Yeah...Chips Are Delicious But You're Still Hungry!
If you’re a child of the 80s like me you grew up with the world’s most delicious array of processed food offerings. From hamburger helper to fruit gushers, our nation was enamored with easy, delicious offerings that were marketed to us with million dollar advertising campaigns.
Fast forward 20-30 years and what do we all have? Autoimmune disease, obesity, mental health struggles and chronic fatigue. In addition, we have generations of people who don’t know how to cook. This might be you. But hey, it’s ok. We are all beginners and life is a journey of learning.
What we know is that ultra processed foods are designed to be hyper palatable. Most of these foods are stripped of the natural plant based fibers and nutrients that normally signal to your brain that “Hey, I am full” and “Hey, I can regulate my immune system and my digestion”. In addition, in the US we see countless additives, preservatives, pesticides, and other chemicals in processed foods that are essentially adding to your allostatic toxic load. I don’t want to be a fear mongerer by any means but let’s face it, our food system is filled with foods that are designed to be marketed and sold in the name of making a few people very rich. The result is a less healthy YOU in many shapes and forms.
The bacteria in our gut actually digests and absorbs more calories from ultra processed foods, not shocking because A) these foods are designed to trick your mind into eating more and 2) the fiber and nutrients that would slow the absorption and provide our bodies with the signals of satiety that help us feed until we are comfortably and naturally full. This lack of vital nutrients can lead to malnutrition or other health issues as your body is depleted of the fuel it needs to function. Your microbiome needs plant based fiber to function appropriately and to feed the healthy bugs that keep your immune system regulated and your metabolism functioning well.
So let’s back up a tiny bit and say that sometimes we NEED food to be slightly processed. For example, tapioca is literally toxic until it’s processed the correct way to eliminate cyanide and to be used as tapioca flour. So there are just things that are ok to be processed. Nut milks can be made at home but you can also purchase unsweetened nut milks that are free of carrageenan or other gums (just read the labels cause it’s a bit tricky with this one).
As a Precision Nutrition certified nutrition coach, my focus for general health is to incorporate more WHOLE FOODS. I know, you are short on time, you are exhausted, and you may have mouths to feed in your home. This isn’t a transition that needs to happen overnight. It has taken me 8 years of living with an autoimmune disease to make a transition from eating processed protein bars, pre-made marinated vegetable frozen mixes and store bought bread and cereal to where I am today. None of these are terrible to eat individually but, if your diet is largely comprised of these foods you may want to consider a switch with BABY steps.
Consider this. If I asked you to eat an entire bag of potato chips, you could easily do that in one sitting. Now, if I asked you to eat 10-12 whole baked potatoes, you would laugh at me before even trying. So there’s one simple swap you can make without entirely uprooting your nutrition plan. Try to find easy QUICK WINS to help you make a change no faster than 1-2 weeks at a time.
Let’s try a 5 Minute Action:
Walk into your kitchen and open the refrigerator or pantry door. Choose 2-3 foods in your pantry and identify how those foods were processed, where they came from, how they are grown? Now, can you identify a form of that food that might be less processed but still accessible to you to eat?
Chips are easy wins here. Let’s eat an ear of corn rather than 12 tortilla chips (Or really 30 if we’re being honest here. What psychopath only eats 12?!). Or maybe make some baked potatoes or homemade fries in the air fryer instead of cashing out that bag of Lay’s? Just pick one thing at a time and make it a habit for a few weeks before you tackle anything else.
Most importantly, give yourself grace. It’s completely fine to eat the damn cookie or scarf some chips every once in awhile. Life is about moderation!
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