PROCESSED & ULTRA-PROCESSED FOODS: WHAT TO BUY, WHAT TO AVOID, & 5 EASY SWAPS

PROCESSED & ULTRA-PROCESSED FOODS: WHAT TO BUY, WHAT TO AVOID, & 5 EASY SWAPS

We’ve all been there…Driving home from a long day of work, didn’t have time to take your lunch break? Or saw your favorite fast food joint on the way home? Well, with busy schedules and no down time to cook a proper home-made meal, the most obvious thing to do is to grab something on the go.

Processed food is everywhere…and I mean EVERYWHERE! Bread is an example as well as pasta, cereal, and sandwich meats. Anything that does not come directly from the ground and eaten right there and then is processed. Even foods that many of us may think are considered healthy are processed. Granola? Processed. That Slim Fast or Atkins bar you’ve been noshing on while trying to lose weight? Processed.

Processed food has become such a big part of our lives, now more than ever. Believe it or not, processed food has been around since the prehistoric times. Methods such as fermentation, smoking, curing and drying have all been used to extend shelf life and enhance flavor. In the 1800s, techniques like tinning and pasteurization were developed to fight off bacteria and make food last longer. During the 19th and 20th century, food processing was brought to the next level in order to help feed military troops. Demand for ready-to-eat foods grew in the 20th century to keep up with busy, modern times.

What we don’t know is recent studies have shown that the ingredients in what we are eating are doing more harm than good.

In a study published in BMJ Open, the researchers found that for Americans, 58% of their diets consist of ultra-processed foods, defined as ready-to-eat meals or snacks that usually contain additives.

Hidden sugars are found in these foods, often disguised as artificial sweeteners, which are believed to be responsible for many medical issues including migraines, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Ultra-processed foods are also often high in sodium, unhealthy fats, preservatives, and additives, and do not provide us with what we need the most including vitamins, antioxidants and minerals.

What’s important to know is that not all processed foods are made the same. Ultra-processed foods have undergone significant processing and often the ingredient list tends to look like it should be something in a science lab rather than sold on grocery shelves.

The 3 Stages of Food Processing

 

1. The first stage of “processing” involves making sure the food is edible. Harvesting grain, shelling nuts, and slaughtering chickens are all considered primary processing. Foods that have only gone through this stage of processing are often still considered “whole” foods.

2. A second stage makes a more complex, finished, “processed” product. This includes cooking, freezing, and canning.

3. A third stage, in which manufacturers inject flavors, added sugars, fats, and chemical preservatives, produces ultra-processed foods.

To make it easier to understand what to buy and what not to buy, a classification system called NOVA, developed by an international panel of food scientists and researchers splits foods into four categories:

  • Unprocessed or minimally processed foods: Think vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, nuts, meats, seafood, eggs and milk. Make these real, whole foods the basis of your diet.
  • Processed culinary ingredients: These items make plain vegetables and a grilled chicken breast taste a whole lot better. Examples are herbs, spices, balsamic vinegar, garlic and oil. Use these ingredients in small amounts to create fresh, home-cooked meals.
  • Processed foods: When ingredients such as oil, sugar or herbs are added to foods and they are packaged, the result is processed foods. Examples are simple bread, cheese, tofu, and canned tuna or beans.
  • Ultra-processed foods: Here’s the category where 58% of our calories come from. These foods go through multiple processes (extrusion, molding, milling, etc.), contain many added ingredients and are highly manipulated. Examples are soft drinks, chips, chocolate, candy, ice-cream, sweetened breakfast cereals, packaged soups, chicken nuggets, hotdogs, fries and more.
  •  
    With all this being said, just because something has gone through a process doesn’t mean it’s unhealthy to eat. In general, the ultra-processed foods are what you should cut back on or avoid.

    5 Easy Swaps:

     

    Potato Chips

     
    Swap these out for some vegetable chips such as Terra. These are made from real vegetables and contain minimal ingredients with no artificial flavors or preservatives.

    Sweetened Breakfast Cereals

     
    Swap these out with oatmeal made with rolled or steel-cut oats and sweeten with raw honey and fresh berries.

    Sodas

     
    Detox from those high-sugar sodas with naturally flavored sparkling water .

    Flavored Yogurt

     
    Enjoy the health benefits of fermented foods by switching from flavored yogurts that are high in sugar to plain Greek yogurt that is low in sugar and high in protein.

    Artificially Flavored Crackers

     
    Ditch the fake flavor and blood sugar spikes for crackers high in fiber and only made with natural flavors, such as Mary’s Gone Crackers .

    Tips on how to cut back on ultra-processed foods:

     

  • Make gradual changes instead of trying to cut everything out all at once, otherwise you’re usually doomed for failure.
  • Shop with a grocery list and stick to it.
  • Shop around the outer sides of the grocery store, as most processed foods are in the middle aisles.
  • Reading the labels. If you do not know how to pronounce an ingredient or have never heard of it, put the item back on the shelf and chose something with five or less ingredients.
  • Cook more often and plan your meals for the week. You’ll be less likely to find yourself in a position where you are very hungry and grab a highly processed food as a quick fix.
  • Dine out with the intention of making better choices. Avoid foods that are deep-fried and choose a vegetable for your side rather than a starch. Decline the bread basket.
  • Be less trustful in packaged foods marketed as “organic” or “healthy.” If the ingredient list is very long and you can’t pronounce the words, skip it.
  •  
     
    Love and Health,

    😍  GOOD READ? LET GOOGLE KNOW!

    NEW TO THIS BLOG? START RIGHT HERE

    You’ll learn exactly how to eat and exercise to get slim, lean, healthy, and confident in your own body. Without sacrificing time, money, or the foods you love.

    This website is about learning how to make the right, easy changes in your lifestyle and get the greatest results.

    Thousands of others have already changed their lives by following the simple, effective principles taught on this site, and you can too.

    DOES STRESS CAUSE HORMONE IMBALANCE? HOW YOU CAN TELL (AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT)

    DOES STRESS CAUSE HORMONE IMBALANCE? HOW YOU CAN TELL (AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT)

    You fall into bed exhausted but wired, praying for sleep.

    Please?

    Just this once.

    You brain leaps about like a crazed monkey taunting you with your endless to-do list.

    Even though you’re going flat out every waking hour, you’re never caught up.

    During the few hours you manage to grab some sleep, you flip around restlessly and grind your teeth to dust.

    You know your stress level is off the charts; some days you think it could be detected from outer space, like one of those volcanic eruptions.

    As you scroll through your Facebook feed at 2am, a headline catches your eye: “Does stress cause hormone imbalance?” What the what, now? Great, something else to worry about.

    You slide on by because sometimes ignorance really IS bliss.

    But as you lay awake watching the numbers on your clock march on, 2:30, 3:00, 3:30, you’re haunted by the seemingly simple question, does stress cause hormone imbalance?

    You heave a sigh, scroll back, and start reading.

     

    Hormone Imbalance Is A Big, Hairy Deal

     

    Holy crap.

    You vaguely knew endless stress, with its elevated cortisol levels, could be bad, but not that bad.

    Like potentially life-threatening kind of bad.

    High blood pressure, weight gain, heart disease. Decreased immune function. Mental illness. The list goes on. Thank you, WebMD for scaring the bejeebers out of me.

    Not to mention, too much or too little of cortisol hormone can mess up all of your other hormones, too, making you lose your sex drive, miss your periods, giving you problems with your thyroid…. The list goes on and on.

    Depression smothers you in a thick gray cloud. Depression? Yeah, that’s one of the symptoms of chronic stress too.

    “I’m screwed,” you say aloud to the darkness.

    Not so fast.

     

    How To Relieve Stress To Balance Hormones

     

    Though high levels of the stress hormone cortisol have already thrown many of your other crucial hormones out of whack, it’s not too late to slow down or even reverse the effects.

    But how?

    How can you relieve stress to balance hormones?

    One of the simplest ways to start is by making healthier food choices.

    I know what happens when you’re stressed out, barely sleeping, and the least little thing throws you into a tizzy. It’s what a lot of us do: you reach for an ooey gooey good snack.

    This isn’t a judgement! It’s called comfort food for a reason.

    So relax. You don’t have to change your entire diet all at once. You’d be setting yourself up for failure instead of success. Which would spike your stress higher.

    Instead, start with something simple.

    Next time you have a crazy long day and you’re dying to nosh on those chocolate chip cookies, take a deep breath. Recognize the urge. Even say out loud, “I want comfort.”

    Sounds crazy, right? Like maybe you’re going to make it worse if you dare speak its name. But when you acknowledge your urge, it will lose its grip on you. You’ll be able to put the cookies back uneaten.

    When you do this even once, give yourself a high five! This is a huge first step toward taking charge of your health. Soon you’ll be buying healthier food at the grocery store too.

     

    Give Yourself A Natural High

     

    When you put a snack away, replace eating with exercise. You don’t have to be Ms. Super Athlete. Go for a short walk. Pick up your youngster and carry them around. Put on music and dance in your living room.

    When you exercise, your body produces feel-good chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins trigger a positive feeling in your body, especially in your brain. In fact, scientists have compared the feeling to that produced by morphine.

     

     

    (Bonus, these endorphins will replace the manufactured ones that processed food has been engineered to provide to get you hooked.)

    Endorphins also reduce your perception of pain, ward off anxiety, and help you sleep better.

    What’s not to love?

    Get your body moving and give yourself a natural high.

     

    Quiet Your Mind

     

    You can also add meditation to the mix.

    All you need is a timer, a quiet place to sit, and yourself.

    To begin, set the timer for 10 minutes. Sit with your hands in your lap or on your thighs. Take several long, slow, deep breaths.

    Close your eyes and focus your attention on the rise and fall of your belly as you breathe.

     

     

    When you notice your attention has strayed, gently bring it back like you would a beloved child who wandered off. Do this as often as you need to during those ten minutes.

    When the timer goes off, sit for a moment more and take several more long slow deep breaths. Then smile.

    That’s it!

    Though simple, the combination of deep breathing, quieting your mind with meditation, and smiling disrupts the stress cycle in your body and produces endorphins – just like exercise does.

    You see how all these practices reinforce each other. When you do them all, you increase their overall benefit.

     

    Get Back Into Balance

     

    Ongoing stress can ruin your health.

    You may already be sitting among the ruins wondering what on earth happened.

    It’s not fair.

    You don’t have to live whacked out on stress, wondering when the next health disaster will strike.

    You deserve to be in charge of your health.

     

     

    Now that you’ve discovered these powerful exercises, you’ll put yourself in control.

    You’ll lower your stress.

    Calm your cortisol.

    Energize your endorphins.

    Today, make a promise to yourself to get yourself back into hormonal balance.

    All you have to do is take the first step on the path to relieve stress to balance your hormones.

    Once you do, you won’t look back.

     
     
    Love and Health,

    😍  GOOD READ? LET GOOGLE KNOW!

    NEW TO THIS BLOG? START RIGHT HERE

    You’ll learn exactly how to eat and exercise to get slim, lean, healthy, and confident in your own body. Without sacrificing time, money, or the foods you love.

    This website is about learning how to make the right, easy changes in your lifestyle and get the greatest results.

    Thousands of others have already changed their lives by following the simple, effective principles taught on this site, and you can too.

    5 COMMON HORMONE IMBALANCES THAT WILL DRIVE YOU CRAZY

     
    At some point, you’ve probably heard someone say, “Sorry, I’m just being hormonal.” Or how about the teenager with the “raging hormones” who can’t seem to keep her head on straight?

    When things aren’t going right and when you don’t feel quite like yourself, you CAN blame it on your hormones. Why? Because your body is ruled by hormones. It’s not your fault and you can tell your husband that the next time he leaves the toilet seat up and you set his underwear on fire.

    Hormones are little chemical messengers that travel through your blood stream to tell different parts of your body what to do. From simple things like how fast your heart beats when you’re under stress, to more complex processes like fertility and reproduction. Hormones affect nearly every single process in our bodies.

    Produced in our endocrine cells, there are about 50 different hormones. When it comes to a woman feeling “hormonal,” there are about 5 hormones that come into mind when she complains that her hair is falling out, she’s gained a spare tire around her waistline, she’s lost her mojo, or other day-to-day physical dissatisfactions.
     

    The 5 hormones that may drive you crazy are:

  • Cortisol
  • Thyroid
  • Estrogen
  • Progesterone
  • Testosterone
  •  
    So… You might be wondering, “Do I suffer from one of these imbalances?
     

    Here are some clues to each type of imbalance:

     
    High Cortisol – Tired yet wired? This can leave you feeling wired, anxious and moody, tired but have trouble falling and staying asleep, gaining weight especially in the belly area, low sex drive, acne or other skin changes, a puffy and flushed face, and can also give you high blood pressure, brittle bones, a crappy immune system, and an irregular menstrual cycle (if you still get them). You can probably thank a stressful lifestyle or a traumatic childhood for this one.

    Low Cortisol – Tired and weak? This can make it especially hard to get out of the bed in the morning, have insomnia at night, sugar and salt cravings, easy weight gain, low sex drive, foggy thinking, depression and anxiety, and can also give you heart palpitations, cold hands and feet, and low blood pressure. Low cortisol tends to happen after cortisol has been high for a long time. Think of an engine going full-speed before burning out.

    High Thyroid – High thyroid speeds your body up. This is when you lose weight and you don’t know why. You can get nervous, jittery, moody, anxious, persistently tired yet feel wired, sensitive to heat, and have a swollen neck. In some cases, it can make your eyeballs look like they are bulging out. High thyroid can give you a fast and/or irregular heartbeat so you should never try to “self-diagnose” or treat this without a doctor monitoring too.

    Low Thyroid – Hello, weight gain. Low thyroid slows your body down, making you feel tired, constipated, lose your hair, have dry skin, feel cold, and forget things. Low thyroid is also something you shouldn’t self-diagnose or treat without a doctor monitoring too because it can slow your pulse down and if bad enough, land you in a coma. This happens more often to women than men and usually kicks in mid-life.

    Low Estrogen – This is when you feel dry (everywhere, if you know what I mean), moody, you’d rather do the laundry than make love, your memory is shot, and you might wake up at night in sweats and/or have hot flashes that make you want to turn the fan on even though it’s winter. Sex can hurt, you can’t sleep, and to top it all off, your bones are falling apart. Thank you, menopause.

    High Estrogen/ Low Progesterone – Are you bloated, emotionally volatile, and your boobs hurt? This is often the case, along with feeling depressed, more headaches than usual, weight gain, often uterine fibroids and/or fibrocystic breasts (lumpy and bumpy). Plus, your blood sugar goes on a rollercoaster ride and you might get yeast infections more often. This imbalance can happen in the younger years or the period as menopause is approaching.

    Low Testosterone – This is when you want your partner to keep their hands to themselves. Sex drive is in the gutter, it’s difficult to achieve an orgasm, you feel tired and weak, you gain weight, and you can’t sleep. This lovely imbalance usually happens after menopause.

    High Testosterone – This is often associated with Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOS) and most often affects younger women. Hair falls out on your scalp but also pops up in places it doesn’t belong, your skin breaks out with acne, voice becomes deep, you miss periods, and it’s very difficult to become pregnant. In addition, it can contribute to diabetes and obesity.

    Notice how a lot of these symptoms overlap? Some women see their gynecologist or primary care practitioner to help them figure out if they have an imbalance of one or more of these hormones.

    If you suspect something is going on but you really aren’t sure what it could possibly be, you can take a quiz to lead you in the right direction: THE MENOPAUSE SWITCH

    Depending on the hormone imbalance (because some types can actually be quite dangerous, such as when it comes to thyroid imbalance), medications may be used.

    Now don’t get me wrong, medications CAN be a lifesaver when it comes to feeling like you-know-what, when you’re having hot flashes faster than a firecracker on the 4th of July. And they can also save your life, preventing you from going into a coma if your thyroid gland is pumping out zero thyroid hormones.

    But… There are also some pretty nifty, natural supplements for whatever hormonal rage (or lack of) you’re battling with.

    Here they are:








    Love and Health,

    😍  GOOD READ? LET GOOGLE KNOW!

    NEW TO THIS BLOG? START RIGHT HERE

    You’ll learn exactly how to eat and exercise to get slim, lean, healthy, and confident in your own body. Without sacrificing time, money, or the foods you love.

    This website is about learning how to make the right, easy changes in your lifestyle and get the greatest results.

    Thousands of others have already changed their lives by following the simple, effective principles taught on this site, and you can too.

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