I was lacking blogspiration and put out a call on twitter for ideas. I got a link back to this article (thanks Vanessa!): 17 Processed Foods Nutritionists Approve Of. I started out reading and thought, “Yoghurt, frozen veggies, yup not so bad…”. Then I hit item number six and things plummeted from there.
Number six was granola. I love granola, don’t get me wrong. It’s delicious and it can be fairly nutritious. But… the store-bought varieties tend to be sugar-laden oats and I usually steer people away from those. In fact, most dietitians will tell you that commercially available granolas are usually merely masquerading as health food. On the other hand, when you make your own at home you can use less sweetener, you can use less oil (and choose the variety yourself), and you can pack it full of nutritious nuts and seeds.
I wasn’t a huge fan of number seven, veggie burgers, either. Again, you can make really great ones at home, but the processed store-bought versions tend to be very high in sodium. They’re often not very good sources of protein either as they’re often predominantly rice.
Then there was number eight: unsweetened almond milk?! What the heck. Now, I’m not against almond (or other milk substitutes per se) but I wouldn’t put them out there as a great processed food option. They’re very low in protein and not all of them are fortified with vitamins and minerals to put them on par with cow’s milk. They also have additives you won’t find in cow’s milk such as stabilizers and preservatives. Sure, they’re an option for those who can’t have cow’s milk due to veganism, and allergy, or lactose intolerance, and they can be a nice light alternative to milk on occasion, but I wouldn’t push them as a recommended choice.
It just keeps getting better: organic jelly came in at number nine. That would be essentially a strained jam. So, like, a fruit flavoured sticky sugar. Unlike “The Nutrition Twins” claim, this is not a fantastic way to get a dose of “antioxidants and phytonutrients”. And choosing organic likely has very little effect on the amount of pesticide residue in said jam. You want antioxidants and phytonutrients? Eat some damn fresh fruit.
Number ten was fortified cereals. Um… That would include Froot Loops, Lucky Charms, and all of those sugary cereals. The vast majority of cold cereals are not great choices from a nutrition standpoint. The healthiest cold cereal is plain shredded wheat & bran. Nothing but wheat. If you are trying to choose a cereal try to find one with sugar in the single digits and fibre over 4 grams. Also, make sure that the serving size is going to correspond with the size of your bowl!
11. Frozen pizza. They’re trolling me. Right? I’m going to get to the end of the list and discover that it’s some early April Fool’s Day joke. Most frozen pizzas are not something I would recommend. They’re usually very high in calories and sodium and very low in vitamins and minerals. If you want a quick pizza, you can make one on pita bread or an english muffin. Better yet, make your own dough. It doesn’t take long to mix and you can keep it in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for longer. Whip up a speedy skillet pizza loaded with fresh veg in under half an hour.
Pickles clock in at number 13 with the claim that they’re “processed through fermentation.” Which allegedly provides probiotics. I don’t know where these nutritionists are shopping but most commercially available pickles are not fermented. I love me a good dill pickle but it’s a treat because they’re very high in sodium. If you want fermented pickles, try making your own or hitting up a farmer’s market.
I don’t take exception with any of the foods I didn’t mention on the list. There are even others that I would add like pasta, frozen fruit, milk, regular cheese, flour… Processing in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can make foods edible and nutrients more bioavailable to our bodies. It’s when we’re relying on ready-to-eat highly processed packaged foods for the majority of meals that they’re an issue. Food manufacturers should not be the head cooks in our kitchens.