14 Steps to Cut Out Processed Foods and Begin Eating Real Food Again

Diet Woman At Grocery Store With Junk Food

Photo credit: bigstock

Many of us would love to start eating healthier and ditch those processed foods but this is one of those easier said than done issues. We all know that processed foods contain many bad ingredients such as artificial sweeteners or processed sugars, artificial colors, excessive salt and GMO’s. We know all these things are dangerous for our health but at the same time….they taste so good and we actually feel so bad when we try to quit them cold turkey. Why is that? Shouldn’t we feel better?

Certain foods have very addictive qualities, such as sugar, coffee, and sodas, so trying to stop them cold turkey will indeed make you feel shaky, give you killer headaches, and make you feel as if you were the Energizer Bunny’s third cousin; absolutely no energy whatsoever. Some of the other ingredients in processed foods may not contain addictive ingredients per se, but they make you feel good when you eat them. For example, if mom always made you that boxed mac and cheese whenever you felt sick, you may associate that food with a good feeling that someone cares.

Each of us responds differently to different foods as well as food changes. People have very different levels of motivation and will power. For some people, the easiest option is to cut it out cold turkey. Others can’t deal with the physical side effects and want to take things very slowly. No matter which way you choose, the important thing is to take steps to improve our eating habits.

So how to get off the processed food without feeling like the sky is falling? Below we have laid out a very simple plan that you can start with one week at a time. If this seems like the progress is too slow, feel free to rev things up. Read also about choosing this instead of that.

This method begins week by week. You will focus on a new thing every week. As you begin implementing the changes in the current week, you continue to the next week while keeping the changes you made the week before.

Here is our 14 step plan to wean you off the junk and get you into healthy eating habits for life!


Week 1

Eat at least two fruits or vegetables every meal. By eating at least two different organic vegetables or fruits for three meals every day, you will begin to get your daily recommended minimum of fruits and veggies. By the end of the very first week, you should start to feel better already. Find out the healthiest vegetables.


Week 2

Now we start with beverages. REAL beverages. Starting this week, you will only drink purified water, coffee, kombucha, tea, almond, rice, or coconut milk, and fresh squeezed fruit or vegetable juice. No canned or bottled juice from the stores that is full of sugar and artificial colors and flavors. This is a bit of a pain, but well worth it. You can even squeeze fruit juice and freeze it for later consumption. As for the coffee, try your best to drink only one cup per day.


Week 3

If you are a meat eater, try your hardest to eat only locally organic, grass fed animals. Also, you will now limit your consumption to a maximum of 4 servings per week. If you can cut your consumption to 2 servings of meat per week, that would be even better.


Week 4

This is the week where you wave bye bye to fast foods and deep fried foods as much as you possibly can. Avoiding these types of foods will be a big step towards your health as there are a multitude of chemicals in fast food. Try your best to cut out deep fried foods as well and thereby cutting out tons of unhealthy oils.


Week 5

How are you doing? It’s been a month of dramatic changes, to be sure, but don’t you feel better already? More energy? Sleeping better? Take a break this week and just keep doing what you are doing. Your body needs time to adjust so simply relax and keep on keeping on.


Week 6

This week you will try out two whole foods that you have never eaten before. Whole foods are nothing more than foods that are still in a natural state, with nothing added to them, such as raw nuts. So head out to your supermarket and pick up a few of these whole foods and give them a try.


Week 7

This week you are going to stop eating all foods that call themselves low-fat, light, diet, or non-fat foods. Are you asking why? Aren’t these things good for you? No, not really. While making things low or nonfat, many manufacturers add extra carbs or sugar to make up for the lack of taste (read how diet soda linked to premature death in women). This is why many people actually gain weight while eating these types of foods. This is why you want to eat as many whole foods as possible.

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bowl full of oats

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Week 8

Now it’s time to start eating 100 percent whole grain or sprouted grain breads only. Whole wheat bread and white bread is very difficult for your body to digest. Your body can absorb the nutrients much more easily when you eat whole grain breads. Try to limit yourself to only 2 or 3 slices of bread every two or three days.


Week 9

There will be no food changes this week. Instead, try to stop eating when you think you feel full. When you start to feel full while eating, simply stop. Don’t feel obligated to clean your plate, when you are full, stop eating.


Week 10

This might be the most difficult of week for some but the most beneficial at the same time. Stop eating all refined sugars and as well as artificial sweeteners. If you only knew the effects of high fructose corn syrup or aspartame on your body it would be so shocking, you would want to sue those manufacturers. Try to cut out all types of refined sugars even brown sugar, Splenda, agave, white sugar, brown rice syrup and cane sugars. The good news here is that you can still use things like coconut sugar, date sugar, real maple syrup, and honey to sweeten things up.


Week 11

This is the week you stop using refined oils. The more we process oils for use, the worse they are for our bodies. So cut out all hydrogenated oils. This means no more soybean oil, canola, oil, (even organic canola oil), margarine, corn oil, vegetable oil, even if the label says organic. Instead you can start using healthy oils such as coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, or hemp oil. Read new facts about canola oil.


Week 12

Your goal this week is to eat locally. No, we don’t mean local restaurants, but locally grown, organic foods. Eat locally as much as possible, even if it means just one meal per day. Depending on where you live and the season, you can buy eggs, nuts, grains, and fruits, veggies, even locally made honey.


Week 13

This is officially “nothing artificial” week. Cut out all artificial stuff like colors, flavors, and sweeteners. This shouldn’t be hard because if you have been following this chart, you should be more than half way there already!


Week 14

5 and no more, is going to be your new mantra. Read the labels on foods, if it has more than 5 ingredients, it’s not for you! This means less processed junk and more natural food. Take note of the expiration dates. No, since they are more natural, they won’t have a very long shelf life, but that’s OK!

Congratulations! You did it! (We hope!) Even if you were unable to keep every single change, it’s still going to make a huge difference in the way you eat and the way you feel. Keep it going as much as you possibly can, and always remember to buy organic.




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