It’s no secret that the majority of Americans eat much too much food that’s been highly processed.
Everything from cookies to granola bars to packaged bread can be found in a box or can be purchased in a container.
We need to make some cuts. And what’s the point of even trying?
Kristi Veltkamp, RD, a dietitian at Spectrum Health, can answer those questions and give you some advice on how to recognize processed foods and eat healthier and feel better.
What is “processed” food?
As a general rule, food that is sold in the grocery store is processed in some form.
Veltkamp argued that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Processed foods can range from those that have been minimally processed all the way up to ultra-processed.
If they inspire you to eat more fruits and vegetables, minimally processed items, such as pre-washed and ready-to-use bagged spinach or pre-prepared, bagged, and frozen fruits and vegetables, can be a terrific addition to your diet.
Her response: “You’re getting the food in its original state, but they haven’t added or taken anything away, they have just prepped it for you,” she explained. If you’re not used to receiving packages, you may not be as comfortable with them as you should be.
Frozen vegetables are one such instance. Frozen vegetables may actually have more nutrients than fresh ones that have traveled long distances and sat out for long periods of time. This is especially true if they’re not in season locally.
For maximum freshness, frozen vegetables are flash-frozen immediately after harvesting.
During February, she suggested, “Frozen broccoli would be the best option.”
Veltkamp argued that ultra-processed food is a different matter. That’s when anything is changed in terms of the nutritional content of it.
Refined flour, for example, is an example. Food processors remove the fiber, vitamins, and minerals from the bran and germ. Just starch is left. As a final step, many processed meals contain additional components such as preservatives, sugar, salt and chemicals.
According to Veltkamp, “what you get can be something that isn’t truly food.”.
Why do we need to avoid ultra-processed foods?
According to Veltkamp, the first issue is that we aren’t getting all of the key elements we require from our food because of its overprocessing. Our bodies would not be able to function properly if we didn’t get enough of those nutrients.
It has been shown in some studies to cause inflammation, harm our gut health, and potentially raise our risk of cancer. It can also lead to day-to-day fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
Veltkamp believes that the excessive sugar, fat, salt, and carbohydrate content of many ultra-processed meals contributes to obesity.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, certain foods can even make you need more because they aren’t as filling.
It’s possible, according to Veltkamp, to eat a whole bag of potato chips and not feel like you’ve eaten anything. In contrast to this, “but you’ll be satisfied in no time if you eat a baked potato”
In contrast to more natural foods, processed foods are swiftly absorbed by the body and do not undergo the same metabolic processes as those.
Veltkamp stated, “They’ve done the work that our bodies are intended to accomplish..”
Sugar and salt are addictive because they stimulate the release of the brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin, which make us crave more reward.
It’s because we want to feel good that we become addicted to it, she said. “You just want to eat more. ” This is fantastic,’ says your brain. Go for it!” In addition, your stomach is indicating that you aren’t satisfied.
What can I do to lessen my intake of highly processed foods?
As Veltkamp points out, it’s important for people to start small and work their way up to eating more whole foods.
Here are a few hints:
Whenever feasible, try to go for less processed food.
Take one step at a time from ultra-processed foods to less processed foods. Real food items can be found in frozen dinners that have been pre-packaged.
In the freezer department, “brown rice or quinoa and stir-fry vegetables” are available, she noted.
2. Pay attention to the labels.
To avoid food poisoning, shop for only real, whole foods and read the labels on everything you consume. The first ingredient should be whole grain wheat flour, for example, if you’re buying bread.
Her emphasis was on the importance of the word ‘whole,’ which she called crucial. The contents should be clearly labeled, as well as the list of ingredients should be short, rather than long.
Rather to merely removing bad food from your diet, consider incorporating nutritious food into your diet as well.
As opposed to only eliminating processed foods, Veltkamp recommends that consumers think about increasing their intake of fruits and vegetables instead.
Prepared chicken nuggets are an excellent side dish with a baked potato and salad. Try preparing homemade boneless chicken breast nuggets with breadcrumbs when you’re ready for a bigger challenge.
“Good food” should make up the majority of your dinner, she advised. Veltkamp like to stick to the 80/20 rule—80% real, whole foods, and 20% fun—and prefers to eat that way.
Snacks, desserts, and beverages should not be overlooked.
Throughout the day, exclude processed foods from your indulgences.
Snacks and desserts in between meals are where most people veer off course, according to Veltkamp.
Make a conscious effort to eat more vegetables and fruits on the go instead of snacks like chips and cookies. Instead of overly processed crackers, opt for whole grain varieties.
Drinking water instead of sugary drinks or diet sodas with artificial sweeteners is the best way to stay healthy and avoid weight gain. Cucumber, lime, strawberry, and other fruits can be added to water to enhance flavor and diversity without adding a lot of sugar. ‘
Keep an eye out for where you purchase your meals.
While grocery shopping, focus on the periphery of the store, where fresh and minimally processed food can be found. However, frozen fruits and vegetables and canned or packaged foods from the supermarket aisles are also important and can be nutritious.
Consider visiting a farmers’ market or roadside stand to be closer to the source of your food, or invest in an allotment in a community supported agriculture farm.
Fresh, whole foods should fill your fridge and cupboard. Then, try out some new dishes.
After that, you can just sit back and enjoy the advantages as your health and well-being improves naturally.