Processed food is everywhere—it’s invading your pantry, your favorite restaurant and even seemingly healthy snacks.
While the FDA requires manufacturers to make it easy for you to recognize chemical preservatives on labels, it can be hard to stay vigilant if you’re in a time crunch or working with a tight budget. The truth is, processed food could be stalling your New Year’s goals—or even worse, making you sick.
If you’re stuck wondering how to change this part of your lifestyle and need some inspiration, try some—or all—of these ideas for nixing toxic preservatives in your diet.
Think Local1 of 7
Not the farmer's market type? Many grocers now boast a small section of locally sourced items, such as honey and other farm-fresh goods. Pay attention to where the company is located—if it's within your state, you can reap the benefits of fresh food with minimal preservatives, all the while helping out your local economy at the same time.
Bonus: Local honey is said to naturally help induce tolerance to allergens in your area.
Analyze Your Food Labels2 of 7
Once you begin regularly reading food labels, you'd be surprised at what's been added to foods you've always loved. Certain chemicals, dyes and sugars are added to make the food suitable for mass production and to bring cost down. A solid tip to live by is if you can't pronounce it, don't eat it.
Pay special attention to antioxidants that prevent food from spoiling, such as Vitamin C or E (usually ascorbic acid and alpha-tocopherol on the label), and antimicrobials, such as sulfite, nitrate and sorbate, that prevent bacterial and fungal growth.
Cook at Home3 of 7
It's easier to know what's in your food when you cook for yourself. Restaurants use all sorts of hidden spices and additives that aren't shown on the menu. Still dining out? Be sure to ask for a list of ingredients or an extended menu. Most restaurants worth your business will try to accommodate even the most vigilant clean-eater.
Watch Out for Sugar4 of 7
Corn syrup is almost everywhere. It gained popularity in the 1960s as an inexpensive way to sweeten food products, and is now prominent in cereals, soft drinks, condiments, even medicines—but its effects on your health are less than desirable. Avoid unnatural sweeteners as much as possible—instead opt for honey, natural maple syrup or natural agave.
Join a Farm Co-Op5 of 7
Joining a local co-op in your area can be a great way to get fresh, in-season fruits and veggies directly from the farm. They're also an affordable way to try out new foods while cutting out the middle man (aka the grocery store).
Drive Past the Drive-Thru6 of 7
You must know this by now, but it bears repeating: Just about all fast food is packed full of processed ingredients. Try steering clear as much as possible (read: always). Instead of giving into the convenience of fast food, make a conscious effort to pack simple snacks you can bring on the go to stifle your cravings and keep you going until your next—hopefully, healthy—meal.