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3 Easy Ways to Cut Down on the Processed Stuff

Whether you’re at the office, studying at home or in the middle of juggling family responsibilities, it’s easy to fall prey to the lure of ultra-processed foods – these palatable products are readily available on our supermarket shelves and are deceptively cheap. But there is a greater cost to our health when we throw the chips, cookies and sausages into our shopping basket. Here’s what it’s doing to your health, plus 3 easy ways to slash your intake of these dangerous foods.

Our love affair with highly-processed foods is one of the key drivers of the obesity epidemic, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealing that 67% of Aussies are overweight or obese, an alarming increase of nearly 4% since 2015.

Preservatives and added sugars found in popular processed foods include:

  • Bread
  • Cakes
  • Chips and snacks
  • Cured meats
  • Premade meals
  • Fast food
  • Confectionery
  • Refined oils

Note: Refined oils like soybean, canola and corn are insidious ingredients which manage to find their way into all manner of household staples, from bread and other baked goods to crackers, granola bars and even some dairy products. Here's why this is a problem – the production process of these oils renders their nutrients nearly void, along with the heating process causing the oil to oxodise ad turn rancid. This then releases a number of toxic, inflammatory chemicals, which research shows may lead to the development of cancer, diabetes, obesity, autoimmune conditions and obesity. Yikes. But that's not the only unwanted ingredient you'll find slipped into your weekly supermarket shop – trans fats are hard to avoid, and you'll likely find them in most of the foods on the list above. From cookies and cakes to margarine, frozen meals and fried food, these fats are all too common. They raise our levels of "bad" cholesterol, known as LDL, and lower our "good" cholesterol, known as HDL. The result? An increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.

These additives, along with the usual suspect of added sugar, are responsible for our collectively declining health –  and our growing waistlines. Studies have found a direct link between our consumption of these processed foods and our skyrocketing rates of obesity. Here are a few simple steps you can take to get those ultra-processed foods off your plate – without straining your wallet.

Join a food co-operative

Money is one of the biggest barriers to buying fresh produce, and is often the reason many are stuck with heavily-processed breads, cereals and chips from the supermarket – these are often cheaper to purchase in smaller serves – which leaves a great disparity of access to healthy foods. With inflation at its highest in 20 years and grocery prices up by 10%, it’s no small number of people struggling to make ends meet for their weekly shop. Co-operatives offer an affordable bridge for a variety of financial situations, and open the door to accessing fresh, whole foods for a fraction of the cost. Membership can cost as little as $5 a month – yes, really! Let’s take a look at some of the co-operatives around Australia that offer a range of healthy foods – from fresh fruit and veggies to staples like bread, milk and eggs – and all for an affordable price that happens to be better for the environment too.


  • Alfalfa House Food Co-operative: This Newtown-based co-op provides its members with organic, sustainably-packaged, minimally-processed food.
  • Manly Co-op: If you live up in the Northern Beaches, consider joining this community-owned co-op. They offer zero-waste and organic produce for a small membership fee of $5. Plus, you’re free to volunteer and get as involved as you’d like with the co-operative.
  • Bathurst Wholefoods Co-op: If you’re living outside of Sydney, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out. This co-op provides organic, fresh produce


  • Friends of the Earth Melbourne Food Co-op: This Collingwood-based co-op has a focus on sustainable and ethical food production. They also provide healthy groceries which were produced with minimal waste – all for just $10 a month.
  • Food Next Door Co-op: This co-operative is all about small-scale regenerative farming for a more ethical and sustainable world. Located in peaceful, beautiful Mildura, this co-op is ideal for those in north-west Victoria.
  • Hepburn Wholefoods Collective Co-op: This Daylesford-based non-profit is all about organic and biodynamic foods from local farms, with the goal of supporting the surrounding community and providing healthy foods for an affordable cost.


  • Maple Street Co-op: This Maleny-based co-op provides local, organic produce with minimal processing, sustainable packaging and affordable prices. Why bother with unhealthy supermarket groceries when the healthier stuff is cheaper?
  • The UQ Food Co-op: The University of Queensland Union offers affordable groceries like lentils, veggies and eggs with the goal of supporting uni students through a stressful period where they’re likely strapped for cash and struggling to eat healthily. So, if you’re a student, be sure to check out your university’s local co-op options and say goodbye to eating 2-minute noodles for brekkie, lunch and dinner!

If you’re overseas, look into your local libraries, colleges, universities and community centres to find your nearest food cooperative.

Bring your own food

Whether you’re heading into the office or packing your kids’ lunch for school, don’t rely on store-bought foods or vending machines – this is a sure-fire way to end up with highly-processed foods that are neither nourishing nor satiating. There’s a cheaper, healthier way – bring your own food. It doesn’t have to be a tiring affair of early-morning cooking and prepping; you can simply make the most of leftovers from last night’s dinner. Considering dinner is often the more veggie-packed and protein-based meal for many of us, your lunch will be more nutritionally balanced, along with being a cheaper option that lightens the strain on your wallet – and your time. You can even pack it the night before so you can hit that snooze button for the 10th time! It’s a sure-fire way to ensure you barely have to give lunch any thought while you’re out and about. Here are a few leftovers that make for a great lunch solution:

  • Veggie bakes
  • Soups and curries
  • Pasta dishes
  • Salad – check out our pimped-out salads for a more satisfying meal!
  • Frittatas and quiches

You can also go for your classic lunch sandwich or wrap, both of which are quick to make, along with adding in a few fruits and salad veggies like cucumber, tomato and carrot.

Protip: If you made or bought a roast chicken for dinner, here’s how you can easily make use of it multiple times over:

  1. Serve roast chicken for dinner
  2. Add it to your lunch sandwich the next day
  3. Save the bones and cook up a nutritious bone broth – you can use this for soups, pasta dishes and curries. Save any excess in the freezer using an ice cube tray; simply pop out a cube when you need some chicken stock.

Go Veg

Unfortunately, many of the cheaper meat cuts and products also happen to be the heavily-processed ones. Cured meats like ham, salami and sausages are some of Australia’s favourite brekkie and lunch meats, but they could come at the cost of your health. Studies show these heavily processed meats are contributing to the obesity crisis and may even increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.  In fact, less-processed red meats were also found to be a concern, with research showing it increases your chance of having a stroke by 28% when consumed in excess.

So, it could be time to prioritise minimally-processed vegetarian foods

  • Tofu and tempeh: These soy-based foods are high in protein, iron and calcium – and tempeh is a probiotic powerhouse – without the inflammatory additives and health consequences that come with a variety of meat-based products.
  • Leafy greens: If you’re after iron, calcium and vitamin K, look no further than the humble leafy greens like kale, spinach and bok choy. These are loaded with fibre, which is essential for good gut health and bowel movement regularity. Plus, they’ve been proven to protect the body from oxidative stress and inflammation.
  • Legumes: Chickpeas, lentils and mung beans are all exceptional sources of protein, iron and fibre – plus they’re minimally-processed; if you’re buying them in a can, just be sure to check the label and choose a product without added sugars or salt. For extra savings and no added salt, buying dry beans and lentils, and cooking them up yourself is a great way to get those nutrients without all the added stuff you’ll find in ham and bacon.
  • Eggs and dairy: Eggs are packed with vitamins and minerals, and give meat a run for its money for nutrient content. Dairy products like yoghurt and ghee are packed with healthy fats, calcium and protein, making them a good alternative to processed meats. But make sure you’re buying the minimally-processed versions! Stick to natural or Greek varieties of yoghurt, and always check the ingredients.

Keen for more health and nutrition tips? We’re here to help. Join us for the 8-Week Program where we’ll be quitting sugar and turning our health dreams into a reality. When you sign up with us, you’ll have access to clear-cut meal plans, community support and exclusive access to our sugar-free content. Here’s what’s on offer:

  1. 8 weeks of meal plans and shopping lists.
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