Thursday, January 27, 2011

"Nice" Processed versus "Scary" Processed

I cook from scratch as much as I can, using whatever fresh fruits or vegetables I can find. But let's get real here, it's Winter in New England, and we just had yet another huge dump of snow, so there's no way in hell I can't fall back on processed foods to feed my family.

The issue is, of course, that there are "good" processed foods and bad processed foods. A difference explained here:

There are a number of pantry staples I fall back on when cooking at home. To the extent I can, I try to only by organic products that come in BPA-free packaging. Here are just a few of the "good" processed foods I keep in my kitchen to get me through a long, cold, snowy Winter:

  • frozen peas
  • sun-dried tomatoes
  • cans of beans and lentils
  • whole wheat pasta
  • brown rice
  • whole wheat couscous
  • frozen corn
  • sweet potatoes
  • frozen shrimp
  • canned tomatoes
  • different kinds of flours
  • raw almond butter
  • dried fruits such as raisins
  • nuts

The point is, of course, that it's nearly impossible to eliminate all processed foods from my diet. Nor, would I want to. Coming from an Italian back-ground there's no way I'm giving up my pasta!!!

But, if you want to lose weight and keep it off, you have to make the distinction between foods that have been minimally processed so that they can be preserved, and those processed to the point that they're barely recognizable as food.

As the article correctly pointed out:

On the other end of canning field are pre-packed lunch "kits" that typically combine cardboard, plastic, crackers, cheese flavored rubber, glue, cellophane, "luncheon meat," brick-like cookies and something called a juice box. (If I believed in the devil, I'd consider these products the work of its hands.) And of course, there's ordinary junk food (cheese popcorn, pretzels, crackers, chips, candy, cookies, soda), canned spaghetti with sauce, Spam, Vienna sausage (unheard of in Austria), cake mixes, frozen burritos, microwaveable sandwiches and an endless array of boxed cereals and protein bars (some better than others).

Unfortunately, the latter group creates so many health problems in children and adults -- from type 2 diabetes and obesity, to run of the mill sugar and salt jonesing. Devoid of nutrition and brimming with all sorts of chemical preservatives, highly processed foods are seductive to people of every economic level from middle class families and the working poor who find temporary emotional comfort from the crap that fills their carts. Next time you're slogging through the free sample offerings at Costco or the grocery aisles at a Walmart Supercenter, live in the moment and look at your fellow shoppers' baskets. And then look at them -- but don't stare! Maybe it's not scientific but on the ground observation contains a lot of truth.

Just remember that you'll weigh what you eat. Eat "scary" processed foods and you'll weigh more then you should and have health problems to boot. If your diet is mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, and minimally processed foods, you'll weigh less and be healthier.

So clear out and restock your pantry today.


  1. Good post. I hate canned spaghetti.

  2. My neighbor just asked me if I wanted to plant veggies with her this spring. I got uber stoked! I prefer the freshest kinds of veggies/fruits I can get my Vienna Sausage Fingers on.

    I hate winter. :(