According to a Center for Disease Control (CDC), survey, one in three Americans eat fast food daily. Fast foods are a popular nourishment option across the US due to affordability and convenience.
While the cost and convenience factors make fast food a much-welcome quick fix, such foods are detrimental to your health in the long run.
Fast or ultra-processed foods cause weight gain, which hampers normal metabolic functions causing chronic metabolic diseases. Such diseases include obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases.
Moreover, one observational study established a link between higher ultra-processed foods intake and an increased risk of early death. Fortunately, you can improve your health by replacing ultra-processed foods with unprocessed and minimally processed foods, as explained below.
What Are Unprocessed And Minimally Processed Foods?
Unprocessed foods are unaltered from the farm and retain their natural state. Such foods include fruits, vegetables, natural herbs and spices, eggs, fresh fish and seafood, nuts, and whole grains.
On the other hand, minimally processed foods are slightly altered unprocessed foods primarily for preservation. The minimal food processing techniques include roasting, grinding, cleaning/washing, refrigeration and freezing, fermentation, and pasteurization.
While the highlighted food processing techniques extend the food’s shelf life, they do not alter its nutrient density and quality. Minimally processed foods include roasted nuts, frozen meats, fish, and vegetables, chopped vegetables, milk, and canned fruits and vegetables.
The foods highlighted above require minimal time and energy to prepare. So, below is a sample daily meal plan guide to help you switch effortlessly from a fast-food-loaded diet to healthier unprocessed, and minimally processed options.
Typical American breakfasts include ultra-processed options like cereal, bacon and pork sausages, muffins, pastries, bottled fruit juices, and lattes. However, cured meats like sausages and bacon contain excessive amounts of salt, while fruit juices, pastries, and cereals contain obscene amounts of sugar.
You can substitute the above meal options with unprocessed and minimally unprocessed options, including oatmeal for cereal, omelets, frittatas, and quiches for high-protein options. Also, fruit smoothies, plain yogurt garnished with fruit, coffee with cream, and tea with honey are viable low-sugar breakfast options.
Minimal Processed Lunches
Consider excluding ultra-processed lunch staples, including pre-made soups, pre-packaged bread, deli meat sandwiches, pre-packaged pasta meals, and canned fruit in syrup from your lunch menu. Instead, substitute them with equally delicious yet healthier options like homemade soup with veggies, fresh preservative-free bread, homemade chicken salad sandwich, fresh fruit, or canned fruit packed with water.
Avoid typical microwavable dinners like fast food sandwiches, store-bought frozen meals, most pizzas, canned fish, and pre-packaged sauces. Substitute these with homemade turkey burgers, fresh cheese-topped flatbreads, fresh fish, and dinner bowls with brown rice, quinoa, beans, or sauteed vegetables. Frozen meals low on sodium and preservatives are acceptable.
Rid your pantry of chips, crackers, ice cream, and sodas. Instead, snack on homemade energy balls, roasted unsalted nuts, and pumpkin seeds, raw veggies with hummus, fresh fruit with chopped nuts, and unsweetened flavored sparkling water.