Wednesday, November 3, 2010

There's Processed and then There's "Ultra-Processed"

Marion Nestle has a good post on the different levels of processed foods. You can read it here:

I've heard the argument before that pretty much all food is processed. If you take some locally grown vegetables and cook with them, you've processed them.

So, telling people not to eat processed foods is probably incorrect. What you should be avoiding, if you want to be healthy and slim, is ultra-processed foods.

I found Marion Nestle's post interesting because I was just having a discussion with someone about processed foods today. I was hiking with my girlfriend in the local nature preserve when she asked me "Don't you ever shop at Trader Joes?"

Now, if you're not familiar with Trader Joes, it's a food purveyor that markets all kinds of packaged, processed, convenience foods, albeit under a "natural" "healthy" label.

I explained to my friend that I don't eat or feed my family processed foods (that is ultra-processed foods). Instead, I buy fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, dairy, fish, etc and make meals from scratch. I don't do anything "semi-homemade." If I do make desserts, whether it's a cake, brownies, or cookies, nothing comes from a box, can or jar. I measure out the dry ingredients, and even my frosting is whipped up from as close to natural as I can get ingredients.

Yes, it takes a little more time to do things this way, but by doing so, my family eats far fewer questionable additives and ingredients that are usually in processed products.

The other good thing is that because it is more time consuming to eat this way, we eat less. When food is not so easy to make, you naturally make and eat less, and when the only "ready to eat" foods in the house are raw fruits and vegetables or dried fruits and nuts, that's what you eat when you do get peckish between meals.

Eating less,of course, translates into losing weight or maintaining a lower weight easier. And, if the only quick snack available is a banana, that's far fewer calories consumed then a box of Thin Mints.


  1. Raw nuts, raw cheese, dried fruits w/o sulfur,organic whole grains, some organic produce, at the best prices: Trader Joe's. I know lots of people go there for the pre-packaged stuff, but the seasonal produce is northeast local. I'd say that for a lot of healthy whole foods TJ's is pretty ok..

  2. Our local TJs is almost all pre-packaged foods with very little produce. They do have good nuts and dried fruit, but I have a great local market that has that and organic produce too, so that's where I head.

  3. I shop at least monthly at my local Trader Joe's. I avoid the processed foods and get olive oil, most of my vinegars. pasta, grains, nuts (cheapest I've seen if you don't belong to some wholesale club), sometimes herbs and spices, eggs, some dairy, and coffee filters. Oh, and wine. Yes, there's lots of processed food there, but there's a lot that isn't as well.