As I’ve gotten older (and have had several kids), I’ve been forced into caring more and more about what my family is consuming and how much money I spend doing so. When I had a busier lifestyle (or so I thought), I would buy boxed frozen pizza, canned veggies and fruits, frozen lunches, cold cereal, frozen lasagna, and the list of processed foods could go on and on. The fact is, processed foods are void of many essential nutrients and vitamins our body needs, and they are packed with harmful additives and preservatives. Sometimes, what you don’t know will kill you.
What I didn’t realize all that time while I was stuffing my face with those crappy processed foods, was that I could be eating much healthier and better tasting food and I could be saving a ton of money in doing so if I took the few minutes to learn how and what to cook. Not to mention, it’s a fun activity for the whole family. Below, I’m going to define processed foods for you and show you several reasons you should consider eliminating processed foods in favor of healthier, tastier, and less costly alternatives. In future lessons, I plan on providing simple meal plans for you and or your family that will help make you healthier and save you money .
First, what are processed foods?
Foods that undergo slicing, dicing, cutting, chopping, cooking, mixing, grinding, smoking, drying, packaging, canning or other procedures that alter the food from its original state. Mixed greens, honey, and salsa are examples of processed foods. Agricultural product sold in its raw harvested state is not considered processed.
The key here is, food manufacturers take normally decent food and add salts and other preservatives or additives to make the product last longer and or taste better. In doing this, manufacturers reduce and or eliminate the natural vitamins and introduce harmful ones:
Unfortunately, most processed foods are laden with sweeteners, salts, artificial flavors, factory-created fats, colorings, chemicals that alter texture, and preservatives. But the trouble is not just what’s been added, but what’s been taken away. Processed foods are often stripped of nutrients designed by nature to protect your heart, such as soluble fiber, antioxidants, and “good” fats. Combine that with additives, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Here are some staggering facts about processed foods:
- Processed, packaged foods have almost completely taken over the diet of Americans. In fact, nearly 90 percent of our household food budget is spent on processed foods, according to industry estimates.
- Irradiation is the use of x-rays or gamma radiation on food to kill bacteria mold, viruses, and parasites. Unfortunately, its effects are also harmful to test animals. Those fed a diet of irradiated wheat developed increased numbers of cells with chromosome abnormalities. As well, there were unexplained stillbirths in the offspring of test rats.
- There are also concerns regarding the materials used to coat and package foods.3 The protective wax on produce such as cucumbers, peppers, and apples may trigger allergies, and can contain pesticides, fungicide sprays, or animal byproducts. Further, the plastic (vinyl chloride) some food is wrapped in is considered carcinogenic, and has been linked to immune reactions and lung shock.
- A by-product of whitening, especially of food containers, Dioxin has become a health concern. It has been reported, for example, that certain ice creams contain high levels of dioxins, reportedly leaked into the product through the whitening used in its containers.
- A known carcinogen, dioxin is associated with genetic and reproductive defects as well as learning disabilities.4
- Dioxin exposure is a possible cause of endometriosis – a painful condition that can result in fertility problems and/or hysterectomy, as well as chronic pelvic pain and other conditions.
- It makes good sense to always pay attention to the food you are buying, especially if it has been processed. One thing is for certain – most of these added ingredients have nothing to do with nutrition and everything to do with increasing food sales by keeping addicted, depleted consumers coming back for more.
The bottom line is, when you put your trust into manufacturers, you never know what you’re getting in your foods. You can see that manufacturers are interested in keeping you hooked on processed foods by packing them full of salts and other artificial flavorings to keep you coming back for more and more. Some processed foods like Milk are unavoidable and are not necessarily “bad” as processed. More often than not though, you want to avoid processed foods of any kind. You must make the switch now, here’s a great list to get you started:
What can you do to reduce your reliance on processed foods?
- Replace lunch meats with home-roasted meats. Roast a local, organic chicken once a week and have chicken salad, roasted chicken sandwiches, chicken soup for lunch instead of processed lunch meats.
- Eat more salads, whole grains and fresh fruit. Americans consistently underperform in the “getting your veggies” department (and fruit, and grains).
- Bake bread once a week. Two loaves of bread lasts an entire week, and made with high protein grains (such as quinoa), can be a healthy cornerstone of a diet.
- Cut out the chips and crackers. Your body doesn’t really need them, anyway.
- Bake and freeze cookies once a month. If you (or your kid, in my case) has a sweet tooth – make a cookie day once a month and freeze enough not to have to buy bags and boxes at the grocery store.
- Invest some time in the “make-a-bunch-and-freeze-it” strategy. Soups, stews, and pasta sauces make lunch (and quick dinner) for months if cooked and frozen properly. Think about what your family will eat and plan two big cooking days every month to make and freeze those items. Popular in our house are beef or venison stew, chicken-pear stew, wedding soup, pesto and red pasta sauces, and curry sauce. Heat or quick-prepare and they’re as easy as anything in a can or box and so much better for you and the environment.
- Think before you eat (which means, think before you leave your house). Convenience foods are just that – convenience foods. If you plan appropriately, there’s very little need for them.