Packaged food is known to be the culprit behind obesity, especially in America where it often dominates our diets. Packaged food is often processed, making it full of added sugars and unhealthy amounts of salt. We tend to be addicted to these sugar-filled foods because food manufacturers make sure it is tasty and “rewarding” to the brain. That’s how manufacturers make sure that customers buy more and profits shoot up. Other than sugars and salt, they also have many different kinds of artificial chemicals, including texturants, flavorants, colorants, and preservatives which harm the body in different ways.
The number of processed foods available in the market has been increasing for a hundred years. Here is a list of the worst types of packaged foods that most of us eat regularly:
1. Boxed Mac And Cheese
When it comes to an easy meal that you can quickly whip together, you can’t go wrong with the good old “mac and cheese” in a box. The problem is that it provides nothing more than simple carbohydrates. Other than the fact that this popular meal is very low in nutrients (including fiber), it is usually always made with white flour.
How To: Instead of a meal with no nutrients, adding veggies like broccoli will make your meal a little healthier. Simply cut the broccoli into small pieces, simmer or steam it, and add it to the cooked mac and cheese. You could even add some chili flakes and “real” cheese (like Pecorino).
2. Canned Or Bottled Juice
Don’t be fooled by labels which claim that the juice is “natural”. Manufacturers can claim that their products are “natural” if even 10% of the ingredients are natural. Drinking juice that is made of 100% fruits is comparatively healthier than other juice, as long as you do not overdo it. Having whole fruits and vegetables, however, is healthier than any juice because juices are stripped of its fiber. Bottled juices are full of fructose corn syrup and artificial ingredients which make them high in calories.
How To: Skip the canned version and make your own juice. Sans sugar!
3. Flavoured Yogurt
It may come as a surprise that the snack that you thought was healthy at the supermarket, the yogurt, is actually full of sugar. It’s best to stick to plain yogurt with full fats and simple ingredients. Scan the label for artificial ingredients, and avoid ones that say “fat-free” because they tend to have more sugar in them.
How To: Single-serve yogurts often come with “fruit toppings”. Try to avoid these. Instead, cut some fresh fruits or spices and add it your plain yogurt for your added flavor. Toasted oats, cinnamon, nuts, and seeds, for example, taste delicious with simple yogurt.
Cookies are usually made with refined wheat flour, refined sugar, and added fats (which are high in trans fats). But keep your eyes peeled and you will definitely find prepackaged cookies on the supermarket aisles that are both delicious and healthy. Make sure that you pick a brand with ingredients that are whole and simple. There shouldn’t be artificial sweeteners. Natural sugar, like cane sugar, is best.
How To: Having a whole food along with your cookie helps. Try natural peanut butter, string cheese or some almonds for example.
5. Frozen Waffles
Even the fussiest of kids will hardly ever refuse a waffle. Unfortunately, they are not the healthiest way to start the day. Not only are they normally made of white flour, but the list of ingredients usually contains refined carbohydrates that do you no good either. To top it off, chances are that you will add on more sugar in the form of maple syrup and butter.
How To: Instead of loading the waffles with maple syrup, consider nut butter and some fruit slices such as apples or berries. You could also try some cashew butter with strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries. Top it off with a bit of raw honey, sea salt, and crunchy toasted cashews.
6. Granola Bars
They may be marketed as tasty, healthy snacks that satisfy your sudden hunger, but don’t assume that all granola bars are healthy. Many of them have a lot of added sugar in them and are about as healthy as a carbonated drink.
How To: What you should look for in the ingredient list is a whole food. In fact, the first item on the list should be a whole food like oats, nut butter or barley rather than a type of sugar. There also shouldn’t be more than seven ingredients in total.
7. Processed Meats
Processed meat is meat that has been salted, smoked, cured, canned or dried. This includes hot dogs, deli meats, sausages, salami, ham, and bacon. Studies have shown that those who eat lots of processed food over a long period of time are at a higher risk of developing chronic diseases like cancer and heart diseases.1 2
How To: If you need a meat in your sandwich, pastrami is a good alternative to salami(even though it has high sodium content). Pastrami is much lower in fat than salami and it has a good amount of protein. Or replace your protein source with mushrooms which not only have a decent amount of protein, but also a number of nutrients and vitamins. Low-sodium meats, especially low-sodium turkey, are great alternatives to the classic ham and Swiss. Low-sodium turkey also has very low fat and calorie content. Cooked chicken breast (without the skin) may be one of the healthiest options for a sandwich meat out there. It’s low in sodium, fat and has about 27 grams of protein.
You will be hard-pressed to be on a diet consisting of no packaged foods at all. The more packaged food you eat, the worse your health will be. The key is to avoid it as much as possible and replace most of your food with real foods like fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish.
|↑1||Larsson, Susanna C., and Nicola Orsini. “Red meat and processed meat consumption and all-cause mortality: a meta-analysis.” American journal of epidemiology 179, no. 3 (2013): 282-289.|
|↑2||Cross, Amanda J., Michael F. Leitzmann, Mitchell H. Gail, Albert R. Hollenbeck, Arthur Schatzkin, and Rashmi Sinha. “A prospective study of red and processed meat intake in relation to cancer risk.” PLoS medicine 4, no. 12 (2007): e325.|