Let’s face it, most of us buy and consume processed foods. Maybe it’s because we’re busy, we think it’s cheaper, or it’s just the way we’ve always shopped. Whatever your motivation, if you spend more time shopping in the frozen dinner freezer than the produce section, it’s time to reevaluate. Discover the dangers of processed foods and why it is being blamed for America’s obesity epidemic, and see just how easy it is to make-over your pantry and fridge with fresh and delicious grub.
We hear them all the time, words like processed and refined, but what do they really mean? The American Dietetic Association considers heavily processed to mean ready-to-eat foods that are packaged and filled with additional sweeteners, oils, colors or preservatives. So why are these so bad for you?
Processed Foods are Addictive
Food is so much more than nutrition. Our relationship with food is psychological and emotional. Many of us have had unhealthy relationships with food at some point in our lives, whether through food restriction, binging, or uncontrollable cravings. The fact is, it is not your fault. Most of our favorite processed foods (think chips, cakes and candies) are scientifically designed to stimulate not only our taste buds, but also the pleasure centers in our brains, causing us to crave more of them in insatiable amounts; if you’ve ever eaten half a bag of chips without even realizing it, you know it’s true. The problem is, these foods offer minimal nutrition, they fail to make you full, and they are loaded with calories.
Processed Foods Cause…
An untold number of ailments. To name a few, highly processed foods have been linked to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, allergies, and arthritis…need I go on?
Processed Foods Contain GMOs
Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are plants or animals that are genetically modified using the DNA from bacteria or other plants and animals. GMOs have been deemed unsafe by over 60 countries (including all European Union states, Australia, and Japan), where they are heavily restricted or banned. According to non-GMOProject.org, GMOs are in as many as 80% of conventional processed foods, and in America, companies are not required to label GMOs in their products.
Processed Foods Cost you More Money
Prepackaged foods are expensive, because you are not only paying for your food, but also the packaging and marketing. Healthy, wholesome meals don’t have to be expensive, and they don’t have to take a lot of time. If you don’t believe me, check out how this family of four ate only real food for 100 days on a budget of $125 per week.
Wanting to make some changes to your diet? Here are some tips to get you on the real food track:
Be a Food Detective
You have to take control of your own health, plain and simple. Many of the foods that are marketed as healthy (low-fat, gluten-free, organic, etc.) are still full of preservatives, added sugar, or artificial coloring. Take a moment to check the ingredient list on the bread that’s in your pantry. Even if you buy the nutty, healthy-looking brown bread that says “multigrain” on the side, there’s a good chance it’s still chock full of things you can’t pronounce, like sodium stearoyl lactylate, or that it’s been colored with high fructose corn syrup. The point is, make it a point to read ingredient labels. Rather than always buy the jarred or canned version of food, learn to make your own. Spaghetti sauce can easily be made from scratch (remember to make a big batch and freeze it!), and you’ll drastically cut down the sugar and sodium. For example, Classico Fire Roasted Tomato and Garlic spaghetti sauce has 1900 mg of sodium (80% daily value) and 30 grams of sugar per jar.
Be a Perimeter Shopper (Better yet, Shop Local)
Stick to the outside aisles in the supermarket, where you’ll find produce, meats and dairy; the cookies and chips lurk in the inner aisles. Better yet, avoid the grocery store altogether and head to your town’s local farmers market. You’ll be amazed at the variety, quality, and affordability of local produce; plus, it just makes you feel good inside.
Don’t Shop Hungry
If you hit the grocery store when you’re famished, you’re more likely to buy high-calorie junk food, a Cornell University study has discovered. If you tend to shop after work, keep a healthy snack in your glove compartment. Whatever you have to do, don’t shop when your defenses are down.
If your house contains more processed foods than you’d like, throw them out…now. See what a difference eating real, wholesome food can make in your energy levels, immunity, and digestion.