When you’re working long hours or you’re feeling crunched for time, you may struggle to resist the allure of the office vending machine. However, succumbing to processed foods can have detrimental effects on your cognitive function — something you simply cannot afford.
Regularly consuming processed foods can not only hamper your performance at work but can also put you at greater risk for obesity, high blood pressure, accelerated age-related cognitive decline, and increased susceptibility to dementia.
The prevalence of processed foods, ranging from vending machine snacks to deli meats, frozen dinners, and breakfast cereals, only makes avoiding them more challenging. To optimize your health and enhance your productivity, it’s crucial to reduce your intake of processed foods. Here are our six strategies you can use to steer clear of these unhealthy choices and fuel your success.
6 Straightforward Tips to Reduce Processed Foods
Like most high achievers, your busy schedule likely leaves you little time to meticulously examine nutrition labels or prepare healthy meals from scratch. That’s why it’s important to put systems in place that empower you to eat nutritionally dense meals while avoiding processed foods.
Here are six key habits you can adopt to seamlessly reduce your intake of processed food in your day-to-day life:
1. Opt for Nutrient-Rich Whole Grains
When you’re consuming bread, crackers, or pasta, prioritize whole-grain options over refined grains. Whole grains offer superior nutrient density, boasting fiber, iron, antioxidants, vitamin B, copper, magnesium, and zinc.
Love baked goods? Learn to make your own with whole wheat pastry flour instead of white flour. This way, you can indulge in your favorite delights while maximizing their nutritional value.
2. Embrace the Power of Meal Prep
When faced with back-to-back meetings, it’s tempting to opt for fast food as a convenient lunch option. However, these choices often fall short in terms of nutritional value. You can overcome this challenge by meal prepping in advance and bringing your own nourishing food to work.
Although meal prepping can seem time-consuming, it ultimately saves you precious time and helps you avoid making unhealthy food choices. Begin by prepping breakfast options such as overnight oats or chia pudding, which offer a wholesome alternative to pastries, cereal, or frozen pancakes. For lunch and dinner options, consider prepping salad jars, soups, or veggie stir fries. Alternatively, you can explore meal prep delivery services that tailor ready-made and healthy meals to your needs.
3. Explore Health Food Stores and Farmers’ Markets
Rather than relying solely on conventional supermarkets, venture into your local gourmet or health food store. These types of establishments typically offer a wider range of health-conscious options to support you in achieving your dietary goals.
Another option is to visit farmers’ markets, where you can handpick seasonal foods sourced from your region. By prioritizing fresh, locally grown produce, you not only support local farmers but also ensure you’re using the highest quality ingredients for your meals.
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4. Make Mindful Choices When Dining Out
Committing to a diet with less processed foods doesn’t mean you have to give up eating at your favorite restaurants altogether. Instead, focus on making healthier choices both in terms of the restaurants you choose and the dishes you order from the menu.
For instance, on your lunch break, bypass the burger joint and opt for a salad from a place like Sweetgreen. This choice will not only fuel the rest of your workday but also safeguard your cognitive functioning.
5. Cut Back on Eating Processed Meat
While many people use meat as a protein source, it’s essential to be mindful of the quality of meat you consume. Processed meats have been linked to increased risks of cancers, heart disease, and diabetes.
Swap out processed options, such as hot dogs and burgers, for less processed alternatives such as organic chicken or turkey. If you choose to indulge in red meat, go for organic options to minimize exposure to pesticides.
6. Reduce Your Sugar Intake
Many people who eat to prevent cognitive decline intentionally limit their sugar intake. Sugar contributes to inflammation within the body and has been linked to issues such as reduced attention spans, memory problems, and slowed cognitive function.
If you have a sweet tooth, consider satisfying it with natural, non-processed forms of sugar, such as fresh fruits. Blueberries, for instance, are rich in fiber and antioxidants. Additionally, try swapping store-bought fruit juices for organic fruit smoothies or freshly squeezed juice.
You can also learn to make your own low-sugar versions of your favorite treats. If you’re a fan of cookies, experiment with recipes that use natural sweeteners such as dates, raw honey, or bananas for a healthier alternative.
The Bottom Line
By consciously reducing your intake of processed foods, you can safeguard your cognitive function and enhance your overall health for years to come.
Because processed foods are seemingly everywhere, replacing your favorite snacks with healthier non-processed alternatives may require some time and effort. If you start to make changes slowly while building this habit, you’ll see remarkable improvements in your health over time.
Before embarking on your journey toward better health, it’s essential to understand how you can make the most significant impact with the fewest resources of time and energy. Take advantage of our free health and wellness assessment, which can help give you a plan of action for bettering your health.