If you know me at all, you know that I’m an advocate for whole, unprocessed foods. However, many of us inevitably turn to packaged or processed foods when we are short on time. Maybe we grab a frozen dinner or pizza for a quick dinner for our family. Maybe we grab a quick nutrition bar to satiate our hunger until we can sit down for a real meal. Or maybe, we just don’t like to cook. Whether we like it or not, packaged and processed food has become a huge part of our food industry and, as a result, a part of many of our diets.
Although there are some brands that I hugely advocate for, there are many more that border on outright unhealthy and “scary.” Many packaged foods that seem healthy often contain fillers, preservatives and other ingredients you don’t want in your diet. It is always preferable to choose products that have only a handful of ingredients, all of which should be recognizable. One test to know whether an ingredient is healthy is to ask yourself whether your grandmother would recognize it. If not, there is a good chance the ingredient is less natural food and more man-made chemical. Another good test is whether or not you can easily pronounce the ingredient. If you feel like you need a science degree to pronounce it properly, chances are the ingredient is worth avoiding.
If you do have to resort to a processed food for a snack or dinner (anything canned, packaged, etc.), try to avoid those that contain the ingredients listed in the following chart. Although this isn’t an exhaustive list, these ingredients are some of the most highly processed and least healthy of all:
|Ingredient||Why it is Used||Why it is Bad|
(Acesulfame-K, Aspartame, Equal®, NutraSweet®, Saccharin, Sweet’n Low®, Sucralose, Splenda® & Sorbitol)
(BHT, BHA, TBHQ)
|Brominated Vegetable Oil|
|High Fructose Corn Syrup|
|Shortening, Hydrogenated and Partially Hydrogenated Oils|
(Palm, Soybean and others)