Independence From A Processed Food Diet

Freedom from processed foods

Tomorrow is independence day in the United States. A day where we celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in which our forefather’s declared a fledging country’s independence from Great Britain.

Although it may seem silly, I think it is important for you to think about your independence from unhealthy, processed foods both when you are losing weight and when you are in the weight maintenance stage of your diet.


Because a diet that relies mainly on processed foods is often a diet that does not give you the best nutrition for your body. Take potatoes versus potato chips, for a simple example.

Here’s a food label from a 1 ounce bag of potato chips:

Potato chip nutrition label

Here’s a label for a whole potato:

Potato nutrition label

Do you see the difference in a bag of potato chips versus a potato? Better fiber, more protein, less sodium, less unhealthy fats, etc. You can do this kind of comparison with a variety of foods from sugar sweetened cereals to Hamburger Helper. An all-natural chicken breast has superior nutrition to a tin of canned chicken. A serving of Greek yogurt is better for you than cereal with “Greek Yogurt” in the title.

I could go on and on, but you get the point.

If you are trying to increase the amount of natural foods you eat and decrease your dependence on processed foods, I’ve put together five tips that may help you get started. Remember that you can do these steps incrementally because it can be overwhelming to make huge, sweeping changes all at one time.

1. Take a look at your pantry right now.

Here’s a shot of my pantry taken yesterday morning. You cannot see the large bins on the floor that hold wheat berries, organic popcorn, brown rice, oats, and 7-grain mix. There are also some cereal boxes, pasta, beans, baskets that have raisins, nuts, and other snacks, coconut oil, baking supplies, etc.on the shelves in the picture. On the other side of the pantry I have potatoes, onions, canned foods, and my kitchen appliances.

Healthy pantry

2. Decide which foods you currently eat fit within your goals and which do not.

This is highly individual and as I’ve talked about before in my post about why I accept a variety of diet plans, needs to fit with your lifestyle and dietary needs. Some people would say I should not buy any boxed cereals, but that fits in with my diet plan. We do not eat beef or pork but you might, and that’s fine. Only you can decide which foods you currently eat should stay part of your diet and which foods should go bye-bye.

For us, Cheese Nips and those types of snack crackers, Oreos and store bought cookies, any kind of boxed meals, sweetened cereals, white rice and white pasta, seasoned canned vegetables (like Glory Food vegetables), store bought loaf bread, and a bunch of other foods gradually got eliminated from our diet. We still eat chips and pretzels on occasion, I make cookies every once and a while, we used canned and frozen fruits and vegetables when we need to, but only eat at restaurants once or twice a year.

3. Make use of cookbooks, online recipe sites, and friends to develop new meal plans.

There are tons of healthy recipe websites out there. Find ones you like and try some of the recipes there. I use Evernote to store the recipes I find online and use tags to organize them. It is awesome and if anyone is interested, I can do a post about it another time.

4. Plan your meals in advance, shop from a list, and cook your own food.

Part of limiting processed food is planning what meals you will have, shopping with a list, and cooking the meals yourself. It will be very hard for you to reduce your dependence on processed foods if you do not cook. You do not have to be a chef to put a piece of chicken on your grill, roast some sweet potatoes or other vegetable, and put together a green salad. That’s easy and quick. That being said though – knowing how to cook is a huge benefit and I’d recommend you learn the basics if you do not feel comfortable in the kitchen.

5. Continually check in with yourself and tweak things if needed.

It has taken me a long time to change my diet to what it is today and I’m certainly not perfect. (Whatever perfect is. . .) I encourage you to review your food choices regularly and see if you need or want to make changes. What is acceptable to you this month may be different next month.

While just eating unprocessed foods won’t automatically help you lose weight, it can help provided you keep your calorie intake at the level you personally need to lose weight.

How far have you come in becoming more independent from processed foods? Were there some that were harder to let go of than others? Diane 

28 thoughts on “Independence From A Processed Food Diet

  1. Sharon says:

    Love the concept and very creative title of this post! Would love to see a post on your use of Evernote. That very thing is still a great challenge to me. I have recipes bookmarked everyone on my laptop, but it is total chaos. Can’t ever find a recipe I made that we liked or one I remember seeing, but didn’t properly save. So I generally give up.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Such great advice! I was surprised to realize that I had unconsciously eliminated fast food as well as pop (soda) from my diet last year. As I became more active, I seemed to just naturally gravitate away from those things!

  3. Marc says:

    “How far have you come in becoming more independent from processed foods? Were there some that were harder to let go of than others? Diane ”

    It took time and a BIG learning curve, but I’ve done a 180 degree turn in my eating. Where processed foods once were 95 percent of my weekly diet, they now are less than 1 to 2 percent on any given week. My immune system is stronger, my thinking is clearer, my energy levels seem near constant all throughout the day. I had no idea when I started that I would feel this good and would have been very skeptical if someone would have told me so.

  4. Jody - Fit at 55 says:

    Yahoo – the tweet & pin buttons are back! 🙂

    Greta post Diane! I am so glad I learned to move away from processed – such a healthier life!

    Have a wonderful holiday!!!

  5. Margaret Duncan says:

    So agree. We shop the outside rim of the grocery store. We venture in for occasional condiments, coffee and tea. There are a few processed foods that still get into our diet, but I can’t imagine eating most of what is in the grocery store.

  6. Linda says:

    I love this post Diane! I like the way you listed the five ways to reduce and elminate (in many cases) processed foods. For me, I did it in stages as you mention so it was not so scary. It is amazing how much better you feel by even going through one or two steps, let alone all five.

    Happy Independence Day to you and your family! 🙂

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I think doing it in stages is really important. I have known people who because of medical reasons, had to make drastic shifts in their diet. They did it, but it was probably harder than if they had been able to make a gradual change.

  7. Dr. J says:

    Very nice, well presented information!

    As you wrote in a prior post, I am very particular with the processed foods I have.

  8. Andrea@WellnessNotes says:

    We have been eating healthy foods and very little processed foods for quite some time, but in the last year or so, I have tweaked things quite a bit more. My husband often comments how completely differently he ate before he met me, and how he could never go back to the food he used to eat… Yet, at that time, I’m sure he could have never imagined eating the way he eats now…

  9. HappinessSavouredHot says:

    We cannot be saints when it comes to food, but we can make smarter choices. On Canada Day I was in Quebec and HAD to have a poutine… but I took the kiddie size, and that’s all I had.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    I too have never heard of Evernote. I’m interested to learn more about it. I made the switch to brown rice and mostly whole wheat pasta or no yolk noodles for meals. The brown rice was an easy switch but my family wasn’t as crazy about the pasta switch. I agree that processed foods need to be very limited when losing weight and/or maintaining.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I’ll write up a post about Evernote soon. It is a really great tool!

      At first, I mixed whole wheat pasta with regular pasta. Every time I made it I would add a little more whole wheat and a little less “regular” pasta. It made the transition easier on everyone, except my 8 year old, who doesn’t like change at all. 🙂

  11. Fran@BCDC says:

    Great post, Diane! People also do realize that a potato with perhaps some added veggies or beans, would be so much more satisfying that that bag of chips. I gave up chips for Lent two years ago and I’ve never gone back. I think about it, but it was actually one of the things that really got me back on track with maintaining my weight. It was hard at first, but when I saw the success I started to have on the scale, I knew it was a good decision. Happy Independence Day!

  12. Tracy says:

    Hi Diane,
    Another great post. I made quite a sudden plunge into weight loss and immediately cut out many many processed foods because of my diabetes. “Real” foods and carbs help to keep my glucose readings normal. I also did a lot of reading over the winter and I found some book that shed light on the food industry – has anyone read Salt, Sugar, Fat, by Michael Moss, yet? Very eye opening.

    I do still eat a few processed foods because they give me a sugar free treat (protein bars made by Atkins Nutritionals, and Russell Stover sugar free candies). But for the most part, I think eating non processed foods has been the key to my weight loss – not eating all those processed carbs helps to prevent my cravings and overeating, for me.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Thanks Tracy.

      I’ve never heard of that book but it sounds like one I would like to read! Thanks for sharing your experience with cutting back on processed foods – it really can make a difference.

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