Processed foods aren’t just microwave meals and other ready meals. The term ‘processed food’ applies to any food that has been altered from its natural state in some way, either for safety reasons or convenience. This means you may be eating more processed food than you realise. Processed foods aren’t necessarily unhealthy, but anything that’s been processed may contain added salt, sugar and fat. One advantage of cooking food from scratch at home is that you know exactly what is going into it, including the amount of added salt or sugar.
A few examples of processed foods include:
- Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables
- Packaged foods labeled “natural” or “organic,” such as cereals, fresh meat and poultry, and jarred baby foods
- Foods with health and nutrition claims on the label, such as “may reduce risk of heart disease,” “low in fat” or “high in calcium”
- Foods fortified with nutrients such as fiber, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids
Americans consume more packaged, processed foods per person than their counterparts in any other country, and it’s an issue all over the western world. But while processed foods are undeniably affordable and convenient, many also contain lots of fat, salt, and sugar — and, if you have diabetes, they probably shouldn’t be on your shopping list. The problem is that you might have them around out of habit, and then rely on them when you get hungry. “The best thing you can do is plan ahead,”
- Foods prepared in quick-service and fine-dining restaurants, cafeterias and food courts, sports arenas, coffee shops and other locations
- “convenience foods”, such as microwave meals or ready meals
- drinks, such as milk or soft drinks
- Food processing techniques include freezing, canning, baking, drying and pasteurizing products.
Processed Foods To avoid
Laden with sugar, preservatives, salt, and fat, these processed foods aren’t good for anyone, especially people with diabetes. Strike them from your shopping list and do your health a favour.
- Chicken Nuggets
- French Fries
- Potato Chips
- Processed Meats
- Sugary Cereals
Because processed foods include such a wide range of products, their nutritional values vary widely, too. For instance, frozen vegetables can be more nutrient-rich than fresh because they are picked and frozen at their nutritional peak. Furthermore, processed foods that are fortified with vitamins, minerals or other nutrients can help people reach the recommended intake levels for those nutrients. An example is orange juice fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Some processed foods, such as fried foods, desserts and candy, supply calories but few other nutrients
Reading nutrition labels can help you choose between processed products and keep a check on the amount of processed foods you’re eating that are high in fat, salt and added sugars.