Processed foods are often the go-to product for mealtime when the day’s been hectic, rushed and longer than planned. Some are relatively good for you, but there are processed foods to avoid, as well. The good ones are lightly processed and very much like their original form. Canned tuna or a prepared vegetable tray are good examples that add convenience, without losing nutrition or adding ingredients you can’t pronounce. Those that are more unhealthy can be eaten on occasion, but keep it to a minimum. They often bear no resemblance to the original food and their ingredients list reads like a college chem lab experiment.
Processed meat like bacon, hot dogs and salami.
It’s no secret that there’s a lot of salt, dangerous nitrosamines, high fat and calories in processed meat. Bacon seems to have an almost cult following and it’s one of the last unhealthy foods many of my clients reduce in their diets. I say reduce since most don’t give it up entirely. You can make it a little healthier by cooking it in the oven on a wire rack placed inside a deep sheet pan or on the broiler pan. It takes longer and uses a lower temperature—250 degrees to 300—but that keeps the splattering down and is a perfect method for cooking bacon for a large group brunch when there’s more demand for the stove top. Organic hot dogs with no additives or preservatives are also a bit healthier.
There’s a reason why they’re cheap.
Ramen noodles are a staple for college students and often for the night before payday for some people. They’re filling and curb the appetite, are a quick cheap dish in a pinch, but aren’t foods you should eat every day or even every week. The reason? Ramen noodles have a high sodium count, saturated fat, contain a petroleum based preservative TBHQ—tertiary-butyl hydroquinone—and no redeeming nutritional value. If you eat a lot of ramen noodles, you raise your risk for metabolic syndrome that can lead to heart disease, stroke and diabetes just to name a few of the problems.
Margarine was once touted as the healthier alternative to butter.
Yup, science is ever changing its mind when it comes to healthy foods. At one time, there was nothing better to spread on toast than margarine. That was before scientists discovered that trans fats were more lethal than the saturated fat of butter. Use alternatives like olive oil. If you refuse to eat toast with olive oil, use butter from grass fed cows.
- Microwave popcorn may be a great office snack, but it contains diacetyl, a synthetic butter flavoring that causes lung disease and has dangerous chemicals lining the bag. Use a brown paper bag and your own popcorn for chemical free enjoyment.
- Frozen TV dinners contain additives that can lead to stroke and heart problems. Always read the ingredients before buying them to find ones without the massive amount of chemicals, such as organic meals.
- Any type of carbonated drink is suspect. Not only does pop add unnecessary calories and are acid producing, those lower in calories have artificial flavoring that’s even more unhealthy than the sugar.
- Don’t believe all the hype about granola bars. In many cases, they’re more like candy bars in a clever disguise.