What are Processed Foods?
A processed food is not just one made in a factory, packed with sodium and sugar. It includes any food that has been cooked, canned, frozen, packaged or changed in nutritional composition with fortifying, preserving or preparing in different ways. In fact, if we cook or bake or prepare food in any way, we’re processing food. And though processed foods tend to get a bad rap, there is a place for them in our diets.
Processed food includes any and all of the following:
- Minimally processed foods that are pre-prepped for convenience. This includes things like bagged salads, pre-cut veggies, or roasted nuts.
- Foods processed at their peak to lock in nutritional quality and freshness. These would include canned veggies, frozen fruits and veggies, and canned meats.
- Foods with ingredients added for flavor and texture, such as pasta sauce and salad dressing.
- Ready-to-eat foods, such as crackers, chips, deli meat, and granola bars. These are much more processed than the above mentioned foods.
- The most heavily processed foods are the pre-made meals, such as frozen meals.
How to Control Your Intake:
The issue is that around 70% of our food comes from processed or restaurant prepared foods. And often it is from the more heavily processed foods unfortunately. Here are some specific processed foods that you should limit.
- Bacon: It contains very high levels of sodium and saturated fat, as well as the preservatives it contains can be classified as carcinogens. For a healthier form of fat, try instead avocados.
- Granola bars: Often full of added sugars and simple carbohydrates. Opt for those with the least amount of ingredients and less than 10 g of sugar per bar.
- Microwavable popcorn: Popcorn is fine. Bagged popcorn, not so much. Try the corn kernels and pop them yourself.
- Margarine: Full of trans fat, this is one to avoid. Try instead mashed avocado or in cooking you can substitute with yogurts.
- Frozen dinners: As we mentioned, these are highly processed, and therefore full of sugars, fat, sodium, and other additives. Whenever possible, make your own meal.
Week 6 Recipe
Mexican Taco Stuffed Zucchini Boats: Great for dinner and leftovers for lunch!
It’s a Process: Cutting Back on Processed Foods Challenge
Why It’s Important: As mentioned, not all processed foods are created equal. This challenge isn’t about cutting out the processed foods that have a place in our diets. It is more about cutting back on those with high amounts of sugar, salt, and other preservatives.
Your Challenge: Take a look at what you recorded last week in your food log. Choose two foods that are more highly processed (frozen dinners, chips, crackers, etc.) and try to go this week without eating them at all.