This category can include food that has been cooked, canned, frozen, packaged. Or, it can be food that’s been fortified, preserved, or prepared.
Minimally processed foods can make our lives more convenient, such as washed and pre-chopped fruits and vegetables or bagged salads.
Highly processed foods are the types, however, that should be avoided. There are foods that have sweeteners, oils, flavors, colors and preservatives to improve safety, taste and appeal, like boxed potatoes, jarred tomato sauce, and cake mix. Ready-to-eat foods like cereal, flavored oatmeal, crackers, yogurt, granola bars, cookies, rotisserie chicken, lunch meats, hot dogs, sausage, and cheese spreads fall into the category of highly-processed foods, as well as those that that are packaged like frozen meals and frozen pizzas.
Experts say the more processed foods you eat and the longer you eat them can lead to inflammation, leaky gut syndrome, and a host of health conditions in the future.
To help remove these foods from your children's diet and your own, health journalist Julie Relevant suggests the following:
- Take stock of what your family eats and have a plan that includes goals.
- Purge your pantry (this will be a gradual process)
- Make healthy substitutions and find better versions of your kid’s favorite foods
- Re-think what you pack for school lunch
- Swap processed snacks for whole foods including fruits and vegetables and nuts/seeds
- Don’t forget sugary drinks: swap in water, or water infused with cucumbers or strawberries
- Eliminate all white, refined carbohydrates
- Shop and cook with your kids—make it fun! We must empowering kids to make healthy choices.
- Stay consistent and be patient.