Unprocessed Eating 101

The Fresh 20 has always maintained that a healthy life comes from eating food in its most natural state. Whole foods that have not been altered with preservatives, chemicals or additives. Some argue that ingredients like pasta and bread are processed foods. I call them prepared foods and if it can be made in the home using two or three whole ingredients, then it falls within the definition of unprocessed.
Moving to clean, unprocessed eating is an important shift toward improved health. Though definitions abound, unprocessed simply is choosing the best, healthiest, least processed foods and decreasing the unhealthy foods. The commitment to unprocessed eating requires an understanding of ingredients and a well-stocked pantry.

Start with these 2 steps:

  1. Clean and take inventory. Empty your refrigerator and pantry, purge items that have long ingredient lists or foods you don’t understand. Look at labels, especially salad dressing, sauces, condiments, sweetened yogurts, dairy alternative beverages. Once you have purged, re-stock with whole foods, starting with vegetables. Keep in mind that if you are shopping for one person for one week and plan to eat 3 servings of vegetables a day, you will need to have 21 servings of vegetables available. These can include a variety of fresh and frozen.Shop with intention.
  2. Create a shopping list of whole foods. When you shop, don’t deviate from this list.



  • Load up on vegetables, leafy greens, fruit, seeds, nuts and beans:
    Plan for a serving of leafy greens daily.
    Purchase a variety of other in-season fresh or frozen vegetables
    Purchase a variety of in-season fresh fruit and supplement with frozen fruit for smoothies
    Make beans a dietary staple. Dry beans are best if you have the time, but canned unsalted (drained and rinsed) are a good alternative. For a ratio, 1 can is about 1 ½ cups cooked.
    Buy nuts and seeds in bulk, this is the most economical way to purchase them – unsalted and raw are best.
  • Eliminate your reliance on packaged and refined foods:
    Build a shopping list without packaged foods.
    If you do choose to include an occasional food such as crackers/chips try to limit the amount purchased and select a better-quality product
  • Limit/eliminate added sugar:
    Try using the natural sweetness of fresh or dried fruit instead
  • Reduce alcohol:
    A serving of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of hard alcohol.
    Alcohol can add excess calories, decrease your judgment and is dehydrating
    Avoid mixed drinks with added sugar
  • Shift to eating more meals at home and less out:
    Eating home more gives you greater control over how your food is prepared
    According to numerous studies, the average restaurant meal is over 1000 calories and over 1100mg of sodium
  • Eat smaller quantities of animal proteins and select the highest quality your budget can afford:
    Eating less meat is better for your health and your budget.
    Buy smaller portions and the best quality your budget can afford
  • Select whole, unprocessed organic grains:
    Buy grains in bulk for a cost-effective solution
    Experiment with new grains: teff, amaranth, quinoa, freekeh –try something different
    Experiment with a vegetable instead of a grain for a fun twist on some recipes: zucchini noodles, cauliflower mash, spaghetti squash as examples


Grocery shopping is a necessity but with so many other obligations, it can often feel like a burden. Supermarkets can at times feel overwhelming, like a maze of products.

Do you ever feel like you don’t know what to think about first: will my family eat what I cook? Is it organic? Is it GMO free? Take some of the stress out of shopping.

The best strategy for smart shopping is to develop knowledge, awareness, and routine. Work from lists, shop with purpose and the experience will become more enjoyable. Also, if you can, choose a time to shop when stores are less crowded. Some areas of the country now offer online shopping and delivery services. These are great options if you have a busy schedule or feel more in control shopping virtually.

TIPS for more effective shopping:

  1. Start with a comprehensive weekly list. Keep your basic building blocks list up to date so you know what staples need to be replenished. Have a budget and a plan.
  2. Mostly, you will do better around the perimeter. But still be alert: some stores now flood the perimeter with processed foods as well.
  3. Be aware of health claims. Foods that need health claims are usually not healthy.
  4. Choose some convenience foods that don’t detract from health such as frozen vegetables or canned beans.
  5. If your local store employs a dietitian, book time to learn about the products carried in the store.
  6. Learn to read labels and ignore claims.
  7. Know how your splurges fit into your budget. Not all healthy food is expensive, but some is, so plan ahead if you are restocking a more expensive item.
  8. Get out of the supermarket. Sometimes, especially in the warmer months, it’s less expensive and definitely more enjoyable to find produce at a local farmers market.
  9. Find a store with good bulk bins. You can save money and waste by buying bulk. Grains, nuts and seeds are usually the most common items to buy in bulk.
  10. Buy and freeze. For example, purchase the best quality fish when it’s available on sale and freeze portions for later use.

Next post:

Previous post: