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Is Processed Bad? // Three Bean Chili

Last Updated on September 22, 2022 by Create Better Health

When you hear the term “processed food” what comes to your mind? Is it boxed macaroni, chips, and hamburgers at the drive through? Did you know that canned vegetables, frozen fruit, and whole wheat bread are also processed foods? tells us that “processed food” is any food that has been cooked, canned, frozen, or packaged. Anytime we cook or prepare food, we turn it into a “processed food”. In the nutrition world the term “processed food” gets thrown around like it is always a bad thing. That isn’t the case.

There are different types of processed food. To create better health, you should understand which ones to choose when you are doing your grocery shopping. Foods may be minimally processed, like  bagged spinach, cut vegetables, or canned nuts. On the flip side, they may be heavily processed like frozen pizza and microwave dinners. The closer you can get to a food in it’s natural form, the better. To help you make healthy choices, consider the list below.

  1. Minimally Processed Foods – prepped for convenience.
    • bagged spinach
    • cut vegetables
    • roasted nuts
  2. Processed for Quality – preserved at their peak ripeness
    • canned tomatoes
    • frozen fruit and vegetables
    • canned tuna
  3. Ingredients Added – sweeteners, spices, preservatives, etc. added for flavor and texture
    • jarred pasta sauce
    • salad dressing
    • yogurt
  4. Ready-to-eat – more heavily processed for convenience
    • crackers
    • granola
    • deli meat
  5. Heavily Processed – processed into pre-made meals
    • frozen pizza
    • microwave dinners

Try and choose more foods closer to the top of the list, and less foods at the bottom of the list. When possible, do more food prep and cooking at home. The best thing you can do is eat a wide variety of fruits and veggies in all forms – fresh, frozen, canned, dried, and 100% juice. They all provide vitamins and minerals that your body needs. When you do buy canned or processed food products, avoid those with large amounts of added sodium and sugar. The best way to compare foods is to look at the nutrition facts label. If you need help understanding how to read a nutrition facts label, click here. If you find yourself with high sodium canned food, you can rinse it with water before using to reduce the sodium by half. Cans Get You Cooking tells us that using canned fruits and vegetables in your diet is a great way ensure your family is getting the essential nutrients their bodies need. Also, using canned goods in your meals can help reduce your food budget. At different times of the year, it may be more economically to buy canned instead of fresh. Use the Cans Get You Cooking website for lots of delicious recipes.

Here’s a great recipe using lots of healthy, canned vegetables.

Another way to to cook this recipe is to prepare it early in the day and let it cook on low in a slow cooker. It will be ready and waiting for you at dinnertime. I like to serve chili with Easy Corn Bread to help round out the meal. Enjoy!

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