If you have your heart set on fitting into your skinny jeans, major changes to your diet are on the horizon. But you might feel discouraged when you start eating fewer calories with no results. Your weight loss goals matter — but so does how you go about losing weight. Calories aren’t the only element that counts.
Eliminating unhealthy foods from your diet — such as highly processed junk foods — might be the key to weight loss you didn’t know you needed. After one month, you might be surprised at how much closer you are to finally reaching your goals.
How much processed food are you actually eating?
Technically, anything you get from the grocery store is at least somewhat processed. Even fruits and vegetables are washed and packaged before you have access to them. However, heavily processed foods — like frozen pizzas, hot dogs, and potato chips — aren’t the best things to put into your body. Research estimates that the majority of the food purchased in the U.S. is highly processed. Eliminating processed foods from your diet could finally help you lose weight — here’s how to make it work.
Start your day with the ‘right’ breakfast
A bowl of cereal isn’t a sufficient breakfast. It never has been. You don’t have to cook eggs or make oatmeal from scratch every single morning. But you can take steps to make your breakfast way less processed (and much healthier).
Avoid breakfast foods that are high in sugar and lacking in everything that’s good for you. If you have to prepare your breakfast the night before and reheat it before your day starts, do it. Do whatever you can to start your morning off with foods that will keep you full.
Eat snacks — as long as they’re healthy
Snacking on healthy foods may be one of the most effective ways to eliminate added sugars from your diet. Unfortunately, some snack foods you think are healthy might actually promote weight gain. Trail mixes, 100-calorie packs, and fruit snacks are all highly processed — they’re no healthier than cookies or Pop-Tarts.
Eat healthy snacks that are high in fiber and protein, like vegetables dipped in yogurt or nut butter.
We’ve somehow developed this idea that dessert is bad. Most people probably associate dessert with cake and ice cream, but you’re allowed to follow up a meal with something sweet — if you’re actually still hungry, that is. Instead of eating processed foods to satisfy your sugar cravings, try these healthy dessert recipes. You don’t even have to call it dessert. Call it an after-dinner snack. That doesn’t give you permission to cheat, though — nice try.
Cook as many meals at home as possible
One of the great things about diet programs like Whole30, for example, is that they discourage eating out. There’s nothing wrong with eating at restaurants, and yes, it’s possible to make healthy choices when dining out. However, eating out regularly makes you much more likely to overeat, and over-consume sugar, salt, and saturated fat. Cooking your meals at home encourages you to eat healthier, and also makes you more aware of the ingredients you’re putting into your body.
Focus on fruits and vegetables
The official dietary guidelines recommend filling half of your “plate” with produce, and you won’t regret following that rule. Fruits and vegetables have numerous health benefits. So you’ll not only benefit from eliminating processed foods from your diet, but you’ll also be able to take advantage of the fiber, vitamins, and minerals present in many plant foods. Produce’s fiber content will literally help fill you up, discouraging you from overeating or making terrible food choices later.
Become a more adventurous eater
Eating the same foods day in and day out gets boring — and that’s probably when you’re most likely to eat foods that aren’t good for you. Spicing up your meals and snacks (literally or figuratively) can make a huge difference. There are dozens of healthy foods you’ve probably never heard of — and you’re missing out. Don’t be afraid to try preparing and eating new foods. This gives you a wider variety of healthier options to choose from when you’re craving processed food.