Processed foods - are they in your kitchen?


Did you know that over 60% of the average American's diet consists of processed foods? If that statistic seems staggering, take a quick scan of what is in your pantry and fridge right now.

Are most foods in a bag, box or can?

Do they have a laundry list of ingredients that you cannot pronounce, would not use to cook meals at home and are very far from their original source?

If not, AWESOME!

If so, then keep reading on....

The typical diet today consists of foods that did not exist a hundred years ago. Processed foods are a product of modern technology and manufacturing. Now to be fair, all processed foods are not inherently bad, it is the level of processing that has an effect on the nutritional profile of certain foods. Most of our foods have been processed as I mentioned a few days ago so avoiding all processing would mean primarily consuming a raw diet. Highly processed foods are those that you should limit in your diet. 

Highly processed foods, like cookies, chips, crackers etc.. are heavily altered versions of the plant or animal products they contain. 

"Highly processed foods typically have fewer vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants and nutrients like fiber and protein than lower processed foods. They also usually contain more low-quality fat, sugar, sodium, calories and refined carbohydrates," says Brian St. Pierre, co-founder of Precision Nutrition.

So if these foods are not good for you, then why do they find their way into your kitchens?

Highly processed foods taste really good and are designed to be addictive, to make you feel pleasure from consumption. As a result, we seek these foods out to elicit the pleasurable response. A recent study in the scientific journal PLoS ONE concluded that, "highly processed foods, which may share characteristics with drugs of abuse (i.e., high dose, rapid rate of absorption), appear to be particularly associated with 'food addiction.'"

Think about it... have you ever eaten a large amount of chips in a short period of time? Have you ever done the same thing with baked potato? Likely not! The baked potato is a high density food that contains more fiber and takes a lot more energy to consume than the chips. Thus, you get full sooner when eating the nutrient-dense potato than the potato chips that have been stripped of their nutrients and pumped with salt, oil and additives so that they are shelf stable. You are basically eating empty calories with far less nutritive properties than the original product it is made of. 

Besides being addictive, highly processed foods are popular because they are more convenient and affordable than the real foods they are derived from. Sure, they might be more convenient if you want to avoid preparation and cooking in your own kitchen, but if you're willing to put in a little effort, lower processed foods can be more affordable. 

Giving up all highly processed foods may not be realistic for you. What is realistic is being aware of what you are consuming and making the conscious choice to eat lower processed foods most of the time. There are a variety of health benefits from doing so - having more energy, losing weight, improving cholesterol levels and reducing sickness and illness.

Tricky Packaged foods to avoid:

1. Pre-flavored packaged products (usually disguised as "natural flavors" or "artificial flavors" on ingredient labels)

These products include yogurt, oatmeal, cream cheese, beverages etc.. and include more sugar, salt, refined oil and ingredients you cannot recognize than you would add if you flavored these items yourself at home. 

What to do instead - Buy plain yogurt or oatmeal and sweeten them yourself with natural/raw sweeteners like honey or maple syrup or fresh fruit. Sweeten water with fresh lemon juice or citrus slices rather than purchase artificially sweetened drinks. 

2. Seasoning packets

These products include taco seasoning, ranch dressing etc.. which are filled with salt and additives for shelf stability. 

What to do instead - Make your own seasonings in a few minutes using spices in your pantry. 

3. Imitation foods like imitation butter spread, processed cheese products, pancake "syrup", imitation crab meat etc..

These foods are called imitation for a reason, they are fake!! 

What to do instead - Buy real butter, real cheese, 100% maple syrup ad real crab meat. You know exactly what you are eating when you buy the REAL thing. 


When judging what’s “whole” and “processed” foods, ask yourself:

  • What’s on the ingredient list?
  • Do I recognize all these things?
  • How many steps did this food take to get to me?
  • Does this food come in a bag, box, or can?

My challenge to you - the next time you’re at the grocery store, take a look at the ingredients of a few different brands of yogurt and compare the ingredients!

Good quality plain yogurt will have two ingredients: milk and bacteria.

Other "yogurts" will have things like corn starch, gelatin, pectin, calcium phosphate, potassium phosphate, sodium phosphate and lots of different forms of sugars!

Read labels and be informed! 

Ladies in the upcoming session of Back on Track, Back to You will be learning lots of ways to substitute REAL FOOD for processed ingredients in recipes! A few spots remain for our January 8th session if you want to join us. 

$50 OFF with promocode NEWYEAR!




Michelle GutierrezComment