Skip to main content

Too Processed or Not to Process

06/03/2014 21:28 ● Published by Sandy Kauten

Processed Foods Defined

Once upon a time all food was fresh.  Produce, meat and dairy items were grown, farmed, slaughtered, or purchased from supermarkets, but they did not come out of a can, box or even a bag.  Think of how massive our nation’s refuse problem has become over the last 50 years.  We generate more trash, because less and less of our food waste is biodegradable.  The processing of food, to the extent that it is, has gradually occurred over the last almost 75 years, since the 1940s. 

Any food changed from its original form is processed.  The orange that is peeled, the broccoli that is steamed, or the radish that is cut are all processed foods.  However, they are all still healthy contributions to one’s diet, despite their mechanical processing.  The issue is when food is chemically processed. 

Foods are typically chemically processed for three primary reasons: to prolong their shelf-life, to enhance their taste, or to make them convenient.  According to Melanie Warner in her book Pandora’s Lunchbox, “processed foods are, plus or minus, 70 percent of what most of us eat.”  These foods typically contain artificial flavors, artificial colors, preservatives, extra salt and sugar, MSG, partially/fully hydrogenated vegetable oils, high fructose corn syrup, and a variety of bleached, enriched emulsified, or refined items.

Despite this, there is a place for processed foods and they have helped grow the national and world economy through trade, and helped feed people throughout the world.  As a society, we can enjoy a variety of foods, whether they are in or out of season.  We can prepare meals for our families in a relatively short amount of time each morning, afternoon, or evening.  Most processed foods can also be stored without the fear of consumers being contaminated by bacteria, bugs, rodents, or other products (cross-contamination.) 

However, the problems come into play due to the over consumption of overly chemically processed products. What makes a product as overly processed?  To name a few, foods that go above and beyond a reasonable shelf-life, like prepackaged baked goods that never seem to spoil, or canned soups that contain enough sodium for a full-day’s nutritional supply along with and added dose of MSG for flavor enhancement, or muffin mix that should and looks like it contains fruit – but doesn’t, foods that should not contain added sweeteners like spaghetti sauce and salad dressings, or frozen foods with lengthy lists of ingredients that cannot be pronounced.  

There are thousands of additives that go into foods today.  In many cases, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cannot even disclose exactly what each food contains, due to proprietary information.  A particular flavor, or process used to arrive at a certain consistency, or an easily identifiable color for an item can all be labeled under artificial flavors or colors, without the specifics being made public knowledge.  The color or flavor can contain an additional dozen (or more), chemicals unbeknownst to the consumer, making an already lengthy ingredients list, alarmingly long.  Not to mention the fact that unsuspected products are chemically enhanced.

The Stats

The U.S. has an alarming rate of obesity that has been steadily climbing for decades.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in 1990 the obesity rate was at 12%, in 2012 the rate was at 27%.  Between 2009 and 2010 the number of obese children between 2-5 years of age was 12.1%, between 6-11 years of age were 18% and 12-19 years of age were 18.4%.  The statistics from the National Center for Health Statistics concluded that 69% of adults were overweight or obese.  Roughly 2/3 of the American population is struggling with weight issues and it directly correlates with the increasing over processing of foods that has occurred over the last several decades. 

The Draw

There are currently entire generations of people who have been raised on processed foods.  In fact, most Americans spend almost 90% of their food budget on processed food items.  The reason is - processed foods taste good!  They appeal to the body’s natural inclination for sweet, fatty, and salty foods – the items needed for fuel and nourishment. 

Advertisers capitalize on the body’s natural cravings and enhance them with visually appealing commercials, catchy slogans like “you can’t have just one!”, and gorgeous layouts of crunchy, salty, gooey, sweet favorites in magazines.  Food manufacturers, in turn, employ scientists (who often boycott the very same products they are responsible for enhancing) to make a food item taste better, last longer, or appeal to a wider market.  When these two are combined with the convenience factor of a drive-thru on the way home after a long day, or between work/school and an evening activity of function, it’s easy to see why processed foods have become so popular.

Some of the worst culprits are:

Potato Chips – Back in 2011, it was finally disclosed that chips, among other items including baby food, contain high levels of acrylamide a known cancer-causing chemical.  Note: Scientists lobbied since 2002 to get the levels reduced in foods.

Microwave Popcorn – The problems begin with the packaging.  The bags are coated with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), the same chemical used in Teflon pans.  In addition to the other processed ingredients, microwave popcorn also contains diacetyl butter flavoring, which has been linked to compromised lung health and Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Sodas – Both diet and regular sodas have their issues.  Diet sodas are particularly addressed due to their artificial sweeteners. Studies show that artificial sweeteners may make you gain weight faster because it slows the metabolism.  Additionally, artificial sweeteners have been linked to Alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson’s, lupus, multiple sclerosis and autism.  Regular sodas for their high concentration of sugar or high fructose corn syrup, which have been linked to obesity, liver issues, diabetes, dementia, cavities and heart problems.

Cereals/Breads/Snack Bars – If they are enriched, the original whole grain has had the nutrients removed in order to increase its shelf-life.  White flour can cause digestive issues and causes insulin spikes.  These products are often full of preservatives to keep them from spoiling quickly.  Note: I once had a loaf of bread that was misplaced in the pantry for over 4 months and showed no signs of mold.  It was tossed when it was found.

Meats/Cold Cuts – Meats of all kinds are typically chemically processed in some manner.  Be it through antibiotics or growth hormones to the animals themselves, or chemically with solutions during the production process to enhance flavor, increase tenderness, improve their appearance or increase the preservation process.  Cold cuts are often loaded with sodium, sodium nitrites and nitrates.  Note: Fooducate has a very interesting video where it asks the viewer to identify the item in the photo.  It’s a pink fluffy concoction that resembles pink marshmallow or crème filling.  Visit the website to identify the substance.

The Alternatives

1.     Whenever possible eat fresh, organic, or locally grown foods.  Better yet, garden what you can to also reduce food costs. 

2.     First, be sure to read all food labels.  If you cannot pronounce the ingredients, put it back on the shelf and look for an alternative.

3.     Cook whenever possible using natural, unrefined, products and avoid frozen foods that are preservative laden.  Look for frozen organic alternatives.

4.     Eliminate as many artificial sweeteners and colorants from foods, as possible.  Look for items made with honey or maple syrup, instead of aspartame and sucralose.   Purchase foods colored with natural items like beets, carrots, or paprika.

5.     Avoid laboratory manufactured refined oils and stick to butter, olive oil, grapeseed oil and unrefined coconut oils for cooking, salads and marinating. 

6.     Foods that have a long(er) shelf-life should be avoided, when possible. The longer the shelf-life the more additives the food contains.

7.     Avoid processed meats of all kinds.  However, if bacon or a sandwich is calling, watch the frequency. 

8.     Avoid the snacks. Many “healthy” bars, candies, chips, popcorn, etc. are chemically processed.  Read the labels and look for healthy substitutions.  They do exist.

Children need fresh fruits and vegetables, proteins and nutrients in order to grow and thrive.  Too many of the products marketed to children are created from chemically over-processed foods.  Children should be educated to make smart choices when selecting what they are fueling their bodies with.   Remind them that “garbage in, garbage out” is indeed true, for all aspects of life – including their food choices.

Parenting, In Print, Today, Today vegetables snacks diet nutrition 2013 processed food fooducate health food organic food fda manufactured food fruit protein drive-thru
  • Colonial Harvest Days

    10/20/2017
    10:00AM

    Fall fun at the farm! Activities for kids and adults of all ages: corn maze, tractor hayrides, f...


  • Aloha Friday

    10/20/2017
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    Next Aloha Friday is October 20 at Whirled Pies Downtown, 199 W. 8th in Eugene. Social Hour, 5...


  • One Man Star-Wars Trilogy

    10/20/2017
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    The Trilogy retells the classic in 60 minutes with no costumes, no props, no sets but all the cha...


  • An Evening with Garrison Keillor

    10/20/2017
    08:00PM — 10:00PM

    One of the most prolific American storytellers of all time, Garrison Keillor is a writer and humo...


  • Colonial Harvest Days

    10/22/2017
    10:00AM

    Fall fun at the farm! Activities for kids and adults of all ages: corn maze, tractor hayrides, f...


  • Haunted Hayride at Dorris Ranch

    10/23/2017
    05:45PM — 07:00PM

    Ghosts, zombies, mummies oh my! Ride through the haunted trails of Dorris Ranch, make crafts and ...


  • Colonial Harvest Days

    10/24/2017
    10:00AM

    Fall fun at the farm! Activities for kids and adults of all ages: corn maze, tractor hayrides, f...


  • Free Kids Table Tennis

    10/24/2017
    04:45PM

    Free Table Tennis for kids at the Eugene Table Tennis Club. Every Tuesday and Thursday. 4:45-6:15...


  • Haunted Hayride at Dorris Ranch

    10/24/2017
    05:45PM — 07:00PM

    Ghosts, zombies, mummies oh my! Ride through the haunted trails of Dorris Ranch, make crafts and ...


  • PreSchool & Lapsit Storytimes

    10/25/2017
    10:00AM — 10:30PM

    Every Wednesday at 10:00am we have two storytimes in the children's area of the library. To the l...


  • Colonial Harvest Days

    10/25/2017
    10:00AM

    Fall fun at the farm! Activities for kids and adults of all ages: corn maze, tractor hayrides, f...


  • Haunted Hayride at Dorris Ranch

    10/25/2017
    05:45PM — 07:00PM

    Ghosts, zombies, mummies oh my! Ride through the haunted trails of Dorris Ranch, make crafts and ...


  • Erth's Dinosaur Zoo Live

    10/25/2017
    06:30PM — 07:00PM

    Guide your family on a tour starting in pre-historic Australia. Observe, meet and interact with a...


  • Colonial Harvest Days

    10/26/2017
    10:00AM

    Fall fun at the farm! Activities for kids and adults of all ages: corn maze, tractor hayrides, f...


  • Free Kids Table Tennis

    10/26/2017
    04:45PM

    Free Table Tennis for kids at the Eugene Table Tennis Club. Every Tuesday and Thursday. 4:45-6:15...


  • Colonial Harvest Days

    10/20/2017
    10:00AM

    Fall fun at the farm! Activities for kids and adults of all ages: corn maze, tractor hayrides, f...


  • Aloha Friday

    10/20/2017
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    Next Aloha Friday is October 20 at Whirled Pies Downtown, 199 W. 8th in Eugene. Social Hour, 5...


  • One Man Star-Wars Trilogy

    10/20/2017
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    The Trilogy retells the classic in 60 minutes with no costumes, no props, no sets but all the cha...


  • An Evening with Garrison Keillor

    10/20/2017
    08:00PM — 10:00PM

    One of the most prolific American storytellers of all time, Garrison Keillor is a writer and humo...


  • Explore your changing relationship! Update your information on new parenting and child develop...


  • Colonial Harvest Days

    10/21/2017
    10:00AM

    Fall fun at the farm! Activities for kids and adults of all ages: corn maze, tractor hayrides, f...


  • Wolf Pack! Family Day at the Museum

    10/21/2017
    11:00AM — 03:00PM

    Bring the whole pack to the museum for a day of family fun! Enjoy crafts and activities celebrati...


  • Free Kids Table Tennis

    10/21/2017
    04:45PM

    Free Table Tennis for kids at the Eugene Table Tennis Club. Every Tuesday and Thursday. 4:45-6:15...


  • Nearby Nature's Haunted Hike

    10/21/2017
    05:30PM — 09:00PM

    Enjoy a guided pumpkin-lit hike in Alton Baker Park and meet an entertaining costumed bat, frog, ...


  • Colonial Harvest Days

    10/22/2017
    10:00AM

    Fall fun at the farm! Activities for kids and adults of all ages: corn maze, tractor hayrides, f...


  • Haunted Hayride at Dorris Ranch

    10/23/2017
    05:45PM — 07:00PM

    Ghosts, zombies, mummies oh my! Ride through the haunted trails of Dorris Ranch, make crafts and ...


  • Colonial Harvest Days

    10/24/2017
    10:00AM

    Fall fun at the farm! Activities for kids and adults of all ages: corn maze, tractor hayrides, f...


  • Free Kids Table Tennis

    10/24/2017
    04:45PM

    Free Table Tennis for kids at the Eugene Table Tennis Club. Every Tuesday and Thursday. 4:45-6:15...


  • Haunted Hayride at Dorris Ranch

    10/24/2017
    05:45PM — 07:00PM

    Ghosts, zombies, mummies oh my! Ride through the haunted trails of Dorris Ranch, make crafts and ...


  • PreSchool & Lapsit Storytimes

    10/25/2017
    10:00AM — 10:30PM

    Every Wednesday at 10:00am we have two storytimes in the children's area of the library. To the l...


  • Colonial Harvest Days

    10/25/2017
    10:00AM

    Fall fun at the farm! Activities for kids and adults of all ages: corn maze, tractor hayrides, f...


  • Haunted Hayride at Dorris Ranch

    10/25/2017
    05:45PM — 07:00PM

    Ghosts, zombies, mummies oh my! Ride through the haunted trails of Dorris Ranch, make crafts and ...


  • Erth's Dinosaur Zoo Live

    10/25/2017
    06:30PM — 07:00PM

    Guide your family on a tour starting in pre-historic Australia. Observe, meet and interact with a...


  • Colonial Harvest Days

    10/26/2017
    10:00AM

    Fall fun at the farm! Activities for kids and adults of all ages: corn maze, tractor hayrides, f...


  • Free Kids Table Tennis

    10/26/2017
    04:45PM

    Free Table Tennis for kids at the Eugene Table Tennis Club. Every Tuesday and Thursday. 4:45-6:15...


  • Colonial Harvest Days

    10/27/2017
    10:00AM

    Fall fun at the farm! Activities for kids and adults of all ages: corn maze, tractor hayrides, f...


  • Colonial Harvest Days

    10/28/2017
    10:00AM

    Fall fun at the farm! Activities for kids and adults of all ages: corn maze, tractor hayrides, f...


  • GO DUCKS! Weekends

    10/28/2017
    11:00AM — 05:00PM

    One campus. Two museums. Free admission. The Museum of Natural and Cultural History and the Jorda...


  • Free Kids Table Tennis

    10/28/2017
    04:45PM

    Free Table Tennis for kids at the Eugene Table Tennis Club. Every Tuesday and Thursday. 4:45-6:15...


  • Halloween Carnival

    10/29/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Dress in costume for a family-friendly Halloween night with spooky carnival games, sports with a ...


  • Mount Pisgah Mushroom Festival

    10/29/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    A fun festival featuring several hundred species of local fungi, collected throughout Western Ore...


  • Colonial Harvest Days

    10/29/2017
    10:00AM

    Fall fun at the farm! Activities for kids and adults of all ages: corn maze, tractor hayrides, f...


  • GO DUCKS! Weekends

    10/29/2017
    11:00AM — 05:00PM

    One campus. Two museums. Free admission. The Museum of Natural and Cultural History and the Jorda...


  • Colonial Harvest Days

    10/31/2017
    10:00AM

    Fall fun at the farm! Activities for kids and adults of all ages: corn maze, tractor hayrides, f...


  • All Hallows Eve - Eugene Downtown Merchants

    10/31/2017
    04:00PM — 07:00PM

    Trick or treat in downtown Eugene! Over 800 kids are expected to trick or treat and enjoy activit...


  • Free Kids Table Tennis

    10/31/2017
    04:45PM

    Free Table Tennis for kids at the Eugene Table Tennis Club. Every Tuesday and Thursday. 4:45-6:15...


  • MOMIX: Opus Cactus

    10/31/2017
    07:30PM — 09:30PM

    A dynamic journey of dance into the hidden landscape of the American Southwest. With danger, sens...


  • PreSchool & Lapsit Storytimes

    11/01/2017
    10:00AM — 10:30PM

    Every Wednesday at 10:00am we have two storytimes in the children's area of the library. To the l...


  • Free Kids Table Tennis

    11/02/2017
    04:45PM

    Free Table Tennis for kids at the Eugene Table Tennis Club. Every Tuesday and Thursday. 4:45-6:15...


  • Free First Friday at the Museum

    11/03/2017
    11:00AM — 05:00PM

    The Museum of Natural and Cultural History offers free admission on the first Friday of the month...


  • Gem Faire

    11/03/2017
    12:00PM — 05:00PM

    GEM FAIRE: November 3-5, 2017, Lane County Events Center, 796 W. 13th Ave., Eugene. Fri. 12pm-6pm...


  • Eugene Gem Faire

    11/03/2017
    12:00PM — 06:00PM

    November 3-5, 2017, Lane County Events Center, 796 W. 13th Ave., Eugene. Fri. 12pm-6pm, Sat. 10am...


 

 January 2017 Education Guide

NEW!! Coming in Sept / Oct 2017!!!

 

Weekly Recipes