A no processed food diet, also called clean eating, or a whole foods diet, is a diet that focuses on consuming whole, unprocessed foods. This type of diet eliminates or greatly reduces ultra processed foods and foods that are high in unhealthy fats, sugar, and salt. There are many possible benefits to eating a no processed food diet. This type of diet might help you lose weight, lower your cholesterol levels, and improve your overall health. Eating a diet rich in whole foods may also help reduce your risk for developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. If you’re interested in trying a no processed food diet, there are a few things you should know before getting started. In this article, we’ll provide you with a no processed food diet menu, tips for following this type of diet, and everything else you need to know.
What Are Processed Foods?
Processed foods are foods that have been altered from their natural state. This can include adding or removing ingredients, as well as changing the physical form of the food.
Highly processed foods often contain unhealthy added ingredients such as added sugar, salt, and fat. They may also be high in calories and low in nutrients.
Examples of highly processed foods include:
- White bread
- Canned soups and vegetables
- Frozen dinners
- Ice cream
- Processed meats, such as bacon and sausage
- Processed cheese
Differentiating processed foods from whole foods can be tricky. In general, whole foods are those that have been minimally processed and are free of added ingredients. For example, an apple is a whole food, while applesauce is a processed food.
Another example is white rice. White rice has been milled and had the bran and germ removed. This processing makes it less nutritious than brown rice, which is a whole grain.
While some processed foods can be part of a healthy diet, it’s important to limit your intake of highly or ultra processed foods for several reasons.
Why Are Processed Foods Bad For You?
There are a few reasons why you should limit your intake of ultra processed foods.
Significant processing often means that unhealthy ingredients are added to foods. These ingredients can include sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, and preservatives. Consuming too many of these ingredients over time may lead to weight gain, heart disease, and other chronic health conditions (5).
Lack Of Nutrients
High levels of processing often removes important nutrients from foods. For example, milling grains removes the bran and germ, which contain most of the fiber, vitamins, and minerals. As a result, processed grains are often less nutritious than their whole grain counterparts.
One of the biggest problems with ultra processed foods is that they’re often very convenient. This is nice, but can make it easy to overeat or consume more calories than you need.
Preservatives And Additives
Processed foods often contain preservatives and additives, some of which might be harmful to your health (2). While they are all considered safe to consume by the FDA, some people question their long-term impacts on various aspects of health.
Some of the additives found in processed foods which are thought to possibly have negative long-term health effects include (2):
- Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) – used as a preservative in cereals, snacks, and baked goods
- Nitrates and nitrites – used as preservatives in processed meats
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG) – used as a flavor enhancer in many processed foods
- Artificial food coloring – used to add color to processed foods
- Sulfites – used as a preservative in dried fruits, wine, and processed foods
- Aspartame – used as an artificial sweetener in diet sodas and other processed foods
- Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) – used as a preservative in cereals and other processed foods
- Propyl gallate – used as a preservative in processed meats
- Tert-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) – used as a preservative in cereals and other processed foods
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Processed Foods And Weight Gain
There’s a lot of evidence which suggests that processed foods can contribute to weight gain. Some research suggests that people who mostly eat ultra-processed foods are more likely to be overweight or obese than those who eat the least of these foods (5).
One particular study found that a diet high in ultra processed foods was associated with a higher body mass index (BMI) as well as weight gain and increases in waist circumference (7).
Knowing this, if you’re trying to lose weight or prevent weight gain, it’s best to limit your intake of ultra processed foods.
Processed Foods And Chronic Disease
There’s also evidence to suggest that ultra processed foods can contribute to chronic disease (5).
One study found that a diet high in ultra processed foods was linked to a higher risk of heart disease.
Another study found that diets high in ultra processed foods were associated with a higher risk of cancer (1).
What this means is, if you’re trying to reduce your risk of chronic disease, it’s best to limit your intake of ultra processed foods.
What Can You Eat On A No Processed Food Diet?
Whole, unprocessed foods are the foundation of a healthy diet. These foods include:
A grain has three parts: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm.
The bran is the outer layer of the grain, and it’s rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The germ is the inner layer of the grain, and it’s a good source of vitamin E, antioxidants, and B vitamins. The endosperm is the middle layer of the grain, and it’s mostly composed of carbohydrates.
Refining strips away the bran and the germ, leaving only the endosperm. This makes the grain less nutritious.
Examples of whole grains include:
- Wheat berries
- Brown rice
Read More: Ovo-Vegetarian Meal Plan And Diet Guide
Vegetables are an essential part of a healthy diet. They’re packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They’re also low in calories and fat.
Examples of such vegetables include:
- Leafy greens
- Sweet potatoes
Fruits are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They’re also a good source of fiber.
Examples of such fruits include:
Nuts And Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a good source of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They’re also a good source of healthy fats.
Examples of such nuts and seeds include:
- Brazil nuts
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
Healthy fats are an essential part of a healthy diet. They’re a good source of energy, and they help your body absorb vitamins. Healthy fats also play a role in brain function, heart health, and immunity (3).
Examples of these healthy fats include:
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil
- Coconut oil
- Flaxseed oil
- Sesame oil
- Walnut oil
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Fish And Seafood
Fish and seafood are excellent sources of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins. They’re also low in mercury.
Examples of such fish and seafood include:
Lean Meat And Poultry
Lean meat and poultry are excellent sources of protein. They’re also a good source of iron, zinc, and B vitamins.
Some examples of lean meat and poultry:
No Processed Food Diet Menu
Planning a successful no processed food diet menu can be daunting. But with a little effort, it’s definitely doable.
Here are some meal ideas for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner
No Processed Food Diet Breakfast Ideas
Breakfast is often the first meal of the day and should be rich in energy-boosting nutrients.
Some no processed food diet breakfast ideas include:
- Omelet with vegetables
- Whole grain toast with avocado
- Bowl of oats with fruit and nuts
- Smoothie made with fresh fruit, yogurt, and almond milk
No Processed Food Diet Lunch Ideas
Lunch should provide you with sustained energy throughout the afternoon.
Some no processed food diet lunch ideas include:
- Salad with chicken or fish and olive oil based dressing
- Soup made with fresh vegetables and lean meat
- Whole grain sandwich with avocado, tomato, and cucumber
No Processed Food Diet Snack Ideas
Snacks are an important part of a healthy diet. They help you stay energized and focused throughout the day.
Some no processed food diet snack ideas include:
- Homemade fruit and nut bars
- Vegetables and hummus
- Homemade yogurt with fresh fruit
No Processed Food Diet Dinner Ideas
Dinner should be a satisfying meal that provides you with sustained energy throughout the night.
Some no processed food diet dinner ideas include:
- Fish or chicken with quinoa and vegetables
- Vegetable soup with whole grain bread
- Salad with grilled shrimp
What Are Some Good Unprocessed Beverages?
Staying hydrated is essential for good health. But what are some good unprocessed beverages?
Some good unprocessed beverage options include:
- Unflavored tea
- Plain, unflavored milk
- Homemade vegetable smoothies
- Homemade fruit juice
Tips For Success On A No Processed Food Diet
If you’re interested in following a no processed food diet, there are a few things you should know.
One of the best ways to transition to a no processed food diet is to start slowly. If you try to eliminate all processed foods at once, you may find it difficult to stick to the diet.
Instead, start by eliminating the most highly processed foods from your diet, such as those high in sugar or salt. You can then gradually eliminate other processed foods over time.
Plan Your Meals
Another important thing to do when following a no processed food diet is to plan your meals. This will help you make sure that you’re getting all the nutrients you need. This will also help you avoid processed foods when you’re feeling hungry.
Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Nutrients
When following a no processed food diet, it’s important to make sure that you’re getting enough nutrients. This means eating a variety of whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats.
If you’re having trouble getting enough nutrients, you may want to consider taking supplements. This is especially important if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about supplements if you think you may need them.
Avoid Processed Foods When Eating Out
One of the best ways to avoid processed foods is to eat out less often. When you do eat out, make sure to choose restaurants that serve whole, unprocessed foods.
You can also look for restaurants that have a “no processed food” policy. These restaurants typically use only fresh, unprocessed ingredients in their dishes. Or you can choose menu items at any restaurant with ingredients you know are not highly processed, for example, grilled fish with a baked potato and salad.
When shopping for food, it’s important to read the labels. This will help you make sure that you’re buying products that are made with whole, unprocessed ingredients.
Look out for these words:
- 100% whole grain
- Free of added sugar
- Made with healthy fats, such as olive oil
Processed foods are those that have been altered from their natural state. This can include adding unhealthy ingredients, removing nutrients, or changing the texture or flavor.
Eating a diet high in ultra processed foods has been linked to weight gain, heart disease, and other chronic health conditions.
If you’re interested in following a no processed food diet, use the tips above to get started. This type of diet may help you lose weight, improve your health, and feel better overall.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Consumption of ultra-processed foods and cancer risk: results from NutriNet-Sante prospective cohort (2018, nih.gov)
- How Processed Foods Wreak Havoc on Your Health (2016, organicconsumers.org)
- Impact of Dietary Fats on Brain Functions (2018, nih.gov)
- New evidence links ultra-processed foods with a range of health risks (2019, bmj.com)
- The Effects of Ultra-Processed Food Consumption–Is There Any Action Needed? (2020, nih.gov)
- The Many Health Risks of Processed Foods (2019, lhsfna.org)
- Ultra-processed foods, incident overweight and obesity, and longitudinal changes in weight and waist circumference: the Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health (ELSA-Brasil) (2020, nih.gov)