By: Jared Graybeal
To know whether or not processed foods are bad for us, we have to actually know what they are.
So what are they… really?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), processed food is defined as any raw agricultural commodity that has been subject to washing, cleaning, milling, cutting, chopping, heating, pasteurizing, blanching, cooking, canning, freezing, drying, dehydrating, mixing, packaging or other procedures that alter the food from its natural state. This may include the addition of other ingredients to the food, such as preservatives, flavors, nutrients and other food additives or substances approved for use in food products, such as salt, sugars and fats. So, most times we engage in food preparation and cook, we are in fact processing foods. (1)
Which means that almost everything we consume, healthy or not, is “processed” in some way.
So how do we know what’s a healthy processed food and what’s not? I’ve made it really simple for you. Basically, there is a scale of processing foods from “minimally” to “heavily” processed. I am going to define those, give you some examples and rate them on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the most processed.
- Minimally processed foods — such as bagged spinach, cut vegetables and roasted nuts — often are simply pre-prepped for convenience.
- Foods processed at their peak to lock in nutritional quality and freshness include canned tomatoes, frozen fruit and vegetables, and canned tuna.
- Foods with ingredients added for flavor and texture (sweeteners, spices, oils, colors and preservatives) include jarred pasta sauce, salad dressing, yogurt and cake mixes.
- Ready-to-eat foods — such as crackers, granola and deli meat — are more heavily processed.
- The most heavily processed foods often are pre-made meals including frozen pizza and microwaveable dinners.
So, what’s relatively okay to eat?
- Canned Beans
- Canned fish
- Prepackaged or frozen fruits and veggies
- Nuts and other nut butters
What should I avoid and why?
- Boxed foods like crackers and cookies
- Prepackaged meats
- Frozen, premade dinners
- Food with added sugar
- Refined grains
- Food with added sodium
Overconsumption of these above foods are all linked with higher risk of obesity, clogged arteries, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and high cholesterol.
The goal is to become more conscious of what you are eating, learn to read nutrition labels, and work to create a balanced diet. By eating more whole foods and less highly processed foods, you can enjoy your treats more, worry less, and live a healthier, happier life.
For more help identifying a more balanced diet for yourself, please feel free to contact the team at Superfit Foods and/or our partners at the Dietitians of Palm Valley, and we’d be more than happy to come alongside of you and help you reach your goals.
Dietitians of Palm Valley l 904-250-0075 l firstname.lastname@example.org l www.dietitiansofpalmvalley.com