Oh, the convenience of processed foods is fantastic, right?! I agree, and let me tell you, the quick answer of ‘are all processed foods unhealthy?’ is no! We health coaches like to keep our clients away from processed foods as much as possible, but there are actually a few that you can keep on your grocery list!
Let’s start with what constitutes a processed food. Any food that is ‘processed’ has been altered somehow from its original state for convenience sake or safety reasons. This can include food being canned, milled, frozen, dehydrated, dried, pasteurized, fermented or sprouted. The latter two makes them equally or more nutritious than they once were! The critical concern, however, is how the food is preserved, which at times can be by adding salt or sugar!
Here is a list of quality processed foods that you can keep on your list and in your pantry (or freezer), health coach approved!
1. Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
After produce is picked at their peak, they are blanched and then frozen right away, keeping their nutritional value. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and the IFIC (International Food Information Council) say they provide the same essential nutrients and health benefits as fresh! Be sure to look for products with no added sauces or seasonings! Here’s a great smoothie recipe from Kris Carr.
2. Organic Nut and Seed Butter
The process of making nut and seed butter is either by blending the seed/nut or by roasting and grinding them until it is creamy. Oils are released naturally helping to keep it smooth. Spread nut butters on whole grain crackers or whole grain toast for a healthy snack.
3. Wild Canned Salmon
The process for canning salmon is basic. A machine cuts the fish and then the fish is placed in the cans, with a little salt added. The liquid is all natural. You can flake the canned salmon into a salad or whole grain pasta dish or mix with olive oil and chopped celery for a sandwich spread. I love these 15 recipes from Eating Well.
4. Canned Beans
Most canned beans are simply cooked and canned. Choose the low or no salt added brands, and be sure to rinse the canned beans before adding them to soup or salads.
5. Frozen Organic Chicken Breast
The process of freezing chicken does not use any preservatives, so enjoy your lightly sautéed or grilled chicken in your favorite salad or pasta dish.
6. Plain Greek Yogurt
Choose no added sugar and top with your own naturally sweetened fresh berries.
7. Whole Grain Cereals
Be extra careful here and read those labels! Choose cereals with low or no sugar and watch the words that end in ‘ose’! This really means ‘sugar added.’
8. Nutrition Bars
This one is tricky, but believe it or not, there are a few natural, no preservative nutritional bars out there. Remember one of the main ‘label reading’ rules, most foods should contain no more than 10 ingredients under the ‘ingredients’ list. I like to tell my clients that I prefer that number to be 5 or less. Always look at sodium and sugar contents as well!
Convenience food lovers rejoice! You can have your processed foods and eat it too!
This article was based on information taken from these two resources:
The Dr. Sears Wellness Institute Blog and the Harvard Medical School Men’s Health Watch