Did you know that Americans spend approximately 80 percent of their food budgets on products that are highly processed, offer very little nutritional value, and contain lots of added fat and sugar? Eating too many processed foods and beverages is one of the main causes of the rise in obesity and obesity-related diseases of all ages seen today. The heavily processed, standard American diet (also called SAD!) is in need of a major overhaul. But it can be difficult to know how to start changing your diet to a healthy one you can maintain for a lifetime.
Nutrient Rich Foods
Focusing on eating more real food can help you decrease processed food and improve your health. Real food is food in its most natural state – think fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, lean meats, seafood, nuts, and seeds. These foods are nutrient rich, with more naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, and fiber than processed food.
Tips for Cutting Down on Processed Food
Here are a few tips to help you eat more real food and cut down on processed food:
- Read the ingredients list before you buy. This helps you figure out how processed your food is. There isn’t a magic number, but in general, the fewer the ingredients, the better. Another trick is to avoid foods that have many unfamiliar, unpronounceable items on the ingredient list.
- Shop your local farmers’ market to stock up on fruits and vegetables. Community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs and other food co-ops are also good options. Picking up a share of produce every week or two can make it much easier to get in your five servings a day of fruits and veggies!
- Go for whole grains. Whole grains contain fiber, iron, and B vitamins, whereas refined grains (like “enriched” flour) have lost many of these nutrients through processing. Food packaging can be deceiving, so make sure to read the ingredients list to see if the product is truly made with all whole grains.
Real Food Program
For more tips on choosing whole foods, check out University of Wyoming Extension’s Real Food program. In this five-week series of classes, you’ll learn how to plan meals, shop, and cook using whole, natural ingredients. You’ll also learn how to read labels and decipher confusing ingredient lists.