Good, Better, Best

It’s chaos in my kitchen right now — the reno work is underway, and I didn’t have any time for grocery shopping last weekend, so we are scraping the bottom of the barrel at home.

Okay, that’s not totally true. We have plenty of leftovers, frozen stuff, canned goods….just nothing sexy for me to whip up for you. Plus we’ve been hard at work getting the house ready for painting and flooring. Monday I grilled up some dry-rubbed chicken thighs and steamed some green beans. Last night was bison burgers and a Mexican-inspired couscous salad (current obsession!). Since I am certain I will be cooking both of these meals again, I promise I will get you recipes soon.

But in the meantime, I thought it might be helpful if you had some tips on how to transition to a processed food-free life. You can do it in steps if you’re not ready to go cold turkey. And some changes are easier than others. Heck, I don’t even do all of the “bests” yet — I’m working on it though! We all need something to challenge us, right?

I admit some of the “bests” are going to be more expensive which presents its own challenge. But I like to think that it is better to choose quality over quantity (there’s a freebie right there!).

  • Good: Choose whole-food dairy products like butter, eggs, milk, and cheese. Don’t be afraid of full-fat dairy products; your body needs the fat to absorb vitamins. And nearly all the nutrition is in the yolk of the egg (which are still only about 70 calories a pop) — down with egg-white omelets!
  • Better: Choose organic and/or grass-fed options. Cows aren’t meant to eat corn by-products. Healthy cow = healthy meat!
  • Best: Buy locally raised, organic, grass-fed options. Support local farmers!

In the same vein:

  • Good: Choose healthy cuts of meat, and limit portion sizes to about 4 oz (you should strive for less than 8 oz a day)
  • Better: Choose organic, grass-fed, humanely-raised meat (chicken is not grass-fed generally)
  • Best: Buy local
  • Good: Eat lots of different types of vegetables and fruits, every day. And in that order — more veg than fruit.
  • Better: Eat organic vegetables and fruits. Especially choose organic varieties of the EWG’s Dirty Dozen.
  • Best: Eat local, organic vegetables and fruits. Traveling less distance guarantees fresher, more nutritious produce.
  • Bonus! Grow your own vegetables (organically) — doesn’t get much cheaper than that, saving you money to spend on more expensive dairy/meat items.
  • Good: Eat a variety of grains. Branch out and try barley, quinoa, farro, bulger…
  • Better: Choose 100% whole grains. No more white bread or white rice!
  • Best: Choose bread made with minimal ingredients: 100% whole-grain flour, water, yeast, salt, and maybe a touch of honey
  • Good: Buy dips, sauces, spice blends, and condiments without scary chemicals or preservatives, or high amounts of salt/sodium.
  • Better: Buy the store-made ones (usually sold in the deli/prepared foods section, but also usually packed with salt).
  • Best: Make your own! And not by adding a flavor packet to some sour cream.
  • Good: Drastically cut back on your sugar intake. Compare the grams of sugar per serving to the number of grams in a serving. This will astound you.
  • Better: Read ingredient lists carefully to make sure sugar or artificial sweeteners are not added ingredients. Yogurt, for example, is notorious for this!
  • Best: Know all the aliases sugar can go by on nutrition panels.
  • Bonus! Avoid packaged/processed foods and drinks in general, which will automatically lower your sugar intake by roughly 1 million percent.


  • Good: Avoid all artificial sweeteners
  • Better: Avoid all white sugar and sugar products. Brown Sugar is just white sugar with a little (processed) molassas added in.
  • Best: Choose natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, sucanat/rapadura, and coconut sugar.
  • Bonus! Limit all sugars, including the natural ones. Cut sugars out to cut cravings!
  • Good: Get processed oils out of your house (Canola, grapeseed, corn, soy, “vegetable” oils), which are chemically “cleaned” and deodorized, and often made from GMO’s and contain transfats.
  • Better: Switch to olive and coconut oils.
  • Best: Don’t be afraid of butter and lard, which are infinitely more natural that genetically modified oils that are a product of labs rather than nature.
  • Good: Don’t eat any foods that imitate a real food: Cool Whip vs. whipped cream, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter vs. well, butter.
  • Better: Don’t eat any foods you couldn’t make at home in your kitchen (theoretically) with ingredients you would need to call up a college chemistry lab to obtain. That means things like Cheetos, Twinkies, and Kraft Singles.
  • Best: If you want to indulge, make it yourself! Crackers, ice cream, croissants and even French Fries are all within your grasp.
  • Bonus! Make healthier version of those treats yourself (baked fries, frozen yogurt, etc.) without resorting to processed foods.

I hope this has been eye-opening and given you something to strive for! What changes have you already made on your way to a processed-free life?


One comment

  1. […] good friend Jess, over at A Real Appetite has a fantastic list of “Good, Better, Best” options to help cut out refined, processed foods.  Please check it out.  It’s full of great […]

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