I Went First: My Journey To Reduce Processed Foods from our Family’s Diet


As a child of the 80s, I was raised on the convenience of processed foods. From Pop-Tarts and sugary cereals to casseroles made from cans of soup and frozen tater tots to cheese that squirts from a can, my diet growing up was anything but clean! For the sake of argument, we’ll say we simply didn’t know better then. I know my parents did what they thought was best for us.

Can you relate?

Forty years later, we now see the effects of these processed foods on our society, and most of us realize we need to do better. Many of us want our families to eat whole, nutritious foods that will fuel us, and help our kids to grow and thrive! 

But the temptation of convenience is still a very real pain point! Eating healthy can seem like such a hard challenge when you’re getting started, but it doesn’t have to be.

How my journey started

I’ve been a yo-yo dieter my entire life. As an adult in my 30s, with baby weight to lose, two kids of my own to feed and a husband who was in his own second trimester, I realized something had to change! We were headed down a path toward diabetes and who knows what other problems would have arisen!

So I went first!

I started following a lifestyle nutrition plan that I still use today and share with others. That taught me how to balance my diet and fuel my body, but it also got me super interested in all things health! 

As I dug in, I realized many things that needed to change, but the biggest thing was getting rid of the processed foods.

But where do you start? I couldn’t afford to throw out everything in the pantry, go to Whole Foods and start fresh! 

Taking it one food at a time

I could, however, start small and replace one food at a time with a healthier choice. I started with things like peanut butter and jelly. Did you know that most PB on the shelf has a lot of chemicals and preservatives in it, but you can find natural versions with just peanuts, oil and salt? Likewise, jelly is often made with corn syrup, but if you look for a natural version made with real sugar, it’s a better choice. 

One of the biggest changes I had to make for my kids was the removal of their morning apple juice. Something I thought was good for them was pumping them full of sugar and sending them off to school set to CRASH! To smooth the transition, I offered a healthier alternative, a vitamin juice I found in a yummy mango or strawberry kiwi flavor. Interestingly enough, once they were weaned off the sugar, they stopped asking for the juice altogether—we eliminated the craving!

Slowly over time, I removed and replaced almost every item in our pantry with “upgrades.” Was there pushback? Sure! No one likes change, but as we experienced changes in our moods, waistlines and appetites, we talked to our kids about how they felt and educated them on the effects of what we put in our bodies. Eventually, they realized the benefits for themselves and started making better choices on their own.

Does my 13-year-old still go for a soda anytime he gets the chance? Yep! Do both of my boys still love a bag of Doritos? You bet! But they’ll also kill the bowl of fruit on the counter. My 9-year-old will ASK for broccoli and best of all, they’ll read labels, so they know what they are putting into their body! 

If you’re ready to get started, here are five ingredients to start removing from your pantry and the healthier alternatives:

  1. Corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup – replace with something made from real sugar, cane sugar, honey or stevia. 
  2. Food dyes – look for snacks colored with dyes occurring naturally in food, i.e. strawberries are red
  3. Hydrogenated oils – replace with real oils and fats
  4. Sugar – I know I said it’s a replacement above and it is better than corn syrup, but if you can buy products that use natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, agave or stevia, that’s even better!
  5. Artificial sweeteners – stay away from sucralose, aspartame and other artificial sweeteners, and opt again for those natural sweeteners. 

How did I learn what to replace? Slowly over time, and you can, too! Follow me for more tips on creating a healthy family lifestyle.  


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