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Extension Education Highlight: Getting off processed foods

A woman holding up an apple and a donut.
Andres Ayrton

Sariah Israelsen: Thanks for joining me again for another USU Extension Educational Highlight. I'm Sariah Israelsen and Jenna Dykeman, dietitian and Extension assistant professor, is joining me this week.

She joined me a few weeks ago to talk about diet changes as we get older. And this week, I'm so excited to talk with her again. So thanks for coming back, Jenna.

Jenna Dyckman: Yeah, of course, I'm happy to be here again.

Sariah Israelsen: So today, I really wanted to focus on alternatives we have to the processed or junk foods we all love. I think it is so hard for some of us, me included, to get off of these kinds of foods, because they're so easy.

We're just trained to eat them, we can get them to go. And me and my husband are trying to get off of them, and we find it so hard to figure out alternatives to eat.

So I would love to just pick your brain on some of the alternatives that are easy for us to grab. And ones that we don't have to break the bank for or spend hours in the kitchen making something homemade.

Jenna Dyckman: Yeah, I think this is a really great topic. And it's something that everyone struggles with, because fast foods or highly processed foods, like you said, are easy to grab when you don't have a lot of time.

So I think prepping when you do have time, maybe on the weekend or day off, can really help with this. And of course, it takes time. So that's something to consider too; all changes take time.

But with meals, oftentimes we prep for the week, that's a really great start is to do meal prepping for the week. When you're prepping meals, like you said, try to pick recipes that don't use a lot of ingredients, are a little bit faster, but use those whole foods. And they can be a little bit processed; canned or frozen foods are great substitutes, especially if you don't use fresh foods right away, just because fresh foods can be expensive and if they go bad it's sad to see them go to waste. So, using canned or frozen foods are a great option as ingredients in your meal.

Sariah Israelsen: Do you have specific ingredients that can be used in multiple meals? I know for me, I love chicken and I use chicken in a lot of my meals to put protein in them. Are there other foods like that that people can use in multiple meals as they're meal prepping for the week?

Jenna Dyckman: Yes, that's a really good question. And that's something to think about too, when you're picking recipes.

So try to pick recipes that use similar ingredients. So then you don't have to buy a lot of different ingredients for two or three recipes that week.

So chicken is a great option. I actually really like to buy rotisserie chicken. It's already cooked; you can take off the bones and use it in soups, salads, casseroles. You can freeze it and use it for other recipes.

Beans are a great option too. So they're a plant based protein that can help you kind of get some more fiber in your diet. So those are some good options.

Sariah Israelsen: That sounds perfect. I love finding those ingredients that I can use in multiple meals. So those are some really good options.

I would love to talk a little bit about some ideas you have for snacks. I know for me, my go-to snack is peanut butter because it's yummy and it gives me protein.

But are there snacks like that — that aren't reaching for a bag of chips — that are still yummy and will provide protein for the day that would be easy for people to substitute other snacks for?

Jenna Dyckman: Yeah, that's a great question. So when I think of snacks, I think of them as mini-meals. So rather than reaching for those chips, think about trying to have two to three food groups in your snack.

So peanut butter is a great option because you always want to have some sort of protein, whether it's peanut butter, you can do cheese, nuts or seeds. And that'll help you stay fuller longer in between meals.

You can use veggies with some dip. Fruit is always great, maybe with some cheese and crackers.

But when you think about snacks, sometimes we want to have fun snacks, but most of the time we want to use those snacks to fuel us and help us get from one meal to the next without draining our our energy.

Sariah Israelsen: That was Jenna Dyckman, dietitian and Extension assistant professor. Thank you so much for joining me today.

Jenna Dyckman: Of course. Thanks for having me.