Happy New Year! This time of year often causes us to reflect on goals we would like to set for the upcoming year. One goal I would like to challenge you to in 2015 is to eat less heavily processed foods.
Processed foods can generally be referred to as foods that are packaged in boxes, cans, or bags. The term “processed foods” has a negative connotation. However, not all processed foods are bad for you. Whole-wheat bread, homemade soup, or even a chopped apple can be considered processed. Processed foods become harmful to us when the processing steps add in artificial flavorings, additives, and other chemical ingredients. These are the types of processed foods we want to avoid. We can think of processed foods on a spectrum from minimally to heavily processed. The list below shows you how to sort processed foods. The list starts with the healthiest forms of processed foods and ends with the least healthy forms.
- Minimally processed foods — such as bagged spinach, cut vegetables and roasted nuts — are often simply pre-prepped for convenience.
- Foods processed at their peak to lock in nutritional quality and freshness include canned beans, tomatoes, frozen fruit and vegetables, and canned tuna.
- Foods with ingredients added for flavor and texture (sweeteners, spices, oils, colors and preservatives) include jarred pasta sauce, salad dressing, yogurt and cake mixes.
- Ready-to-eat foods — such as crackers, granola and deli meat — are more heavily processed.
- The most heavily processed foods often are frozen or pre-made meals like frozen pizza and microwaveable dinners
Click here to visit eatright.org to learn more about processed foods. One great tool to help you avoid heavily processed foods is to know how to make mixes from scratch. Making mixes like taco seasoning, ranch dressing, and cream soups from scratch can be an easy way to get heavily processed foods out of your diet. A recipe for homemade taco seasoning is below. Try it out in one of my favorite recipes, Taco Cups. Check our Facebook page each Tuesday this month for Quick Tip Tuesday where I’ll share more recipes for homemade mixes. How will you accept my challenge to eat less heavily processed foods?
Certified Nutrition Education Ambassador