When you hear the phrase “processed foods” you may first think of frozen pizzas, boxed macaroni and cheese, and frozen meals. These are processed foods and they are not the healthiest of choices considering their higher levels of sodium, saturated fat, and calories. Because this is what’s thought of as processed foods you think that processed foods should be avoided, right? Well, that’s not completely true! There is such a variety of processed foods that these examples barely scrape the surface.
What Makes a Food a Processed Food?
Any food that is manipulated or changed in any way is considered a processed food. The frozen pizza and boxed macaroni and cheese mentioned earlier? Those fall under the category of ultra-processed foods; foods in this category are recommended to be consumed in a limited capacity. There are also minimally processed foods, remember there is a spectrum of processing! A few examples of minimally processed foods include baby carrots and pre-cut fruit. It sounds odd calling these foods processed, right? Because they have been cut and peeled of their skins, they are considered a processed food. Canned and frozen foods of all types are processed foods, too. The healthier processed foods are the minimally processed ones.
Here are 8 Healthy Processed Foods
Nut butters: The best part about nut butters, besides being delicious and versatile, is that they are a good source of protein and healthy fats. When choosing your nut butter, read the nutrition facts label and pick the one that says only the type of nut and maybe salt in the ingredients list. Avoid nut butters that contain sugar.
Plain yogurt: The key to buying yogurt for optimal nutrition is to buy it plain, non-flavored and unsweetened. Yogurt is a good source of protein and probiotics. It’s easy to make plain yogurt flavorful at home with fruit or a little bit of jam.
Fruit canned in its own juice or light syrup: You don’t need to eat only fresh fruit to meet your three recommended servings per day, canned fruit has the same nutrients as the fresh. It is important to choose the variety that is packed in its own juice or in light syrup to avoid excessive added sugar.
Low-sodium canned vegetables: Just like the canned fruit, canned vegetables contain the same nutrition profile as their fresh counterparts. The biggest difference is that canned vegetables are preserved using salt. Look for the low-sodium canned vegetables, and to remove even more of the added sodium you can rinse the vegetables under running water at home.
Frozen fruit and vegetables: If you are concerned about the added sugar or salt in the canned varieties of produce, then frozen fruits or vegetables may be the route for you! The produce is picked at peak freshness and then frozen in a timely manner to ensure their nutrition quality. Frozen produce is nutritionally comparable to the fresh stuff.
Rotisserie chicken: An easy solution to dinner on a busy day, rotisserie chicken is a great option! It’s also a good option to use in recipes if you are in a pinch for time. For example, rotisserie chicken can be skinned and used in a chicken stir fry.
Ground flaxseed: Seeds are an easy source of some protein and of omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseeds in particular. Ground flaxseed are easy to incorporate into smoothies, pancake batter, oatmeal, or yogurt for extra protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
Whole-grain products: Breads, pastas, and rice are widely available in many varieties. Choose whole-grain breads, pastas, and rice for higher levels of fiber and lower levels of added sugar. Fiber helps you feel satisfied after your meal for longer and is beneficial for your digestive system.
The Bottom Line
Processed food does have a place in your diet! Minimally processed foods are a great source of nutrients. Consider adding any of these eight minimally processed foods into your diet.
Want to know more about how processed foods can have a healthful place in your diet? Book your free 10-minute consultation with me to learn more!