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How to Choose Processed Foods

By Sara Butler

As a general rule, processed foods aren't great choices. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and when it comes to processed foods, some are better than other. The degree to which they're processed, the nutrients that have been stripped from them, and the preservatives added all should factor into your choice when it comes to deciding which processed foods have a place in your meal planning. Here are a few tips to help you make good choices when it comes to processed foods.

How Processed Is It?

Food simply isn't processed and unprocessed -- there are many subtle levels. After all, chopped spinach is considered processed since it's been altered from its natural form, but no one other than your toddler would try to argue that chopped spinach isn't good for you.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, there are a few different levels of processing. These include:

  • Minimally processed - Foods that are minimally processed haven't had their nutritional value changed. These include foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Processed - Foods such as table sugar, butter, salt, oils, bread, and cheese are considered processed.
  • Ultra-processed - Any food that has manufactured ingredients added such as sweeteners, preservatives, flavors, and colors are ultra-processed.  These are foods such as baked goods, white rice, candy, noodles, soups, and frozen dinners.

It's the last category, ultra-processed, that give processed foods a bad name and the foods you must be on the lookout for if you want to keep your diet healthy and free from sodium, empty calories, and saturated fat.

How to Choose

If you are shopping for food and aren't sure if a processed food is good for you or not, then there are a few things that can help you decide. Tips for choosing the right processed foods include:

  • Canned foods - Canned vegetables and fruits can be a good choice as long as they don't have a lot of added sodium or sugar
  • Frozen - Frozen fruits and vegetables without added sauces or sugars are a great choice since they're flash-frozen when at their peak ripeness
  • Grains - Opt for whole grains such as brown rice, oats, and 100 percent whole wheat products
  • Skip the packaged snacks - Don't grab granola bars or chips for a snack but stock up on nuts, fruit, whole-grain crackers with nut butter instead
  • Use healthy oils - Canola oil and extra virgin olive oil are always a healthy choice

Processed foods aren't all bad news. You simply need the tools to help separate the good from the bad.

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in South Jordan, Utah.

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