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Eating a Less Processed Diet

Looking to eat healthier this new year? Many experts will tell you to stay away from processed foods and incorporate exercise and you’ll lose weight quickly. But what are processed foods, and how do you know what to avoid?

What are processed foods?

grocery store counter“Processed foods” is a general term used to describe any food that has been altered in some way before being available to eat. There are many types of food processing, such as freezing, canning, and baking, but may be as complex as formulating the meal to include essential nutrients (think fortified breakfast cereal).

So are all processed foods bad?

Not necessarily. In fact, there are some processed foods that are healthy. When experts tell you to stay away from processed foods, they are referring to heavily-processed or ultra-processed foods. Researchers have created 4 groups to classify processed foods. Those categories are:

  1. Unprocessed or minimally processed foods
  2. Processed culinary ingredients
  3. Processed foods
  4. Ultra-processed food and drink products

These groups help to explain what foods we should focus on, and which to stay away from. Group 1 should be what we eat the most of, while group 2 is used to help season or prepare our meals. Experts generally refer to group 4 when stating that we should stay away from processed foods.

How can I avoid processed and ultra-processed foods?

Take a look at the ingredients in the food you are eating. Do you know what they are? Can you even read the label and pronounce the ingredients? Those are simple ways to know how processed your food is. The more ingredients means the more processed a food is. Let’s take a look at two labels here:

  • girl holding glass of orange juiceTropicana Ingredients: Squeezed orange juice
  • Tropicana Trop50 Ingredients: Filtered water, not from concentrate pasteurized orange juice, orange juice concentrate, potassium citrate, malic acid, citric acid, magnesium phosphate, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), calcium citrate, beta-carotene, purified stevia leaf extract, tocopherols (vitamin E), gellan gum, natural flavor, niacinamide (vitamin B3), thiamin hydrochloride (vitamin B1), pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6) and riboflavin (vitamin B2)

When strictly speaking about how processed a food is, it is easy to tell that Trop50 has a much longer ingredient list.

Can some processed foods be healthy?

frozen blackberries in yogurt

Absolutely! We do process foods to be beneficial for us. For example, frozen fruits and vegetables generally maintain their nutrients longer than their fresh counterparts, and they last much longer. Other examples of healthy processed foods include: canned beans, yogurt (plain), nut butters (that don’t have added sugar or other ingredients), and canned fish.

Eating healthy this new year

Eating a healthy diet doesn’t need to be challenging. There is no perfect diet out there (or else we would all be on it!). A good rule of thumb – eat a more whole-food based diet. Eat foods that you know where they come from. Look at the ingredient list, and if you know all of the ingredients (or can read the label) then it may not be as bad for you as you may have thought.

If you’d like to talk more about your diet, please don’t hesitate to give the office a call so we can set up a free consultation to discuss this further (or click here to schedule online).

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