Mountaintop Medicine: Nutrition Notes — How to Eat Less Junk

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Hello again and happy holidays! This week on Nutrition Notes, I want to discuss junk food, or processed and fast foods, and their detrimental effect on our health. Processed foods are any food products that have undergone vigorous mechanical or chemical processes to alter their original form. They are typically packaged and have added preservatives, artificial flavors, and other additives to enhance their taste, smell, texture, and shelf life. Examples of these foods include canned soups, frozen meals, packaged snacks, and deli meats. Processed junk foods can include candy, chips, soda, fried foods, fast food burgers and fries, and sugary cereals and desserts. Although these foods are delicious, they lack the essential nutrients our bodies need to thrive.

Leah Gardner, EPH Registered Dietitian

Eating less processed foods can have several benefits for your health. Processed foods are often high in added sugars, unhealthy fats, and sodium- which can contribute to weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and other chronic diseases. Additionally, processed foods are typically low in fiber, vitamins, minerals that our bodies need to function properly. They can also be addictive due to their high content of sugar, salt, and artificial flavors, that make it harder to eat healthier foods.

By choosing whole, unprocessed foods, you are nourishing your body with essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fiber, healthy fats, and antioxidants. It can also help improve digestion, boost energy levels, and support our overall health and wellbeing. Plus, cooking and preparing meals with fresh ingredients can be a fun and rewarding way to create a healthier you.

If you are looking to cut down on eating junk food, here are a few tips:

1. Cook at home more often.

2. Plan your meals and snacks in advance.

3. Choose whole, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

4. Read food labels and limit products with a lengthy list of ingredients or added sugars.

5. Swap refined grains like white breads, rice, tortillas, and pasta for whole grains such as oats, brown rice, whole grain pasta, bread, and corn tortillas.

6. Eat less processed meats like deli meats, hot dogs, sausage, and bacon.

7. Limit fast-food runs to no more than 1-2 times a week.

8. Opt for homemade versions of your favorite fast foods.

9. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

10. Find healthy alternatives to satisfy your cravings, like air-popped popcorn instead of chips.

11. Keep nutrient-dense snacks readily available to avoid reaching for processed options.

12. Practice mindful eating by paying attention to your hunger and fullness cues.

A quick reminder: I offer outpatient nutrition counseling and education services at Estes Park Health. If you are interested, contact your healthcare provider for a referral. If you have any questions or if there are any nutrition-related topics that you would like me to discuss here on Nutrition Notes, please reach out at