By: Cristina Nika Kask/ Editor at HighStyleLife
Recent years have brought a total health and fitness craze upon us and now more than ever we are worried about what we eat and how we look. And it’s not just the appearance thing; the fact that the food we eat is potentially doing incredible damage to our overall health has posed a grand necessity of changing our collective mind frame in terms of how we live and what we eat, with most of us are turning to strictly organic and non-processed food. It’s not easy, that’s true. It’s not cheap either. And, asking yourself if you’d be able to go a year without processed food is not really a fair question in itself – because, you can’t know unless you try it, right?
With the GMO overtaking majority of produce we get to buy in the stores and with the crazy hectic lives we lead, it almost seems virtually impossible to stay un-processed. Still, with the right sort of planning, dedication and wise choices, nothing is out of reach. To know what not to eat, you first need to know what counts as processed and unhealthy, and what foods are actually doing you good.
We’ve put together a tutorial that will surely put a different spin on your daily meal choices. So, shall we?
What counts as processed food?
While the first images that pop in our head when someone says “processed” are microwave meals, canned goods, fast food and anything and everything that comes in a bag, it’s not just that. Go figure. Processed foods are virtually anything that has been altered from its natural state in some way. It doesn’t really matter whether the food’s been processed for safety reasons or convenience, it’s still processed so it’s a big no-no.
Furthermore, it doesn’t really come as a surprise that most shop-bought foods fall into the “processed” category, one way or the other.
Here are some examples of common processed foods: bread, breakfast cereals, tinned veggies, cheese, meat products (i.e. bacon), drinks (i.e. milk or soft drinks), savory snacks (i.e. crisps), “convenience foods” (i.e. ready meals or microwave meals).
As for food processing techniques, they include canning, freezing, baking, pasteurizing and drying products.
Is processed food necessarily unhealthy?
The foods that have been processed typically contain added sugar, salt and fat, which is what gives them their unhealthy reputation.
This is why, to avoid falling into the processed trap, the best solution is to prepare your meals at home. That way, you know exactly what is going into it, you are in charge of all the ingredients, including the amount of added salt or sugar. Bear in mind that even homemade food sometimes uses processed ingredients, depending on what you’ve previously picked out. However, you absolutely can stay on a healthy diet by including processed food in it, as most processed food is necessary for everyday cooking. By simply paying attention to nutrition labels, you’ll already be ahead of the game. That way you are picking out the least processed of products and keeping the amount of processed foods you’re eating in check.
What do nutritionists and dietitians say?
They all pretty much agree on the way we should approach food. Naturally, they’ll all recommend organic food from reliable sources (preferably the foods we’ve grown ourselves) but with most of us not having the conditions to endure with such a fashion, they’ll agree that staying healthy food-wise is a part of wise meal planning.
“Not all processed food is a bad choice. Some foods need processing to make them safe, such as milk, which needs to be pasteurised to remove harmful bacteria. Other foods need processing to make them suitable for use, such as pressing seeds to make oil,” explains dietitian Sian Porter and adds “Freezing fruit and veg preserves most vitamins, while tinned produce (choose those without added sugar and salt) can mean convenient storage, cooking and choice to eat all year round, with less waste and cost than fresh.”
Ok, so what do I stay away from?
Avoid cans, boxes and bags – read on what we’ve discussed above. Stay away from anything white – white bread, white rice, white flour, etc. Shop on the outside edge of the store – this is where all the healthy, minimally processed foods are stored at, like eggs, seafood, dairy and meat. Avoid produce where the first three ingredients end in “ose” – “ose” stands for sugar.
*All health philosophies stated are the opinions of the contributing author. This article has been approved by Illuminating Inspirations. Overall, Illuminating Inspirations Magazine supports a vegan and holistic lifestyle.
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