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  • Writer's pictureJane Webber Nutrition

Want to ditch processed foods?

We often rely on over processed convenience foods and drink, complete with chemical additives, too much salt, fat and sugar in the western world.

This is the main contributory factor to ill health in many countries today. Many of us are unfit and overweight and this leads to underlying health issues that affect our daily lives.

The past 2 years with Covid saw many people dying younger than expected because of ill health caused by lifestyle choices.

Now I am not here to judge anyone.

I was that overweight, overworked, unfit person relying on skipping meals and hastily grabbing processed meals to get me through the day. Evenings were salty snacks and wine…

Been there and got the T-shirt. Feel your pain.

Processed foods take it a long way from its original state as a fresh whole ingredient, packed full of nutrients.

Generally, the more processed the food is, the fewer nutrients remain. However, when you look at the supermarket shelves, we have a wide range of choices and if you are time-poor, then it’s hard to resist. If you don’t have a wide range of supermarkets near to you, your local shops may only offer processed foods.

How do we break the cycle?

Healthy cooking and preparing

Cooking does destroy some of the nutrients, so that’s why some people follow a raw food diet. I am not suggesting this as a way forward!

Overcooking or cooking at a too high temperature can destroy many of the benefits of nutrients and in some cases increase harmful free radicals.

Generally, it is suggested you cook fruits and vegetables for as short as time as possible. Steaming, microwaving or stir-frying are all good options. Boiling vegetables, well add them to already boiling water and don’t add salt to the water as this can draw out the nutrients. Remember you don’t want to pour down the sink the good bits. Maybe use the cooking water to make stock, sauces or gravy.

Wise planning and shopping

Planning is key when looking to cook from scratch. Maybe boring, but it’s the only way so you don’t rely on processed foods. Make a meal plan and then transfer this to a shopping list. Make sure your store cupboard has the basics and clear out any out of date items so you can see what you have.

All foods start to lose nutrients over time, so if you can buy fresh little and often then that would help.

If you can’t then frozen fruit and vegetables are a good alternative.

Instead of buying processed ready prepared meals, why not do some batch cooking? I am not saying do a mass cook up, but making a meal for the family, why not double up the ingredients and freeze the rest?

Rather than popping in some oven fries or potato waffles, why not do some fresh potatoes, boiled or oven-baked. Look at rice or couscous as alternatives as well as they are quick to cook.

Swap your white bread for whole grain. Add more fresh vegetables to your salads and casseroles.

Make tomato-based pasta sauces from tinned tomatoes rather than going for a jar version. Add herbs to your meals rather than relying on expensive sauces for flavour.

Buy seasonal produce

It’s good for the planet, but also the nearer the location of where the produce is grown, then the fresher it is and will contain more nutrients.

Foods brought from abroad are picked under-ripe, transported from the other side of the world, and then ripened artificially in transit.

Seasonal, locally produced food will be cheaper than imported foods. Very important at the moment for us all.


For many of us, organic food, such as fruit and vegetables, is a luxury that we can’t always afford, but make friends with your local allotment owners! Many of them don’t use chemicals and can be overrun with produce.

If you can afford organic meat and poultry, then make it go further by bulking it out with vegetables and maybe look at reducing your portion sizes.

Store correctly

How many times have you thrown something away because you forget to store it correctly? Take the time to research the best storage for items. Invest in some plastic boxes or glass jars. Do an audit on your fridge and freezer on a weekly basis to use up items. Fridge bottom soup is a favourite in our house.

Don’t forget that you don’t need to throw food out just because of a date on the label. Best before doesn’t mean you need to throw it away. It means it’s better before this date and after that, it will be losing some of its nutrients.

Use by date is more important, but if you can’t use it by this date, then look to freeze it or cook it and freeze it.

We waste so much food in the UK because we don’t plan correctly and realise that something is no longer usable.

If you want more hints and tips each day for healthy eating and lifestyle, then come and join my free Facebook group.


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