Get into the habit of reading every food label to look for added sugars and corn syrup. If you cannot pronounce the name of the ingredient, chances are you shouldn’t put it in your body. Processed foods are to blame for obesity rates, high blood pressure and the rise of Type 2 diabetes. If you have to unwrap it or take it out of a box, it is a processed food. Processed foods fall on a spectrum from minimally to heavily processed:
- Minimally processed foods — such as bagged spinach, cut vegetables and nuts — often are simply pre-prepped for convenience. They are good for you and often make it easier to eat healthy.
- Foods processed at their peak to lock in nutritional quality and freshness include canned tomatoes, frozen fruit and vegetables, and canned tuna. Just read labels and buy items without added sugars. Doing your own canning is far more tastier, healthier and rewarding!
- Foods with ingredients added for flavor and texture (sweeteners, spices, oils, colors and preservatives) include jarred pasta sauce, salad dressing, and yogurt. These foods aren’t the worst offenders, but be aware that most of these pack as much sugar as a candy bar.
- Ready-to-eat foods — such as crackers, breads, granola, chips and deli meat — are heavily processed and lack nutrition.
- The most heavily processed foods often are pre-made meals including frozen pizza, boxed macaroni, drive-thru meals and microwaveable dinners. You are getting zero nutrition from these meals, they are calorie dense and there are a number of adverse side effects to your health.
A good, general rule of thumb is to “keep it fresh”. If you are sticking to foods that would go bad within a week or so in your refrigerator, you are making good food choices. Salads, fresh vegetables, fresh meats, eggs and cheese won’t stay fresh too much longer than that. If it does, be skeptical of its’ nutritional value and effect on your health. The “real foods” are the foods that are going to keep you healthy and thriving for many years!