When people think of processed food, they usually think about soda, cookies or chips. We can all agree that those aren’t healthy. But what about those pre-packaged fruits and vegetables you snack on between meals? You might be surprised to find that processed food makes up most of what we eat.
The International Food Information Council Foundation defines food processing as any deliberate change that occurs before food is available for us to eat. That can range from freezing food for freshness to adding artificial sweeteners and preservatives for flavor.
Minimally-processed food, like bagged salads that have only been washed before being packaged, can be good for you. This category also includes pre-cut vegetables, roasted nuts as well as grains and beans.
If you’re trying to be healthier, try to avoid the most heavily-processed foods, like frozen pizzas and microwavable dinners. The more additives in the food, the better you are skipping it.
The best policy is to be vigilant and know what you’re eating by reading your food’s nutritional facts and ingredients list. Here are some things to look out for:
People consume a lot more sugar than they realize. Aside from naturally-occurring sugars, artificial sweeteners are often added to processed food. Added sugars have no nutritional value and can help you pack on the pounds instead.
Avoid added sugars by looking out for words ending in “ose” – like sucrose and fructose – as well as other names like corn syrup and fruit juice concentrate among ingredients.
Be aware that nutritional facts labels do not differentiate between naturally-occurring sugars and those added to the food or drink.
You may find it surprising that 75 percent of sodium consumed by the average person in the U.S. comes from salt added to processed food. Sodium often acts as a preservative in canned food.
The Food and Drug Administration recommends having no more than 2,400 mg of sodium a day based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
Always buy products with reduced or low-sodium, when available.
Keeping a close eye on the nutritional facts is the best way to limit the amount of fat in your diet. Stay away from partially-hydrogenated oils, a source of trans fat that increases the level of bad cholesterol.
According to the FDA, health experts recommend having as little trans fat, saturated fat and cholesterol as possible as part of a healthy diet. Consuming too much fat – or sodium – may also increase the risk of some chronic diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure and even some cancers.
If you’re serious about losing weight and getting healthier, give us a call at 919-968-LOSE and schedule a free consultation in the Cary and Raleigh Triangle NC areas.