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AZULVIOLETA6 SparkPoints: (0)
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10/8/13 3:24 P

Anarie, I don't think that the kinds of choices you are making will necessarily make a huge difference in weight loss or immediate health, but they certainly could make a long-term difference in your health--things like eating more fiber and consuming fewer foods with hormone additives could reduce your cancer risk, for example. Most processed and fast foods are packed with salt...salt raises blood consuming less of this kind of food would reduce your long-term risk of heart attack, aneurysm, stroke, etc.

These choices also have an effect on the health of the environment--less packaging and shipping means less resource extraction and less burning of fossil fuels in transportation, plus fewer things in landfills. A cleaner environment is a good thing for everyone's health.

It's so hard to talk about this issue because there is a huge difference between eating a processed food like whole oats vs. eating a cereal that is full of (processed) sugar, dyes, salt, fillers and stabilizers. Oats are fine, Lucky Charms not so much. There is a difference between eating cottage cheese from a plastic container and eating the plastic food that comes from McDonalds.

Surely reading labels and informing yourself about what ingredients really are is the most important thing. Eating fewer foods that even have a label is probably the best way to go. For me, having a garden, putting up foods and cooking from scratch doesn't take away from my relaxation time--it is relaxing and fun for me to do those things when I happen to have downtime. I enjoy cooking and see it as a means of creative expression. It is also much cheaper and I can eat amazing food on a limited budget.

LOL about is called achiote in Latin America and is infused in oil that is used to cook a lot of things. It's just a little seed that makes food orange...not dangerous! There is an indigenous group in Ecuador (the Tsachila/Colorados) who dye their hair and sometimes their whole bodies with annatto seed. It does not seem to hurt them.

NOEXCUSES2011 SparkPoints: (0)
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Posts: 154
10/8/13 10:32 A


LOVE4KITTIES Posts: 4,690
10/8/13 10:18 A

For me, moderation is the key. I do avoid a lot of processed foods due to the sodium content. But, I do include some processed foods (e.g. canned spaghetti sauce, cheese, yogurt, Brummel and Brown spread, granola, dried pasta, a Lean cuisine once or twice per week, etc.) for convenience. Sure, I could make a lot of this stuff myself, but, I also like to have some time to sit down and relax once in a while. Including some processed food in your diet isn't a horrible thing IMO, if you make wise choices with that food and watch the sodium content of your diet, overall.

MANDIETERRIER1 Posts: 17,406
10/7/13 7:37 P

What Anarie said is valid. I thought about adding that but didn't quite know how to put it into words.

BUBBLEJ1 Posts: 2,981
10/7/13 6:34 P

My definition of processed is when something doesn't look like the original ingredients anymore (exceptions being flour, sugar, etc, which require processing to make them edible). Anything that still looks like the original ingredient is just preprepared. Of course there are exceptions but that is my general outlook

- Frozen fruit and veg
- Rotisserie chicken
- Washed and bagged salad
- Cut fruit
- Meat

- Chips
- Cookies
- Candy

Preprepared food is great as it saves time and helps if you're not as organised. Processed food is a tonne of ingredients that have been combined to make a whole different product, usually with heaps of sugar and preservatives. I'd rather make my own processed foods at home and know what raw ingredients are in them. And, no, I'm not a person with a lot of time. I work more than full time, try to get to the gym 4-5 hours a week, have a house to run, etc. I just have priorities and would rather make my own bread and cookies than watch TV.

ELSELTZ SparkPoints: (2,833)
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Posts: 49
10/7/13 6:07 P

Any food that has been handled, washed, chopped or cooked, has been "processed" in some way.

However, highly-processed foods and packaged foods have more artificial ingredients, are more likely to contain genetically modified ingredients, and salt, sugar and trans-fats that may or may not show up on the label in legible form. Also, the amount of cooking, packaging, transport, and quality of ingredients can make a big difference in the nutritional value.

When I eat 80-90% homemade foods from whole ingredients, I feel good.

When I eat a lot of packaged, highly-processed and artificial foods, I retain water and get fatigue and painful inflammation in my joints.

That is all I need to know.

SIMPLYME80 Posts: 406
10/7/13 1:47 P

In my opinion there is No such thing as "bad foods". I wouldn't make processed foods my daily meals everyday, and I 'm talking about those so called "Healthy TV dinners" along with chicken strips, nuggets, frozen pizza, and other frozen food meals. I do plan then in my diet for a quick meal now and then. As far as deli meat, processed cheesed, hot dogs, bacon etc, I keep in in moderation.

RIET69 SparkPoints: (47,087)
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Posts: 3,116
10/7/13 1:29 P

I think they are bad when they are full of artificial stuff. They also have way too much sodium.

ANARIE Posts: 13,179
10/7/13 11:02 A

Just one comment:

Don't just read the ingredient labels; find out what they mean. I've seen people scream, "OMG!!!! You can't eat that!!! It's got tocopherols and annatto in it!!!!!!!"

But if you look up tocopherol, that's vitamin E, derived from natural oils. Annatto is a spice that's an incredibly rich source of vitamin A and all sorts of other antioxidants, used as a coloring.

Even things like HFCS shouldn't automatically rule out a product. Ingredients on a label are listed in decreasing order by weight. In other words, the later something is listed on a label, the less of it there is. If you're looking at a bottle of fruit-flavored beverage and HFCS (or any other sugar) is the second ingredient after water, then no. That's too much sugar. But if it's a loaf of whole-grain bread and HCFS is listed after yeast, that means there's less than 14 or 15 grams in the whole loaf. You would be getting less than a gram per serving. Even if every negative thing anyone ever said about HCFS is 100% true, you're still not getting enough for it to affect you. If that's the only thing you ever eat that has HFCS, you have to use your own judgement on whether it's really worth giving up that product. Personally, I treat HFCS like any other sugar. I don't go out of my way to avoid it any more than regular sugar, but I've noticed that the only thing in my pantry that has it is condiments-- specifically ketchup and sandwich spread. Since I used half a bottle of ketchup in the last 6 years, I figure I'm pretty safe even if HFCS is evil.

All that said, for the last year I've been living in a place where the nearest supermarket is 100 miles away, there are no fast-food restaurants, and two soda vending machines in a 50-mile radius (one of which doesn't work). My income has also been extremely low here. I buy beans, grains, milk, whole-wheat flour, corn tortillas, eggs, fruit, and vegetables, and get some things by foraging (edible cactus and purslane, for example.) About once a week I eat canned tuna. I bake my own bread and make my own yogurt and mayonnaise; I have even made my own cheese (although it didn't really work all that well.) So my diet is about 90% whole, in the sense that the most radical whole foods "nuts" mean.

And it hasn't really made much of a difference, compared to my 75% whole diet before. My weight hasn't changed, my health hasn't changed, and I don't feel very different. Now, I had long since ditched extremely processed foods like white bread, children's cereals, packaged cookies, cake mixes, fast food, etc, but I don't think things like store-bought whole-grain bread and egg substitute were hurting me any.

KFWOHLFORD SparkPoints: (3,013)
Fitness Minutes: (2,581)
Posts: 729
10/6/13 7:23 P

I eat mostly whole fruits, vegetables, and nuts. A small portion of my diet may include Amy's vegetarian soups, and frozen meals. I watch the sodium content of these things, and buy low sodium when possible, but the ingredient list of those is MUCH more wholesome than your average frozen meal or soup. Certainly no corn syrups, msg, etc.

YOJULEZ SparkPoints: (15,981)
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Posts: 2,171
10/6/13 6:46 P

Like others have said, kind of depends what it is.

Honestly, when I started wanting to lose weight, I relied on a lot of processed food. I had to reteach myself how to eat, especially when it came to portion size. I also worked full time and was attending night classes, so often my alternative was fast food. So, for me, frozen processed meals were great for this. I lost a good amount of weight this way. Once I was comfortable eating less, I started cooking my own foods because I felt confident enough that I could control my portions, even when faced with a big pot of something. I lost even more weight after doing this, and I feel like my health is better now too. Nowadays, I still eat things like store-bought protein and granola bars, and still indulge in junky food sometimes. But most of my main meals are made from scratch and are processed very little.

MANDIETERRIER1 Posts: 17,406
10/6/13 6:46 P

Not necessarily bad but not necessarily that great either.

Just read the labels and pick the items that have the fewest ingredients. With words on them that you recognize and pronounce.

Try not to eat the other stuff at least don't make it a habit.

TRAILWALKERJO54 Posts: 37,018
10/6/13 3:17 P

I say so
no processed cheese or meat

KPA1B2 Posts: 785
10/6/13 9:50 A

I've also noticed that all processed foods are not created equal. Read the labels. Find the brand with less sugar or salt or carbs or whatever it is that you need to watch. More expensive doesn't mean that it is better for you.

GRAMCRACKER46 Posts: 1,765
10/6/13 9:31 A

I the INGREDIENTS. I switched from an expensive "organic" chicken broth for my homemade soups when I discovered it contained ingredients such as corn starch and maltodextrin. I now use the store brand. It is just chien carrots celery onions and some salt although it's a low sodium variety.

HEALTHYJ29 SparkPoints: (0)
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Posts: 1,307
10/6/13 7:17 A

Like others said it depends because I believe many whole grain cereals or whole grain breads come with health benefits. Obviously if one is always choosing lucky charms it is not the best choice on an everyday basis. Moderation and balance. Whole foods bring more nutrients but a combo of some processed and whole foods can make for a healthy way of living that sticks and is realistic for more people.

10/5/13 9:34 P

Some times the processed stuff can be considered better than fresh. Compare the farm fresh frozen veg to an out of season "fresh" veg, the difference can be significant.

I'll put my canned veggies against the Green Giant any day. I'll put my canned veggies against the " off season" supply chain on most days.

Circumstances dictate the answer. Nothing beats a walk into the yard, and the return directly to the plate or pot.

Edited by: INTOTHENEW at: 10/5/2013 (21:35)
KPA1B2 Posts: 785
10/5/13 9:25 P

I think it depends on what you mean by processed foods. Potato chips, cookies, etc. Not good for you.

I try to eat clean, but sometimes with a busy life, making muffins from a mix is just easier then making them from scratch.

I will say that when we're being really good & not eating out a lot, I really notice the salt in fast food or restaurant foods. Plus my stomach gets upset so much more easily.

SIMONEKP Posts: 2,696
10/5/13 9:04 P

processed food has its place in a healthy diet. It depends on what you're eating.

SIMPLELIFE2 Posts: 707
10/5/13 8:05 P

I eat what others have described as "clean." I'm also a pescetarian and eat very little dairy other than low-fat Greek yogurt and cottage cheese (which are processed, but I go for brands with the fewest ingredients). And I know it flies in the face of Sparkpeople philosophy, but since I'm in maintenance, I don't track anymore and have been fine (even lost a bit more body fat) during the past two years.

What I have found is that eating a clean, varied diet that provides everything your body needs curbs hunger and binges. I eat until I'm satisfied and just move on. On days I work out heavily, I'm hungrier, so I eat a bit more. I no longer have the crazy cravings and insatiable hunger like I used to. Once in awhile, I'll see granola bars, "healthy" munchies or something like that on sale, buy them and find that they just make me hungrier.

And forget about eating out for the most part. Now that my body has adapted to real food, anything with lots of fat, sodium and other crap gives me indigestion or makes me feel like crap the next day.

Think about it this way, companies spend millions of dollars in research and development to literally make their products addictive. They find just the right ratios of fat, sugar and salt to light up the pleasure centers of the brain. And just like any drug, highly processed foods, especially fast food, ingesting them will never satisfy you and leave you wanting more.

CHARLOTTE1947 SparkPoints: (44,675)
Fitness Minutes: (55,530)
Posts: 1,751
10/4/13 8:49 P

All things in moderation.

Sometimes we have to eat processed food when our lives are in a crunch. We can't always cook from scratch at home. Like everyone says: Read the label. I shop the organic foods aisle for processed foods. There are fewer additives and more whole grains. The ingredients are ones I've heard of because they're actually food. Those products are more expensive, but at least I know what I'm eating!

RILOLA Posts: 150
10/4/13 4:45 P

Remember an article that circulated earlier this year about a man who had left a McDonald's hamburger in an unused coat pocket for 14 years and it looked the same as the day he purchased it? The burger had no sign of mold or rot. I think that is a great example of processed food! It was designed to last longer on the shelf so it never decayed. Isn't it scary to think we sometimes consume food like that?

That being said, not all processed foods are bad for you, but it is important to read the labels of anything in a box or package. As KB42ANDFIT mentioned below, the fewer the ingredients, the better the choice is.

Here is a blog I like to follow called 100 Days of Real Food:

While not everyone can have a vegetable garden or visit a farmer's market regularly, the blog has some good tips about avoiding processed foods. Fair warning, the recipes on the website are NOT always low fat or calorie conscious, but demonstrate how to create good tasting foods without overly processed ingredients.

KB42ANDFIT SparkPoints: (5,004)
Fitness Minutes: (4,390)
Posts: 15
10/4/13 1:06 P

Start reading ingredient lists on nutrition labels ... do you recognize them? If the answer is yes to most, you're probably OK. Triscuits: wheat, oil, salt. If you can't even begin to pronounce the majority of the list, find a better choice. I do avoid HighFructose Corn Syrup because I'm pretty sure it's bad for me.

Another way to look at it: preparing your own food from as raw ingredients as possible puts you in control. You decide how much oil, sugar, seasonings, whatever. In the end, it's more economical and healthier. so, win/win.

10/4/13 12:36 P

The other posters gave a pretty comprehensive answer, but I want to address the other part of your post: BAD. What does BAD mean to you?

1. If you are trying to lose weight, it essentially comes down to calories. Eat 1200 calories of twinkies each day, exercise, and you will most likely lose weight. So, no, in that sense, they are not BAD.

2. Some processed foods contain a lot of preservatives, artificial flavors made of who-knows-what, cellulose (wood pulp), and other things like this. Are these things bad? I don't know. Some things are banned in other countries. Some things are suspected to be bad. In my opinion, the worst part is the unknown.

3. Sometimes, artificial sweeteners and items can cause cravings and not leave us as satisfied, which would be detrimental to trying to lose weight.

4. Many processed foods are unnatural ways of eating things, which can deplete the nutrients and be difficult for your body to digest. If you want to eat the foods that are best for your body, nutrient wise, then yes, some processed foods are bad.

5. If you are eating processed foods to avoid other foods, or as a "stepping stone" they can be highly useful. If you want to stop drinking soda, it might be a good idea to drink crystal light or diet pop. When I am traveling to other countries, I often eat protein bars. These are highly processed, but it's safer for me to eat than what is being served on the street.

Good... bad... who knows?

KKKAREN Posts: 12,754
10/4/13 9:18 A

I avoid most processed foods when I can, an exception would be cheese. If I can't pronounce the ingredients or there are too many ingredients I stay away.

EXOTEC Posts: 3,327
10/3/13 9:33 P

It depends on what you consider "processed."

I will eat frozen veggies - just veggies, not all the saucy stuff. I use canned items for recipes, such as tomatoes or beans. Frozen fruit, like you'd get for smoothies, perhaps. I do rarely also eat things like whipped topping, but it fits with my nutritional program, and that's also an uncommon indulgence.

I occasionally will get some processed meats, like smoked ham, or sausage... but I go to some lengths to reduce what I feel are the negative aspects of those foods. For example, I have a recipe for ham which begins with a smoked processed item, but then I simmer it and bake/roast it afterwards. I lightly boil processed sausage and then grill it. I'm sure I'm still getting some "bad" things from those... but I don't eat them often, and they don't seem to affect me badly when I do have them.

The funny thing about eating real, whole foods is that as your body gets accustomed to it, it will tell you in no uncertain terms when you give it "fake" foods - ie, processed things. I can't eat the boxed and convenience items - even frozen dinners. It doesn't taste like real food going down, and certainly doesn't digest well afterwards. That goes for most fast food restaurant foods, too.

MARYLIZ54120 Posts: 370
10/3/13 5:51 P

Yes, it really is that bad. Here's my motto. Don't eat anything that comes out of a bag or a box. There are exceptions, but you know what I mean.

CMCOLE Posts: 2,667
10/3/13 5:21 P

I love the variety of answers.

Definitely, your definitions/meanings of the word "processed" is what means much.

For me, low processing, such as freezing fresh, canning without lots of additives fit into our menu well and often.

But, the food full of additives has gradually been eliminated from our pantry, and we definitely don't miss them.

FTSOLK Posts: 1,392
10/3/13 5:03 P

Thank you, Bunny!

People seem to forget that any packaged food is "processed" food. Even pre-sliced fruit is processed food. Nowadays, they have pre-cooked and peeled FRESH beets and pre-cut avocado in the produce department. Wholly guacamole is processed food, but that doesn't mean it's bad for you.

I think it's more important to look at the ingredients of the processed food. One of my favorite meals is string beans, garlic, and Aidell's chicken sausages. They are all-natural, nitrate-free, sausages, but they take about 2 minutes to cook. I can throw the green beans and peeled garlic in the air fryer for like 10 minutes, add the chopped sausage to it for the last 2 minutes of cooking, and I'll have dinner ready to go in less than 15 minutes. Sometimes, I'll skip the string beans and go for frozen broccoli in the air fryer. It's technically processed food, but it's not unhealthy.

BUNNYKICKS Posts: 2,433
10/3/13 4:09 P

Processed food like...
canned tomatoes?
frozen blueberries?
pre-chopped bagged lettuce?
whole grain bagel?
rotisserie chicken from grocery store deli?

nothing wrong with any of the above.... they're just the smallest step away from the "whole raw ingredient"... we don't always have time to stew down fresh tomato sauce from scratch or bake our own bread... we might not always have room to freeze-and-store our summer fruits for the season. We might be in a hurry for a quick dinner and not have time to roast a chicken from scratch.... So we get "lightly" processed foods to give us a helping hand. Why not!


Processed food like...
Kraft dinner, hamburger helper, rice-a-roni?
Heat-and-serve meal-in-a-bag of any description?
Lunchables bologna-and-cheesefoodproduct?

Welllllll maybe not so good. At best they are not very good value for your spending dollar. At worst they are loaded with way more salt sugar and/or fat than the average person should probably be eating. That said... if you occassionally eat a tv dinner or an oreo cookie or a salami sandwich on white loaf? It's not a big deal - we can eat "less than perfect" food from time to time, sometimes, without instantly keeling over in medical distress (usually). Just... so long as we understand these uber-processed foods really ARE poor nutritional choices and there are always better alternatives nutrition-wise... and approach them with a huge helping of moderation... even these food-like-substances can have an occassional place in an otherwise "healthy" diet.

ANGELCITYGAL SparkPoints: (38,869)
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Posts: 1,724
10/3/13 3:57 P

I figure if it's not something my great-grandparents would've recognized as a food item, or if it's something that's advertised, it's probably not a "clean food" item. I start with basic ingredients and cook for myself, so I agree that clean food can taste awesome.

Chemical additives, preservatives, GMO foods, and food coloring have little place in a healthy diet. Of course sometimes we run into them in unusual circumstances, but aiming for the 80/20 rule, I try very hard to eat clean at minimum 80% of the time (probably more like 90-95%).

Works for me.

DRAGONCHILDE SparkPoints: (61,270)
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Posts: 9,713
10/3/13 3:31 P

That depends on what you mean.

Processed food can have its place in a healthy diet. In general, though, it's best to avoid it when possible. It's full of additives, sodium, and other things that are simply not that great. I've never heard of anyone, ever, saying they felt better on a heavily-processed diet when compared to a more healthy diet of whole foods and balanced nutrition.

A1HOTDOG Posts: 75
10/3/13 3:07 P

what is "clean food"?

COACHBECA SparkPoints: (3)
Fitness Minutes: (0)
Posts: 1
10/3/13 2:55 P

Yes! Its full of fillers and things you have probably never heard of. That is not what I want in my body. You can make clean food taste amazing!

A1HOTDOG Posts: 75
10/3/13 2:51 P

Is processed food really that bad?

Edited by: A1HOTDOG at: 10/3/2013 (14:52)
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