Before we dive into some processed foods that are healthy, I wanted to talk about the differences between different categories of food.
Major Categories of Foods:
Whole Foods :
Let’s start with something like strawberries. So strawberries are a whole food because they are in their natural form, there is no fiber removed, no nutrition removed. And that’s just the way they are, that’s the way they grow. It’s a nutrient-dense food.
Minimally Processed Foods:
So if you buy frozen berries that have no added sugar, they are as they are, and they are just frozen. So the berries become minimally processed. The processing is the freezing process, but it’s not changing the nutrition too much. Another example would be Almond Butter. So almonds would be the whole food and Almond Butter is still nutritious. We can tell that this category is healthy processed foods.
Heavily Processed Foods:
These are the foods that you want to avoid and limit. The original food that it doesn’t have the initial nutrition and it has a lot of added ingredients. If I were to take strawberries and create some sort of berry spread. That berry spread will have added sugar, it won’t have as much vitamin C as the berries, and it may even have artificial coloring and flavors. Compared to the strawberries is not nutritious food.
Some Healthy Processed Foods:
So now that you know the differences between the different categories, let me talk about some processed foods that are healthy for you.
So this is one of my favorite healthy snacks. It has lots of antioxidants and fiber. It’s one of the few snacks that are 100% whole grain. It is also very low calorie and minimally healthy processed food. Keep in mind we’re not talking about popcorn that you get at the movie theater with butter that is doing more bad than good. I’m talking about air-popped popcorn that doesn’t need oil. If I can’t make it myself I just buy it. We can also use microwavable bags but a lot of them do contain chemicals so a lot of people prefer to avoid them.
So beef jerky, turkey jerky, I’ve even had salmon jerky. If you’re looking for a high-protein snack that is not a supplement Jerky is about as good as you’re going to get macro wise. But of course, they’re not all created equal. First of all in general turkey jerky is going to have less fat than beef jerky, just because turkey breast is not fatty and beef is. One problem with jerky is the added sugar. So I’m not just talking teriyaki flavor almost all of them have sugar, cane sugar, brown sugar, molasses. The other Jerky issue has been Sodium and additives. Most companies have stopped using quite as many additives and advertising no preservatives, no nitrates, and all-natural minimally healthy processed foods but always read the label.
So next we have these Roasted Beans or Legumes in snack form. So chickpea snacks have become a thing, and they taste really good. As is the case with most processed snacks you can get these in many flavors. When you pick out those types of flavor varieties make sure you read the ingredients list. Because what starts as something pure clean can become something with a lengthy ingredients list that is not so clean.
When it comes to Dried Fruit you are better off trying to find unsweetened. It is not an easy task. I’ve had some luck at health food stores sometimes. But you have to read the labels because those will still say first ingredient blueberry second ingredient sugar or whatever so you have to read. Freeze-Dried Fruit is a better choice than Dried Fruit if you can’t be sure if it’s sweetened or not.
A lot of packaged food items are just pretending to be healthy. For healthy processed food, we must learn how to read the labels and determine for ourselves. We cannot trust health claims. If a food package is making a health claim, it’s usually a bad sign.