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Top Hacks For Cutting Out Processed Foods

The term “processed foods” in strict terms mean any products that have been altered from their natural state. So, in theory, a lot of the things we eat every day are processed. Increasingly, the term processed food has become synonymous with unhealthy food.

Not all processed food has a negative effect on our health, however. In fact some processing makes food safer than their natural form, like with milk. In other cases, like with canned tuna or frozen vegetables, the nutritional value is preserved through this form of processing.

But that’s certainly not to say that the negative connotations of processed foods should be discarded. Heavily processed foods can lead you to consuming large amounts of sugar, salt and preservatives. We’ve rounded up the worst offenders and offered our top hacks to avoid them.

berry protein oats

Swap Cereal for Overnight Oats


Breakfast cereal can be an incredibly processed way to start the day. Many brands of cereal – including ones marketed as healthy – are very high in both sugar and salt. Bin your box and get out your oats. As the name suggests, you can prepare overnight oats before you go to bed, and they’ll be all ready to go by morning. Simply soak the oats in milk or water, and they’ll swell to make a satisfying breakfast. Add in fruit, protein powder and nuts for added nutritional value.

Make Your Own Sauces


Pre-made sauce is a tempting convenience when you are meal prepping. However, a jar of sauce from the shop can end up having three times the calories of a homemade one. Plus, you’ll be able to control the levels of salt in your recipe. Get your airtight containers out and you’ll be able to keep most sauces in the fridge for a week, and in the freezer for much longer.

Say Bye to Sodas


Carbonated soft drinks are so heavily processed, and very rarely provide any nutritional value. Ideally, you’d want to swap your fizzy drinks for water – you can save hundreds of calories per glass! If that seems to steep a jump, swap in some fresh fruit juice, green tea or sparkling water if you really miss fizz.

Make Your Own Microwave Meals


Prepare for when temptation strikes you. Freezing some of your favourite healthy meals is a great way to stay on plan even when you aren’t feeling on form. Having something easy and tasty on hand is a great deterrent from getting a takeaway or microwave meal.
Takeaways are of course very high in calories generally. Plus, microwave meals are some of the most heavily processed foods on offer. They are often very high in sugar, salt, and preservatives to keep their colour and form looking fresh.

Avoid White Carbs


As a general rule, if you swap your white bread, pasta and rice for their whole wheat counterparts, you’ll be better off. Brown rice, bread and pasta have much greater nutritional value. They are more likely to keep you fuller with their fibre content, for example.



Food manufacturers are not stupid. They recognise that people want to eat a healthy diet, even if they are not totally motivated to do so all the time. Manufacturers can try and make their foods sound like a healthy choice when the reality is quite different.

For example, some brown breads or pastas aren’t whole wheat at all. They’re white bread with food colouring. Always read the label when you are buying a new food product. You may be surprised with how high the sugar content is, or how little the fibre content is.

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.

Faye Reid

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye Reid has a Bachelor of Science in Sport and Exercise Physiology and a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and Sports Nutrition. Faye has worked with numerous high-profile organisations, such as Men's Health, Sky Sports, Huddersfield Giants, Warrington Wolves, British Dressage and GB Rowing, providing her expert sports science support. Find out more about Faye's experience here: She puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding.

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