I think the general public is very confused about “processed food” vs.“whole food.” And I don’t blame them. The processed food people do a slick job of marketing their products, trying to convince us their laboratory concoctions are actually healthy.
“Made from REAL fruit.”
“No Trans Fat!”
“No Artificial Sweeteners”
What does it all mean? No one knows, really, so don’t knock yourself out trying to figure it out. Instead, I think it’s easier to identify “whole foods” and go from there.
How Do I Know if Something is a Whole Food?
1. If the food came from the ground or has a mother, it’s a whole food.
2. A whole food has nothing added to it or taken from it. It is in its simplest form, the way God created it to be.
3. In a grocery store, you find most whole foods on the perimeter of the store.
4. When you look at the ingredients, there is only one.
5. When you look at the food, it should look like the food in question. (an apple should look like an apple–not an Apple Jack, a tomato should look like a tomato–not catsup, etc)
6. The more ingredients you see, generally, the more processing has taken place.
7. If the ingredients list contains any chemicals, preservatives, artificial coloring or flavoring, it is absolutely not a whole food.
8. Many whole foods have limited or no packaging (think produce and meat).
9. Most whole foods can be purchased from a farmer’s market.
And Here is Where I Confuse You
1. Not all processing is bad. For example, cheese, butter and plain Greek yogurt are minimally processed, but they are all foods that you could safely work into a healthy diet. Unless it’s Velveeta or spray cheese in a can. Read labels to see what other ingredients are there…spray cheese is totally gross! (how old am I, 15?)
2. You can’t always look at the number of ingredients. Salsa may contain several ingredients, but if it’s a fresh salsa, it should contain only a variety of chopped up vegetables and herbs: All healthy, whole foods, just chopped up and mixed together.
3. Not all whole foods are in the perimeter of the grocery store. You can also find many whole foods (fruits, veggies, meat and fish) in the frozen food section–right there next to the Eggo Waffles and Pizza Pockets. You will find nuts (a whole food) in the snack aisle, right next to the Pringles.
4. There are degrees of processing. And this is where it gets even more complicated. To help you understand this concept and make the healthiest choices possible, I’ve compiled a little list of foods at various stages of processing.
Whole vs. Minimally Processed vs. Processed
Apple Sauce=minimally processed food
Apple Pop Tart=processed food
Blueberry Jam=processed food
Blueberry Flavored Gummy Treats=highly processed food
Brown Rice: whole food
White Rice: processed food
Rice Crispy Treat: highly processed food
Corn: whole food
Organic Corn Tortilla: minimally processed food
Fritos: highly processed food
Oats: whole food
Nature Valley Granola Bars: processed food
Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pie: highly processed food
Wheat: whole food
Sprouted Grain Wheat Bread: minimally processed food
Wonder White Bread: processed food
If you stick around Fitness Friday I will always bring you great information on how to work whole foods into your diet so you can reach your health and fitness goals. Because, no matter what your health or fitness goal, a diet rich in whole foods is an absolute necessity.
Unless, of course, your health and fitness goal is to be overweight and sick. Then, by all means, get crazy with the Little Debbie snacks. Also, totally gross.
Today I’m linking up with Megan at Sorta Crunchy and her ongoing series, Your Green Resource.