It’s difficult to understand what foods are good for us and which are going to have a negative impact on our health.
With so much choice and so much advice out there on what we should be eating, it can be quite overwhelming.
We are constantly told that processed food is bad.
“It’s evil, it will cause cancer, it’s the reason we are all getting fat.”
Yet do we actually understand what processed food is?
What is processed food?
Processed foods aren’t just ready meals and foods you can just pop in the microwave.
By definition, a processed food is any food that has been altered in any way during preparation.
That means a food is processed if it has been:
But surely that includes tons of food.
Yep, but here’s the part that gets confusing.
Not all processed foods are bad for us.
If I told you milk was a processed food you might say:
“But milk is natural and we are told to drink it as a good source of protein and nutrients”
And that is still right.
Milk has to be processed for it to be safe for us to drink.
Just like seeds need to be pressed to make oil.
These are processed foods, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad for our health.
We shouldn’t ban processed foods as some of them can be a part of our regular diet, without making us fat and disease-ridden like the internet tells us.
However, there are some foods we should avoid.
The processed foods we don’t want to be eating
Foods which are highly processed, when there is no need for them to be, are the foods we should be avoiding.
They often contain much higher levels of salt, sugar and fat. (See how bad sugar can be here)
These are added to improve shelf life and make their flavour more appealing.
Yet buying these foods can make it much too easy for people like you and me to be overeating the recommended amount of salt, sugar and fat.
Eating too much salt could cause a rise in our blood pressure, increasing our risk of heart disease and stroke.
Plus, with the higher levels of sugar and fat, the food will be more calorific.
This means that it’s not going to be great for our waistlines.
Not only could it cause weight gain, but it can also lead to high cholesterol and diabetes.
Is there room in my diet for processed foods?
Of course there is.
Like I said earlier, not all processed foods are bad for us.
So, what about the ones that are bad for us?
Well, we should try to limit these as much as we can.
But like any food, there is no need to cut it out of your diet completely.
There are simple changes you can make to reduce the number of processed foods you consume.
…drink fizzy drinks on a Saturday, instead of every day of the week.
…cut out the French fries and make chips from real potatoes instead.
…stop regularly visiting fast food restaurants, instead sometimes treat yourself to one every month or so.
…completely ditch the microwave meals.
Once you see and feel the difference it makes to your body by not eating these unhealthy processed foods, you might stop altogether.
Always check the label
You can’t control how much salt, sugar and fat the companies put in their foods.
That means you have to make the right choices while you fill your trolley.
When you are shopping you need to start checking the label.
Most pre-packed foods will have the nutrition information somewhere on the box.
Take note of the green, amber and red ratings.
These should help you decide which foods have less of the bad stuff in, however, you may need to take a closer look and make sure they are telling the truth. (Need food label training? Check my post out here)
The foods which include less salt, sugar and fat are going to be better for your health…
…and show a better result on the scales.
Can we get rid of processed foods?
If you feel you can commit even further to your health and wellbeing, try not buying many processed products at all.
You should be able to create most of your meals from products that are not packaged.
Fresh meat and vegetables can be used for your lunch and dinner.
Eggs and fruit can be made into a great breakfast.
There isn’t too much need for packaged foods.
Obviously, you’ll probably still end up buying some processed foods, such as milk, oil and yoghurt.
However, these will compliment your diet.
The main thing is we want to try to give up on the highly processed, ‘not-real’ foods and throw the microwave meals out the window.
Instead, making everything yourself means you control how much added sugar, fat and salt there is.
So overall, we won’t end up having any processed foods at all, but if we can reduce the amount of them we are eating it will do wonders for our health.
Top 10 Processed Foods to avoid…
Here are my top 7 of processed foods to avoid:
- Sugary drinks (including fruit juice)
- Fries and Chips
- Cookies and Cakes
- Anything ‘Low-Fat’ (usually means much higher sugar)
- Fast Food
Yes, I know… it looks as if I am telling you to not eat all the nice stuff.
I’m not saying that, but these are going to be the worst foods for us, especially if we have them often.
Also, these are the foods that it is very easy to overeat (I mean who eats just half a pizza?).
So, the less we have of them, the more chance we have of not eating too much of them.
Everything can be eaten in moderation.
Yet why fuel your body with rubbish?
Improving what you eat will improve how you feel.