Processed Foods: What to Avoid (and What Not To)

By Sara Butler

Processed food is often seen as a bad thing -- and most of the time, it is. But there are some processed foods out there that actually aren’t that bad for your health. There are definitely some processed foods that you should approach with caution, but there are some foods that can be consumed as a part of a healthy diet. Here’s how to tell the difference between what processed foods are nutritious and which are not!

What is Processed Food?

Any food that has been altered purposefully before you eat it is considered processed. Food that has been frozen, cooked, canned, packaged, or chopped is considered processed. The spectrum of processed foods is vast, but you have to know what they are in order to make healthy choices. The different types of processed foods include:

  • Premade meals – These are the foods that have been processed the most such as frozen dinners or pizza
  • Ready-to-eat – These foods are heavily processed and include granola, deli meat, and crackers
  • Ingredient-added food – Any food that has something added to enhance its texture or flavor is in this category and includes salad dressing, cake mix, yogurt, and pasta sauce
  • Foods processed at their peak – These include fruits and vegetables that are picked and then flash-frozen or canned to lock in nutrition
  • Minimally processed – These processed foods include bagged spinach, roasted nuts, and pre-cut vegetables.

Not All Processed Food is Bad

When most people think of processed foods, they think of potato chips, candy, or other forms of junk food. But the truth is that processed foods can be a healthy addition to your diet. The trick is to understand the difference between how the food has been processed. Pre-cut apple slices or canned tuna aren’t in the same category as boxed macaroni and cheese. There are more nutritious choices out there if you know where to look.

The truth is that processed food isn’t an umbrella term. There are minimally processed foods and highly processed foods. The trick is to ensure that the foods you incorporate into your diet are as minimally processed as possible. Make sure to look at nutrition labels for hidden fat, sodium, and sugar. Added sugars, in particular, should be on your radar when shopping for food.

You can eat healthily with a variety of options, so don’t discount a food automatically because it’s been processed!

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Mesa, Ariz.

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