What’s the Process[ed]?

Original Image by Walt Stoneburner via Flickr
Original Image by Walt Stoneburner via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

There’s been many times in my life when certain phrases have been ingrained in me and I didn’t always knew what the meaning was behind it. I always shook my head in agreement, but not sure what I was agreeing to.

Yes, that’s not the proactive route, but I believe I’m making up for my complacent behavior as a youngster now that I’ve learned how to think, inquire and investigate information for myself.

I’m sure you’ve all heard of the term processed foods, but how do you define that? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a premier organization in nutrition and health equate boxed macaroni and cheese with whole wheat bread and homemade soup as all processed foods.

I was shocked when I read that whole wheat bread, a coveted type of grain, be called processed because processed has a negative connotation and whole wheat has a positive connotation.  I swore I read that sentence wrong that I read it twice.

However,  not all processed foods are like! Whew!

Minimally processed Simply pre-prepped for convenience i.e. bagged spinach, cut vegetables and roasted nuts
Moderately processed Raw ingredients have been transformed into something new and different; degree of processing varies i.e. whole grains ground into flour to produce bread, pasta, cereal, oatmeal, etc.
Peak processing Locking in nutritional quality and freshness i.e. canned beans, tomatoes, frozen vegetables and canned tuna
Heavily processed Ready to eat foods i.e. crackers, granola, deli meat
Most heavily processed Pre-made meals i.e. frozen pizza and microwavable dinners

So, next time you’re whipping up a grilled cheese on whole wheat bread, remember it’s minimally processed, but still contains some elements of processed foods. When in moderation, eating processed foods, espiecally the minimally processed foods can be fine.  However, when consuming processed foods, keep in mind the amount of sodium, sugar and fat.

Original Image by Paul Townsend via Flickr
Original Image by Paul Townsend via Flickr
  • Sugar: A lot of products contain sugar, even bread!
  • Fat: Although not as prevalent, processed foods may contain trans fat, which has been seen to raise bad cholesterol (LDL) while decreasing the good cholesterol (HDL)
  • Sodium: The added sodium in many canned products may add texture and taste, but often puts many people’s allotment of sodium over the recommended daily intake.  Over time, overconsumption can lead to hypertension or chronic kidney disease


  • When buying canned goods, opt for “light” or no sodium added products
  • Review a product’s ingredients list and look for added sugars among the first two or three ingredients such as sugar, maltose, brown sugar, corn syrup, cane sugar, honey and fruit juice concentrate
  • Opt for fruit when possible, as that is naturally occurring sugar
  • Choose whole foods when possible

Check out http://www.prevention.com/food/healthy-eating-tips/23-ways-eat-clean-natural-foods.  I really like how they compared the minimally processed foods, at the most wholesome state to the most processed foods (i.e. a whole apple to an apple streudel pastry).







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