Your guide to getting rid of the processed food in your diet, and replacing it with REAL FOOD with three stupid-simple recipes.
I decided about 6 months ago, when I first understood the implications of eating processed food, that I would remove all the stomachache-inducing, weight-gain causing, chemical crap from my diet as much as my lifestyle would allow. As promised, per my last post, I thought it would be nice to provide you with a roadmap of how I did it. I’m expecting a few eye rolls here…
Seriously Stacey, you want me to stop buying conveniently wrapped food and start making everything from scratch? CHA. And monkeys might fly out of my butt. (Said in the voice of Wayne Campbell).
I was right there with you. I thought, when the hell am I going to find the time to do that? “Homemade” is for Grandma Elsie and Stay-At-Home Marcy. But I started small by replacing one snack in my day. And once I did it, I realized I had to do it again, and again. When you begin to experience what real food tastes like (and feels like) in your daily meals, you won’t want to go back to the old way.
PROCESSED FOOD TAKEOVER GUIDE
This guide is not rocket science. My goal is to simplify the transition from processed food to real food as much as possible for you – so that you'll actually do it. Please use it, love it, and put your own spin on it. Oh yeah, and enjoy my awesome illustrations, hand-drawn with Paintbrush.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
1. Start slow. Pick at least one processed food that you want to attack first. If you decide to do a whole overhaul all at once, you’ll go to the grocery store with this huge list of ingredients, get overwhelmed, and decide it’s not worth the trouble.
2. Don’t buy the processed food you chose. If you pick it up – just in case – you will not be motivated to make its real counterpart, and you are defeating the whole purpose (sorry to be harsh).
3. Pick a night to make it. You will never feel like making your real food replacement when it’s time to eat it. Choose one night of the week that will be your food prep/making time. I found that even though I had the best intentions of doing my food prep on Sunday night, my weekends usually got the best of me, so I have declared Monday night my prep night. (It’s perfect because I’m feeling guilty from the weekend and super motivated to start my week off right).
4. Prep your station (like a real chef!). Get out your chopping board and cutting knife, preheat the oven, fill a pot with water for boiling, put on some music and pour a glass of wine (ya, that’s a step).
5. Get the right containers. For the longest time, I was incredibly stubborn when it came to buying real Tupperware. I would use plastic containers that I got from doggie bagging it at a restaurant or wear out cheap Target brand containers until I started to wonder if the smudged and scratched plastic was cancer-causing. My good friend Marta finally turned me on to these beauties:
Yes, they are glass, and yes, they are heavier than plastic, but I swear, the food tastes better in them. Plus, when you get the variety pack, you will have a size for everything. So as you grow your real food habits, you won’t have to worry about resorting to sketchy containers wrapped in aluminum foil.
RECIPES TO GET YOU STARTED
- BREAKFAST: Perfectly Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs
- LUNCH: No Excuses Veggie Salad With Homemade Dressing
- SNACK: Unprocessed Protein Bars
BREAKFAST: Go from boxed cereal to that perfect straight-from-nature protein, the egg
Perfectly Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs
This is the easiest recipe to make while you are doing other things. Put the eggs in the pot, boil and wait. It’s so simple. But the result is one of the most nutritious breakfasts the world has to offer – made convenient! P.s. Don’t forget, fat is good, so eat the yolks.
- 6-10 Cage-free eggs (depending on how many you’ll eat in a week)
- BIG pot of water
- Fill BIG pot with water
- Place eggs in pot
- Bring to boil, uncovered
- Once boiling, turn off burner, cover pot and let eggs sit in hot water for 20 minutes
- Once done, run eggs under cold water immediately
- Transfer to a bowl and voila! You have the perfect ready-to-go breakfast/snack/salad topper to grab during the week. I eat them post-workout with a side of roasted sweet potatoes, topped with Siracha.
Other common processed breakfast choices: cereal (yes, even the kinds that are filled with fiber, flax and fabulousness), instant oatmeal, breakfast bar, McDonalds breakfast
LUNCH : Forget the oh-so-convenient frozen cuisines and go for a veggie-packed salad
No Excuses Veggie Salad
Ever since I started to cut up all my vegetables at once, one night a week, it has made me eat so many more vegetables because suddenly they are so easy to grab and go. What a concept. There’s never an excuse not to bring in my lunch because all I have to do is throw a handful of pre-cut veggies on top of lettuce and I’m good to go. Every month, I try to get a vegetable that I haven’t tried yet so that I keep things exciting.
- Red Peppers
- Snap Peas
- Whatever veggies you like (try changing with the seasons)
- Cut up enough veggies to fill a large container
- Every night or morning, throw a handful of lettuce in your Snapware and top with pre-cut veggies
- Add fun toppings like hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, pecans, pine nuts and walnuts for added texture (and health benefits)
Tip: Always try to make leftovers for dinner so you can also easily add a protein like grilled chicken breast or salmon. If I have nothing available, canned tuna is my go-to.
Lovely Lemon Vinaigrette
The majority of store-bought salad dressings these days use oil that comes from genetically engineered canola or soy, high-fructose corn syrup, and chemicals that prevent you from absorbing the nutrients in your food 1 (isn’t the whole reason for eating salad to get nutrients from the vegetables?). Long story short, just make your own. It tastes better, it’s more satisfying and it’s so much better for you.
- 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice (sometimes I squeeze straight from the lemon, but I do have organic lemon juice as a back-up if I’m feeling lazy)
- ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
- ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp. your favorite herb seasoning
- pinch of salt, pinch of pepper (to taste)
- Mix all ingredients together with a fork, except the oil
- Add the oil slowly, whisk vigorously
- Shake it like a polaroid picture before you pour it on your salad
A word on salad dressings:
There is no limit to the types of flavors you can create for yourself. So be creative with them. All you need to know when it comes to homemade dressings is this.
- They are generally a combination of oil, acid and seasoning.
- Always mix the acid and seasonings first, then whisk in your oil.
- When creating, a good rule of thumb is: 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil.
Other common processed lunch choices: Fast food (Subway, Jimmy John’s McDonalds, etc), protein bar (because you don’t have time for lunch), sandwiches with pre-packaged deli meat
Real food lunch alternatives: Pre-cooked quinoa or faro, roasted veggies or sweet potatoes
SNACK: Make the change from crunchy carbs (often disguised as healthy), to homemade protein bars.
Unprocessed Protein Bar
This was my first foray into real food and now I am obsessed. Packaged bars got nothing on these guys. They’re soft, but still have a crunch. They’re not too sweet (unless you want them to be). And I always feel satisfied after I eat them, without even a twinge of a stomachache.
- 1 cup nuts + seeds of your choice (I like almonds, pecans, walnuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds)
- 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/4 cup unsalted crunchy almond butter
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/3 cup almond meal (buy pre-made or pulse in food processor)
- 1/3 cup coconut flour
- 1/3 ground flaxseed
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp of raw organic honey
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 cup dried goji berries
- 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut to sprinkle on top
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
- Toast the nuts & seeds and shredded coconut on a sauté pan until golden brown. Watch closely so they don’t burn and shake up the pan a few times throughout. You’ll know when they’re done by the toasty smell.
- Pour toasted nuts & seeds into a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground (the size of bread crumbs).
- In a mixing bowl, melt coconut oil and almond butter (about 30 seconds). Remove from microwave and stir until smooth.
- Add vanilla extract, honey and sea salt. Mix thoroughly.
- Fold in nut & seed mixture with almond meal, coconut flour and ground flax seed until mixed thoroughly.
- Add whole egg and mix thoroughly.
- Fold in goji berries.
- Press mixture into an 8 by 8 loaf pan
- Stick in the oven for 10 minutes.
- When done, pull out of oven and sprinkle a ¼ cup of toasted shredded coconut
- Let cool for 10-15 minutes. Cut into 12 pieces/bars.
- Store in an airtight container and grab them to go whenever you need them.
A note on protein bars: I have tweaked the above recipe so many times trying different combinations of flours and nuts & seeds. As long as I don’t stray too far from the measurements, it always turns out well. And each time I get a different flavor.
Other common processed snack choices: processed snack bars (Nature Valley, Nutri Grain, Fiber One, Kashi), crunchy snacks in bags (chips, pretzels, veggie sticks), lowfat yogurts
Real food alternatives: whole milk yogurt, fruit, Kefir, homemade dip, nuts (non-salted), Frobana Ice Cream, frozen berries