We hear all the time “ whole”, “natural” and “raw” to describe foods. But how do we really know what is natural and what is not? How do we get more unprocessed food in our diet? Well I am going to tell you how, but lets dig deeper into processed food.
What is Processed food ?
Processed foods are food that has been altered from it’s natural state, and this is normally done because it stays edible for longer and sometimes even safety reasons. What safety reasons? Processing can kill harmful bacteria, which is very important especially for food that has come from overseas or long distances or sits in supermarkets for long periods of time. Those foods need to be processed in order for it to be even safe to eat.
How to spot processed food?
They’re really not hard to find at all, they are usually in packaged boxes, cans or bags and if you also check the back of the ingredients list they will have ingredients you will be unfamiliar with or would never buy in your own kitchen.
Examples of bad processed food
- Canned food- normally contains high amount of sodium or fat.
- Pasta meals made from refined white flour when really, whole grain is the better option.
- Packaged high-calorie snack foods such as chips and chocolate
- Frozen dinners that are high in sodium such as frozen fish.
- Cakes and cookies.
- Boxed meals that are high in fat and sodium
- Sugary breakfast cereals
- Processed meat
Are processed foods a health risk?
I think it is safe to say that the main health risks of processed foods are already well known. I would say that First world countries that consume lots of processed food like bread, sugary cereals and fatty foods, are hit heavier with diseases like cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. And on reflection what else could you expect if large portions of your diet was based on foods loaded with poor quality calories like sugars and fats and contain even less fiber, vitamins and minerals? When you look at it that way, it’s easy to see that processed foods are a factor in obesity.
Tips for avoiding processed foods
Getting rid of processed foods is the first step in to making healthy food choices. If you want to start avoiding processed foods, here are some tips:
• Anything in a package is most likely processed. Avoid it and look for the fresher option.
• Have a look in your kitchen and see just how many processed items you are actually eating. I think this is best as you can gradually stop buying products with lots of artificial or unhealthy additives (like sugars, fats and salt), and replace them with healthier alternatives. Plus gaining some nutritional knowledge on the way!
• Buy whole grain flours and breads instead of white.
• Buy whole fresh fruit or frozen fruit instead of canned fruit.
• Why not get the best value from your vegetables by growing your own if you can? Picking in- season vegetables, as you need them. I have found this personally very rewarding and so much fun to take part in.
• Minimise processed meats (ham, bacon etc) and replace with freshly roasted lean meats.
• Buy and cook dried legumes most of the time, and rely less on pasta and noodles, which are more processed.
• Replace margarine or spread with organic preservative-free butter, avocado or home made hummus.
Change is easily made in small steps. The best approach is always to think and find out what actually needs to be changed, then to start taking small steps, one thing at time if need be. Action is better then inaction and change is easily made in small steps.
Remember: Avoid processed foods and base your diet on whole food to get the most nutrition and maximize your health.