foods have extra unnecessary calories and are lacking in fiber and nutrients that keep you full. 
  2. Healthier Skin - better looking and healthier skin is one "side effect" of ditching processed foods, especially for women since our skin is affected by hormones. Ingredients in processed foods can wreak havoc on our hormones causing lack-luster and break-out prone skin.
  3. More energy - eating processed foods will have you tired and foggy and dragging your feet all day because your body is trying to figure out what all those foreign ingredients are that you put in your body from processed foods. 
  4. Better mood - been a little extra crabby lately? Take a closer look at your diet. "Mood can be affected as a result of eating less processed snacks. All those processed chemicals can affect mood mostly because the foods are not providing your body with adequate nutrition,". When we eat a balanced diet of whole foods, our body is given the nutrients it needs to function properly (most of what it needs...vitamins are also sometimes necessary to give us proper amounts of nutrients), and we feel more balanced and happy as a result.
  5. More physical activity - when you eat a lot "bad" foods, you just feel sluggish and tired, and the last thing you feel like doing is going for a run. Sugary cereals, cheese-dusted crackers, and instant noodles don't offer your body much fuel to run on thanks to the lack of nutrients. When choosing a snack, go for one higher in fiber, healthy fats and protein, and one that doesn't have a shelf life that's several months long.
  6. Better Sleep - sugar-heavy, trans fat-filled packaged foods not only hinder your weight loss efforts, but they also can also disrupt sleep. The added sugar in many products can keep you wired by spiking blood sugar and making it difficult to wind down for the night. Also, research presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior found that fatty foods may disrupt the normal functioning of neuro-chemicals in your brain responsible for encouraging regular sleep.
  7. Muscle Tone - you've heard the phrase, "Abs are made in the kitchen" Well, there's some truth to that. Eating a clean diet that's rich in whole foods and void of processed foods can help you lose weight and reveal those strong muscles you've been sculpting tirelessly at the gym. Furthermore, your body needs protein and healthy fats to help repair and strengthen your muscles in the first place!
  8. Fewer Cravings - packaged foods that are high in sugar can lead to spikes and dips in blood sugar. Translation: your cravings are all over the place. If you're able to balance your diet and ditch the junk, you'll be able to better stabilize your blood sugar and keep your wacky cravings under control.
  9. Crave Healthier Food - as a result of conquering your junk-food cravings, you'll start to yearn for healthier fare. Yes, really! Once you get into a rhythm of healthy, clean eating, you'll feel so good you won't want those stale chips dangling in the office vending machine. According to a study published in the journal Nutrition & Diabetes, you can alter how your brain reacts to high-calorie and low-calories foods simply by changing your eating habits for the better.
  10. Better Digestion - another benefit you'll likely enjoy from ditching processed food is better digestion. When you eat more whole foods, you will be adding more fiber to your diet which will improve your digestion and bowel regularity.

Start slowly and get rid of 1 processed food from your pantry each week. This will make creating this healthy habit less stressful for you and you will be more inclined to make it a healthy habit for the long term. Instead of buying a bag of potato chips at the store this week, try making your own kale chips, sweet potato chips or even brussel sprout chips to satisfy that crunchy and salty craving you have.
Another tip to help you switch to whole foods, is to create a homemade version of your favorite processed food. Yes, I know it's not going to taste exactly the same, but it should give you the satisfaction of eating something "unhealthy" but that has way more nutrients than the processed variation would. Try for example, my homemade chocolate chip cookies recipe.(recipe in the comments)..I made these as a replacement for my husbands' Chips Ahoy craving and they are a hit! Every time I make these for at home or for a party I go to, they are always gone in no time! Easter is coming up soon and what better time than to try healthy homemade peanut butter cups!

Making the switch to all whole foods might take a lot longer of a time period to become a habit, than say drinking a cup of water first thing upon waking. Most of us grew up eating processed foods, so it's ingrained in our brains to grab a box of pancake mix or a bag of chips instead of making our own or choosing carrots instead of Cheetos.  Decide where you want to start and work on that one switch this week. I'm here to help if you need it. 

Need even more inspiration? Check out my Pinterest board and feel free to share your tips and recipes for ditching and switching from processed foods to whole foods in our Facebook group this week.

This week's email is sponsored by the following.**This email contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

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Carrie A Groff

Your Accountability Partner and 52 Healthy Habits Coach

P.S. Don't forget to share in our Facebook Group

P.S.S. Did you know that it actually takes an average of 66 days to form a habit (not the social media 21 days statistic) and some habits take even longer! There was a study done for 84 days and the quickest forming habit did only take 20 days, which was drinking a glass of water after getting up, but other habits like eating a piece of fruit with lunch took twice as long; and the habit of 50 sit-ups after morning coffee was a habit that one participant couldn't form even after 84 days. Walking for 10 minutes after breakfast turned into a habit for another participant after 50 days. 

Previous Healthy Habits:

Week 1: Drink Your Water!

Week 2: Half Your Plate=Veggies

Week 3: Move Your Body

Week 4: Sleep Deprivation

Week 5: Home-Cooked Meals

Week 6: Take Time for Yourself
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