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Tips for Eating Less Processed Foods?

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Hi! I am 18 years old and am trying to eat less processed foods. I have been trying to eat healthy but noticed perhaps eating things like cereals, bars, etc, are not truly that healthy? I am not sure. I thought it'd be better to eat more things with less ingredients.

I have put a list together of some things I thought to buy. Any suggestions?

Sweet potatoes (never had them before)
Ezekiel 4:9 Bread
Lara bars

I have a very limited budget. I just want to eat healthy & cheap, with not tons of cooking (lack skill & time)

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Great decision on eating less processed foods! (: You can still buy cereal (some organic ones are minimally-processed, I like Nature's Path a lot - not much sugar, just whole grains!). 

I tend to stay away from processed foods too much, and usually my shopping list looks something like:

Whole grain cereal (or you could get oats and simmer them)


Greek yogurt

Chicken breasts

Olive, sunflower oil
Nuts and seeds

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Thanks for the list! I have tried Greek Yogurt many times, but find the tart taste to be displeasing. :(

Is Soy milk better than regular? I like the chocolate soy milk - but if normal milk is just as good, then I won't buy it.

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Eating less processed foods is such a great change to make.  I did it about 3 months ago and I thought I would get bored because I did not know what the heck to eat.  Do some searching on line and if you have something like a trader joe's store near you then talk with the manager there.  They are so helpful and they love to share their knowledge.  Ask questions of everyone you can. 

I really love fresh fruit and raw nuts.  They are not very expensive and they travel well.  I can take them with me everywhere I go so I am not tempted to snack on things while out and about.

Do some research on grains.. there are so many good ones out there! Here is a breakfast I love to eat.   1/2 cup Quinoa (cooked),  1 tbsp honey, 1 serving raw almonds, fresh raspberries, blackberries, blueberries ( if you dont have fresh berries try adding 1 - 2 tsp of your favorite preserves)


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Soy milk is good but it raises estrogen leves so don't go overboard.  Rice milk is delicious in all flavors.  Regular organic cows milk is good too.  If you dont have a problem with lactose then a low fat organic cows milk is just fine.  Soy and Rice milk are high in sugar as well so you really can stick with the cows milk and it is cheaper too.

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I have a TJ's an easy drive of 15 minutes away. :) I might go there. I heard they have some delicious almond butter!

I think I will stick with the cow's milk then, since my family buys that already... one less thing for me to spend my own $$ on! ;)

Quinoa, interesting! I have never had it. The only thing I have been experimenting with is old fashioned rolled oats... which I find really gross when prepared with boiling water, so I just soak them overnight in milk.

This is a really wonderful initiative! I think that it can be hard to start moving away from processed foods, simply because western culture is so dependent on it... but once you really get into it, you'll never want to eat processed food again! I have a rule that if I don't know the origin of more than three ingredients in a food, I won't eat it.

I would recommend volunteering to cook supper for your family once or twice a week (since you're 18, I assume you're still living with your parents?) They should be forgiving with any experimenting you want to try and it will force you to get more involved with your food. I think soups are a really easy way to start.

Check in with any local (diversified) farms you might be close to- most farmers have an excess of produce they would love to give you for an hour or two of weeding. It saves money for you and it's a great educational experience. 


Get yourself a good cookbook and learn to make simple things.  Before buying, go to the library and check out a few to see which one you like best.

Compared with the price of packaged snack foods, fresh fruit is a bargain.  A bag of apples costs the same as a bag of potato chips.

Instead of expensive, overly processed dry cereal, eat freshly cooked oatmeal.  It only takes 5 minutes in the microwave.  I'm not talking about those processed, artificial little instant packets.

Eat more vegetables, either fresh or frozen.  If you buy in season and look for sales, the price will be reasonable.  In frozen foods, stay away from the ones packed in sauce.  You can get single serving microwave steamer bags, but remember, you are paying extra for that packaging.

Add some fresh fish to your diet.  It's easy to put a salmon portion in foil with a lemon slice and seasoning and bake it for 15 minutes (350 F)

In the supermarket, shop the perimeter of the store.  That's where you'll find all the fresh foods - produce, meat, fish, dairy, etc.  Only go into the aisle for specific items.  Remember that you're paying for all that excess packaging.  The more packaging the less food for the price. 


To make greek yogurt less tart mix in a little bit of agave nectar, it's a natural sweetner. it tastes a lot like honey, but is less thick and sticky so it's a lot easier to cook with and mix into things. For breakfast I have 8 oz 0% greek yogurt, 10g agave nectar, 120g of Bear Naked granola, 10g of raisins and 10g of Craisins (still looking for some no-sugar-added dried cranberries! Until then, craisins it is...) it's freakin delicious. Also is good with half the yogurt, over 1/2 cup quinoa  :] Quinoa is REALLY good, you can make a batch and keep it in the fridge during the week, it stays good. I like to warm it up and have the cold yogurt over it... the different temperatures and textures are really neat :]

For lunch I have  a spinach salad with kidney beans and tuna with some pineapple and salsa instead of salad dressing. Way lower calories, and less processed (you can probably get some really good fresh stuff in the refrigerated section :] )

For dinner I have a frozen fish fillet with a bunch of frozen peas and corn and carrots. Yummmmmy! I've also been getting frozen cooked shrimp, it's so low cal and they thaw/reheat really fast. Good for stir fry's or shishkabobs.

Great idea!

I have been eating unprocessed foods for the last few years and I feel so healthy and full of energy. I never miss "packet food" and I can't imagine living on chips, soda, bars, microwave meals etc. I can bet if you keep this up you'll have a lot more energy, less problems with mood swings, energy slumps, bloating (from sodium), and better skin and hair.

Suggestions: I've never seen a Lara bar but I imagine they might be processed? Google muesli bar or granola bar recipes and learn to make something healthier and cheaper yourself.

Search the internet for recipes. There are millions of recipe sites out there. My favourite is: . Most of these are quick and cheap, you don't need to be a chef or a millionaire to make them.

If you hate oatmeal cooked in water, have you tried bircher muesli? It's oatmeal soaked in apple juice, grated apple and milk/yoghurt overnight. Delicious and so good for you. When I make it I also like to add fruit (berries, chopped dried apricots, raisins also left to soak overnight, plums) and some sunflower seeds or chopped nuts.

Legumes - beans, lentils, chickpeas etc, are cheap as chips and versatile ingredients for tasty meals. Buy canned and rinse off the brine or buy dried and soak them overnight.

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I will look into agave nectar... sounds yum :) Thanks for the tip! The spinach salad sounds yum. I have never had it, and have none of those ingredients haha! & I will look into quinoa. I looked it up on google,... it looks really funny

Thank you for the tips clairelaine! I will keep them in mind while grocery shopping!

ourladymistletoe, I do have a big family, so perhaps I can try to cook dinner one night. I will try to find a good recipe for it! heh

Meryl, larabars actually only have a few ingredients - the one I ate yesterday had just peanuts, dates, salt. Yum! Thank you for the recipe site... it will come in handy! And I will definitely look into bircher muesli.. it sounds more appetizing. I am not a fan of legumes I think... (I  tried hummus, not really a fan) D:

Original Post by gabbyxox:

Meryl, larabars actually only have a few ingredients -

 Which are highly processed.

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Original Post by floggingsully:

Original Post by gabbyxox:

Meryl, larabars actually only have a few ingredients -

 Which are highly processed.

Aw! They say "unprocessed" on them so I thought they weren't. Oh well, still a good healthy snack. :]

Original Post by gabbyxox:

Aw! They say "unprocessed" on them so I thought they weren't. Oh well, still a good healthy snack. :]

Unless there is a larabar tree someplace that I'm not aware of, they're processed. 

I read one of the replies that mentioned spinach salad and I just wanted to add to that.  I'm a former "ranch dressing girl" (that's all that I would ever have on my salads, but it has a LOT of calories, etc.) and I was trying to find ways to have a great salad without the TONS of calories.  A few months ago, I got brave and discovered Litehouse Pomegranate Blueberry Vinaigrette which only has 25 calories per 2 tablespoons and it is wonderful! They have a couple other flavors too that are really good.  Our local grocerie stores like Alberston's, Rosauers, etc. sell it.  The other plus besides those two types of berries being really good for you is that they don't have preservatives or msg and they are fat free.  It also makes a good marinade for chicken and/or pork!

Anyway, I use that now instead of ranch and instead of having croutons, I have been having some sliced almonds along with some albacore tuna and a little bit of shredded cheese.  It turns out to be a wonderful spinach salad!Smile

Actually, eating a larabar is about the same as eating a handful of nuts, dates and dried cherries/cranberries/lime/coconut/apple. Really. I'm not one to get into the debate over what does and does not constitute clean eating, but in my opinion laras definitely fit the description. Also, for pure convenience's sake, they are far better than other options in the protein powerbar aisle. I say, eat as many as you like--the only better option would be to make your own.

to make oats more palatable, add some fresh fruit, pears add alot of sugar, yummy, or apple, banana, whatever is in season. a smidge of real vanilla flavoring or some cinimon can also help. i add a little wheat germ for some added sweetness as well some days. 

its melon season in these parts! a cantaloupe is 99 cents at 50 calories a cup! watermelon is about 45 calories a cup, also on sale and in season. great snacks and travel well in tuperware if you cut them up for snacks away from home. 


ive been doing a tomato cuke salad. thats the basic, then add what you want. right now im into radish and green onion. other options include kalamata olives (maybe not so un processed!) cheeses, or sometimes i cube up chicken breast. season with black pepper, balsamic vinegar, and a bit of olive oil. makes a good serving of veggies and again, much cheeper when in season! 

i love the ezekiel breads! and tj's nut butters! 

add a smidge of honey, toasted wheat germ, or fresh fruit to your yogurt. it took me about two weeks to get used to the kind without sugar, now there is no going back! 

Gabby, you and I are VERY similar!

I've always been a healthy eater, but made a personal decision to cut back on processed foods. When I say processed, I mean made with ingredients that I don't understand. Larabars, in my book, are not a processed food. Sure, they go through a process of being formed into bar shape, but the ingredients are whole and natural.

I'm in college like you, which makes it harder since the food in the dining hall doesn't have ingredient lists. I stay away from the (nasty looking) cheesy hot plates, most of the cereals, and the burger/dog line. I'm a vegetarian, true, but even most veggie burgers contain a lot of foreign additives and ingredients.

I hit up the salad bar twice a day, every day. It's sort of a security thing (hello, old ED habits!) but I certainly don't skimp on nutrition or calories anymore. I use all the raw and cooked vegetables I can find in the dining hall, and add in beans and hummus (too bad you don't like it. My fave!) Instead of salad dressings, I made a dressing with hummus and balsamic vinegar, or oil and vinegar, or salsa.

I don't eat the canned fruits. I don't eat the provided granola. I'm trying to kick my diet soda habit, and am doing well so far.

I eat the plain yogurt and the oatmeal. If you're able to cook oatmeal for yourself, try cooking it with milk instead of water. It's way less gummy, really creamy and yummy. Top with raisins, peanut butter, cinnamon, bananas, coconot...

My last bad habit is the froyo. I get it at practically every meal :P My next goal is to cut back on sugar, so this will be the toughie. My favorite is when they have the plain because it tastes great and doesn't have sugar, but I know it must have processed ingredients. It's hard to be a college student and eat well 100% of the time, so don't stress. You've got good goals!

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Haha wow, basically my problems too! I like your ideas.. I actually think I'll try hummus again. My tastes change frequently! Also, I love the plain yogurt and things like that too and try to avoid a lot of the dining hall food (most of the entrees are made from white bread :( )

That's so funny, because fro-yo is my thing too. I gave it up for lent, but now have had it every day since I was allowed, haha. I just need to find a different dessert, I love having something sweet after eating <3

I will definitely try oatmeal with milk & toppings.

It's nice to find someone similar to me...I don't know anyone here that is!

hey, sorry im just popping in quickly to pitch in, i havent read all the replies, but i do want to say this, im 19, going to college, poor as crap and i eat very healthy, mostly organic, whole grains yadda yadda. 

technically all prepared food is processed, even larabars and fresh salsa (as my bf always points out when i say i dont eat processed food haha)

anyway, my point is, you cant really have it all, you cant buy cheap unprocessed healthy food thats already prepared. if you want the cheapness you are gonna HAVE to cook. cooking isn't hard, i couldnt cook worth **** a year ago now everyone wants my vegan chili and say its the best they've ever had. sure its just one thing but im proof that someone with no cooking skills who is determined to be totallly healthy can find the time to learn to cook. it doesnt mean spending hours in the kitchen, plus its really fun. GL

I cut out most "processed foods" at the beginning of the year and am down 47 lbs!

I made my own rules, but generally tried to stay away from anything that comes out of a box, has preservatives, ingredients I can't pronounce, or chemicals in it.  

If it was made by a machine, it probably isn't something that should go into my body.  I try to stay away from the inner aisles of the supermarket and stick to the veggies/fruits, meat and dairy aisles if I have to go in there.  I'm lucky to live in a city with great markets and try to buy everything freshly made.  If it's something that I can make myself versus buying in the store, I try to do that, e.g. hummus, pesto, canned fruits.  

Of course, it's almost impossible to stick to this diet, and I go out to eat a few times a week, so I just try to practice this in my own home and not think to much about it when someone else is preparing my meal.  

You'll be able to tell what's processed after a while - now, when I try to eat foods like lean cuisines or chips I get terrible stomach pains - probably just proof that I shouldn't be eating them.  

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