Healthy eating: Practical ways to have less processed foods and stay healthy

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From the packet of chips you probably bought to the instant breakfast meals which are deemed to be rich in fortified nutrition, processed meals unknowingly form a big part of our life and daily eating. Basically, anything that comes pre-cooked, frozen, canned or packaged is termed to be a processed food item. Newer researches have also indicated that the meat and other non-vegetarian items available in chain outlets may actually be quite processed too, and not all that you may be eating in the name of real meat may actually be it.
Given that processed food undergoes a lot of preservation and often contains added sugar, salt, colouring, chemicals in it which makes it so unhealthy, simply reducing and cutting down your intake of these processed food items can not just be good for your health, but also work to improve quality of life. However, it can be sometimes a little too confusing, and tough to actually swap the processed foods for something that’s organic and actually nutritious. Finding alternatives, or knowing how to start can be perplexing too. So, if you are someone who wants to make the change happen and limit your dependency on processed and packaged foods, here are some absolutely practical and realistic ways to get a start

1. Stock up on healthy snacks to keep handy
Processed foods and instant meals come in quite useful when we are terribly hungry and looking to kill those untimely hunger cravings. However, we all know how unhealthy it can be, and the extra calories it could add up. To avoid this, a good habit is to stock up on essential healthy snacks which can be a good alternative to these snacks. They can be full of nutrition, yummy in taste and make you feel full! Nuts and seeds, trail mixes, fruit bowls, yoghurt meals can all be good options to have when you are hit with a bad hunger pang!

2. Meal prep in advance
If instant meals are your go-to option when you are running out of time, meal prepping is a good way to stay in control of the food you eat and ensure you do not have too many processed foods and meals. Meal prepping can be done any one day of the week and practically save you a lot of time in the kitchen!
Another good hack to meal prep is to ensure filling up your shopping carts with healthier food supplies, rather than processed variants. The fewer processed items you’ll have in stock, the lesser would you be forced to depend on them.

3. Use whole grains in place of refined ones
Whole grains, in comparison to refined grains and flours, have loads of health benefits and undergo zero processing. While there are plenty of options available in the Indian diet, starting to replace refined grains with whole ones is the simplest way to limit your reliance on processed foods
Additionally, whole grains are also rich in a lot of health benefits, which you’ll never find in refined options. From plenty of vitamins, antioxidants, they have also been scientifically studied to cut down the risk of several ailments, types of cancers and lifestyle diseases.

4. Recreate your favourite comfort foods at home (with a twist!)
Cutting back on processed and instant (ready-to-make) meals is a helpful idea. However, if you simply cannot do without it, or miss the taste of the meals, a wise hack would be to try recreating the meals at home and have a healthier solution in place!
Making your own meals, or adding your twist to the meals will allow you greater control of the ingredients that go in and the food that you end up consuming. From breakfast options, lunch-dinner meals to desserts, there are many cooking guides available for the same and easy to whip up in the kitchen! This is also a good way of ensuring that while you limit your consumption of processed items, you are also preparing something healthy!

5. Stay hydrated through the day
Having around 2-3 litres of water a day is helpful to banish problems like dehydration, untimely hunger, headaches and takes care of your digestion. Having plenty of water and other hydrating fluids is also helpful to quash the cravings and the urges which make you rely on processed foods and snacks! Similarly, sugary and packaged drinks (such as soda, fizzy drinks, which also go through a lot of procession and preservation) contain added sugar which makes you dehydrated and contains low nutrition. Limit your intake of such drinks, and instead, opt for natural replenishing fluids, or infuse water with herbs and cooling seeds!

6. Make sure you are having a lot of vegetables and fruits
It’s very important to have a quality and nutritious diet, and fruits and vegetables are a wonderful day of adding colour as well as quality to your diet, without sacrificing your tastebuds! Dietary recommendations suggest that every person has at least 2-3 servings of fruits and veggies on a daily basis.
Not only are they rich in taste and nutritive aspects, including fruits and veggies in your everyday meals, will also help you achieve satiety, i.e. stay fuller for longer, curb untimely cravings and ultimately, make you stay off of unhealthy, processed snacks to an extent. If you regularly have helpful servings of veggies and fruits, you are sure to see a difference!

7. Try and cut down on processed meat consumption
Despite the taste, processed meat is often associated with a lot of negative dietary aspects and are even labelled to be carcinogenic, and do not really make for a helpful addition to your diet. While simply removing them from your diet may not be an easy choice, you can start by opting for less-processed meat products (such as chicken, salmon, lunch meats), or go for plant-based meats as well. Also, try and include more plant-based proteins in your diet.
Cutting down on your processed food intake, on the whole, can do a lot of good for your overall lifestyle, and help you gain a lot of health benefits. Make a slow change, and do your research well.

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