Choose Healthier Over Processed Foods
When you lead a busy life, prepackaged foods can be convenient time-savers. Who doesn’t love prechopped vegetables or bagged salads, for example? But saved time aside, some prepackaged foods are also packed with some not-so-healthy things.
What is a ‘processed’ food?
Prechopped veggies and bagged salads are “processed” in the sense that some preparation was done before you bought them. Another healthy example of a “processed food” is milk or juice that contains added calcium or vitamin D.
But watch out for the processed foods that contain extra sugar, sodium, and fat, such as frozen pizzas, packaged chips and cookies, and soft drinks. Researchers report that nearly 60% of daily calories in American adult diets come from these “ultra-processed” foods. In addition to lacking nutrition, these foods often contain additives that can hurt friendly gut bacteria and increase inflammation.
It’s a process: Take baby steps to change
Read nutrition labels carefully to make sure you aren’t forsaking healthfulness for convenience. Try removing at least one heavily processed food from your diet today and replacing it with one that’s been processed or refined as little as possible. For example, you might swap a bowl of sweetened, flavored oatmeal with plain oatmeal and berries, a bag of chips with unsalted nuts and seeds, or processed deli meat with leftover roasted chicken.
At a barbecue or in the lunchroom, homemade hummus is a deliciously easy way to get protein and fiber. As the main ingredient, garbanzo beans (or chickpeas) have less saturated fat than processed meats and poultry—that’s good news for your heart. Smear it on sandwiches, spoon it onto salads or bowls, and scoop it up with fresh-cut veggies or whole-grain crackers. The American Heart Association has a fun recipe!