Try These Meals If You Want To Eat Less Processed Food

Photo: Beth Skwarecki

Last month, a study found that people who ate “ultra processed” food (think cereal and muffins) ate more calories and gained more weight than those who ate a less processed diet. Ever since, I’ve been using the study’s menus as breakfast inspiration.

I admit, I’m used to thinking of food in terms of macros. If a meal is all carbs, it’s not likely to be a good choice. But if it has a reasonable number of calories, and has a good bit of protein and a little fat, I’ll shrug and call it healthy and wolf it down. But the study carefully matched macros in the ultra-processed and less-processed diets.

So, here’s the cool thing: the paper describing this study included the processed and unprocessed food menus in its supplemental information. They’re not precise recipes, but they do include the major ingredients, and are a perfect starting point for throwing together some less-processed meals of your own.

I’ve been rotating between two of the study’s breakfasts most mornings, and I’ve tried some of the lunch salads as well. The main thing I noticed is that the meals include a lot of fruits and veggies. And nuts. And you know what? They taste great. Here are my favourites:

Oatmeal with blueberries

  • Oatmeal

  • Blueberries

  • Almonds

  • Milk (they used skim, I use whole)

  • Salt

Yogurt parfait

  • Greek yogurt

  • Strawberries

  • Sliced banana

  • Walnuts

  • They added salt and olive oil. I do not.

  • I go rogue and drizzle a little honey on top.

Chicken and fruit salad

  • Spinach

  • Chicken breast (I buy pre-cooked, frozen grilled chicken strips)

  • Apple slices

  • Bulgur (I substitute other grains sometimes, like barley)

  • Sunflower seeds

  • Grapes

  • Vinaigrette (they make their own with olive oil, lemon juice, and vinegar; I use bottled)

Even though I’m not making everything from scratch, these are a definite step up from the meals I would normally throw together from pantry staples: normally blueberries in my oatmeal would be an occasional treat, not a necessary part of my morning.

If you’re looking for a way to un-process some of what you eat, give these meals (or the others from the study) a try.


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