{Thrive} 5 Ways to Eat Less Processed Food + Meal Prep Tips

5 Ways to Eat Less Processed Food, Clean Eating, Whole Foods, Meal Prep, Meal PlanningIt’s unrealistic to completely avoid processed food. Remember, perfection doesn’t exist. With that being said we can definitely cut back on our processed food intake – this is another positive intention you can set for the New Year.  Whole foods tend to be more nutrient dense and nourishing than their processed counterparts. Plus, whole foods lack the added sugar, salt, additives, preservatives and more that tend to be lurking in processed foods. Are you ready to make the switch? Here are some tips to help your eat more whole foods and to decrease the number of processed foods in your shopping cart, pantry and on your plate.


  1. Be the minority. Recent studies show that nearly 60% of calories Americans consume are from highly processed foods and nearly 80% of calories are from ready-to-eat, ready-to-heat foods. Let’s switch the statistics. This can start by choosing products with a cleaner ingredient list. Ignore the front of the package and head straight for the ingredient list. Ask yourself these two questions to weed out the crap:
    1. Can I buy these ingredients in the grocery store? Would I?
    2. How would I make this myself?
  2. Decrease the Sweet. 80% of Americans consume more than the recommended intake for added sugar and it’s no surprise processed foods are the main culprit. Considering the large amounts of added sugars many of us consume we have to consciously choose to decrease the sweets. Sugar-sweetened beverages, including sports drinks, lemonade and even iced tea are huge culprits. Opt for water, naturally sweet smoothies and floral herbal teas. Buy plain whenever you can – oats, yogurt, nut butters (read the ingredient list), etc. You can always sweeten it yourself with 1 teaspoon of real maple syrup or honey. Reality check: most vanilla yogurts (even organic) contain up to 5 teaspoons of added sugar per serving! Imagine that! Gross. More on this to come but in the meantime, read the ingredient list: 4 grams equals 1 teaspoons of sugar. Do the math.
  3. Meal plan. Plan. This is an important component to any change. It’s also a great time to get acquainted with your kitchen. Whether you cook every meal or take a few short-cuts, your kitchen is going to become your friend as you eat more whole foods.If you plan a few simple meals and snacks for each week you won’t need to rely on those ready-to-heat/eat meals and processed snacks. Keep it simple, especially in the beginning. Try my Everyday Chicken Recipe and this really simple Raspberry Salmon Recipe. Cook a few grains so you have them on hand for a side dish or breakfast cereal. Whole fruits and cut up veggies make for great snacks. You can pair them with nuts, seeds, nut butters and hummus too.
  4. Start swapping. Set realistic intentions for eating more whole foods. Challenge yourself to remove a few processed foods from your grocery cart each week, or at least make healthy upgrades in your processed food choices. You could choose a nut butter that lists nuts as the sole ingredient instead of one with added sugars and hydrogenated fats. Maybe you swap your fruited yogurt for plain, or canned beans for dried. You could ditch your tortilla chips and stock up on vegetables for dipping. Once you get motivated you can even start making DIY versions of your favorite packaged products, such as salad dressings, bread, sauces and nut butters. You may find it’s easier than you think. Keep your focus on the foods you’re trying to include versus what you are taking away. This will naturally crowd out some of the junk in a positive way. 
  5. Re-think Lunch. This is one of my favorite recommendations as it’s simple yet profound. What is with all of our modern lunch foods? They may be convenient but they are super processed–hello lunch meat, hot pockets, lean cuisines, etc! Why not enjoy the same whole foods that tend to make their way to our dinner plate for lunch as well? Think about it, chicken, turkey, eggs or fish can be paired with a vegetable (fresh, frozen, roasted) and/or whole grains or beans for a satisfying lunch. It can be a hot meal, a cold-meal or even a bowl meal or salad preparation. Be sure to make double your dinner portions so you have leftovers for lunch.

Keep reading for some Whole Food Meal Ideas and Meal Prep Tips!

5-ways-to-eat-more-whole-foods, meal prep, meal planning, clean eating, real food

Whole Food Meal Ideas



Lunch/Dinner (mix and match)

  • Protein (chicken, fish, eggs, beef, tofu)
  • Vegetable (fresh, frozen, roasted, steamed, salad, etc)
  • Carbohydrate: fruit, sweet potato, potato, rice, quinoa, etc

Meal Prep Cheat Sheet

  • Pre-cook oatmeal for the week or choose a plain, instant variety that you can cook up quickly
  • Make a mixture of raw nuts and seeds ( pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, hemp seeds, almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc) and keep them in a jar in the fridge. This can be added to your breakfast cereal, packed as a snack, tossed into a salad or sprinkled onto vegetables
  • Make a large batch of grains (or two)  like rice and quinoa and even a bean to use throughout the week. Consider a rice cooker for your grains or a slow-cooker for your beans.
    • You can purchase frozen brown rice, quinoa, beans and other grain blends for use in a pinch
  • Cook hard boiled eggs at the beginning of the week.
  • Make a frittata. Here is a basic Everyday Frittata recipe
  • Make a batch of muffins like these Chocolate Chip Cashew Butter Oatmeal Muffins and freeze half for later use
  • Roast a batch of vegetables
  • Defrost a bag of frozen fruit (peaches, mango, berries, etc)
  • Defrost a bag of frozen vegetables
  • Pre-cut vegetables for snacks and salad
  • Pre-pack salads for the week
  • Roast chicken for lunches and dinner or make a batch of this chicken salad or tuna salad
  • Steam or roast shrimp for lunches, dinners and salads

What foods do you prep in advance each week?


18 thoughts on “{Thrive} 5 Ways to Eat Less Processed Food + Meal Prep Tips

    1. Hi Nancy, I think rotisserie chicken can be a great way to save time in the kitchen! Personally, I opt for a hormone free, antibiotic free (organic if possible) whole chicken. Roasting your own can be super simple too, and gives you the opportunity to play with your own flavors!

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