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Which "Processed Foods" should be avoided?

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Old 03-08-2011, 10:18 PM   #1
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Question Which "Processed Foods" should be avoided?

A little internet research found the following information on "Processed Food"

What is processed food? Wikipedia describes “processed food” as any food that is changed from its natural, raw state. Did you peel your banana before you ate it? Cut your apple into slices? Stir-fry your dinner vegetables? Scramble your egg? You just processed your food by that definition. Following are common food processing techniques listed in the Wikipedia entry:

* “Removal of unwanted outer layers, such as potato peeling or the skinning of peaches
* Chopping or slicing, of which examples include potato chips, diced carrot, or candied peel.
* Mincing and macerating
* Liquefaction, such as to produce fruit juice
* Emulsification
* Cooking, such as boiling, broiling, frying, steaming or grilling
* Mixing
* Addition of gas such as air entrainment for bread or gasification of soft drinks
* Proofing
* Spray drying”

Under that broad of a definition, nearly every food we eat is processed

Just wondering?

Larry,
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Old 03-08-2011, 10:26 PM   #2
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wow thats interesting... by my personal definition (take it like a grain of salt) i think factory processed foods. Like those sticky cheese slices in single platic wrappers.. I hope you know the ones i mean (lol)
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Old 03-08-2011, 10:27 PM   #3
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"Processed food" is a really tricky topic! Some people find true happiness in primal/paleo/raw food diets but I think it's impossible to eat like that 100% of the time.

Personally I do not have the world's cleanest diet, but I try to make sure at least one meal's worth of what I eat in a day was made by me from fresh ingredients: eggs, fruit, vegetables, raw meat, etc. I try and avoid "instant" products like cup ramen noodles, microwaveable whole sandwiches, and mass produced pastries/sweets whenever possible. Usually the calories and sodium in those are way higher than their flavor/taste value. I also tend not to eat fast food for the same reason.
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Old 03-08-2011, 10:53 PM   #4
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When people talk about "eating clean" versus "processed foods" they are not talking about processing techniques you do at home, like chopping, pressing, cooking, and whatnot.

They are talking about the commercial processing of foods to manipulate nutritional content, extend shelf life, replace expensive components with cheap ones, make food transportable over long distances, etc.

The best rule of thumb to tell clean food from processed food is: look at the package. If it doesn't come in a package at all, it's most likely a clean food. If it comes in a package, but all of the ingredients in the package sound like food ingredients, it's a reasonably clean food. If the list of ingredients sounds like the final exam from an advanced organic chemistry class, chances are it's not a clean food.

This is not really difficult; by looking and that list and saying "we do that to every food" you are really overthinking. Has the food been engineered in some manufacturing plant? Then it's processed. Is it grains, vegetables, fruits, meat, eggs? Then it's clean food. That's really all there is to it.

Whether you choose to eat something or not is up to you, of course. But personally, I'd make that choice based upon what's in it and how it was made, rather than whether it's "processed" by some abstract and overly broad definition (a definition written for a different purpose than for figuring out what is clean food).
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Old 03-08-2011, 10:55 PM   #5
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Yeah, when you think about it, all the food we eat is processed. My personal definition of processed food, though, is anything that is factory-produced, like hot dogs, sweet ham, cup noodles or canned veggies. I'm not the world's cleanest eater either and I still eat these things sometimes, but I try.
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Old 03-08-2011, 11:35 PM   #6
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It's a fair point, Larry, but the other chicks have stated the definition as it's best understood.

Kraft™ macaroni and cheese is definitely processed food. Homemade macaroni and cheese -- made with real cheese, whole wheat pasta and the like -- is not. Which isn't to say that homemade mac and cheese is a good food choice for a weight loss plan -- but it may be ok in moderation.

Do you really draw a distinction between an apple cut into slices v. a bite taken from a whole one? I wouldn't.

Me, I'm never going to be a raw food fan. I love certain foods raw and in their natural state, but I like cooked foods, too. I don't eat much raw broccoli. But I eat lots with a little steam treatment. I think that so long as food is minimally processed, that's best.

I grow and produce a lot of my own food, including meat, fish, yogurt, bread and eggs. I figure that puts me ahead of most of the American population with respect to "processed" food. I don't worry about the minimal "processing" required to make it enjoyable to me, like throwing it on a grill for a few minutes, or brushing the dirt of my lettuce.

I wish more people would do what they could in that respect. They'd save money, too.
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Old 03-09-2011, 12:22 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carter View Post
When people talk about "eating clean" versus "processed foods" they are not talking about processing techniques you do at home, like chopping, pressing, cooking, and whatnot.

They are talking about the commercial processing of foods to manipulate nutritional content, extend shelf life, replace expensive components with cheap ones, make food transportable over long distances, etc.

.
Do you mean like pasturizing and homogenizing milk or freezing vegetables and meats as commercial processing? How about cheese? It does not occur naturally. Should we stop eating all bread or using any kind of flour 100% grain or not? After all it has to be commercially processed.

I avoid by personnal choice some processed foods but I cannot or will not avoid all of them. I happen to be very fond of some. The spices on my spice rack for instance. Ham is another part of my food plan although maybe with all the additives it should not be. I choose to drink skim milk. During the winter I like oatmeal with frozen fruit, all are commercially processed. Some nights I enjoy an evening cup of decaf coffee. I have not figured out a good way to remove the caffeine from my coffee using home methods so I have to rely on commercial processing.

I am not trying to be disagreeable It just seems to me like I have a lot to think about and consider when I am talking about avoiding processed foods.

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Old 03-09-2011, 12:35 AM   #8
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I don't mean to be rude or dumb, but who said you had to avoid ALL processed food?

I choose to avoid as much processed as possible and eat as clean as possible, but by no means have I eliminated everything. I choose to do so because I believe it's the healthiest way to live for me and provides me the best maintenance and weight loss success. I think it's absolutely possible to eat completely clean and commend those who do. But there are certain things I love to eat to much to cut out completely.

I guess I'm just confused on where this "clean eating" bashing is coming from. If it's not for you it's nor for you.
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Old 03-09-2011, 04:00 AM   #9
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ncuneo i don't think anyone is 'clean bashing', just trying to understand the definition of proccessed food, and how far it goes with regards to food considered healthy, but technically proccessed.
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Old 03-09-2011, 04:45 AM   #10
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I'm with ncuneo on this one, it sounds like the OP is trying to provoke. It may not have been his intent, and if he actually wanted to know what we mean by avoiding "processed" foods, he got a good answer: we are attempting to limit the number of things we eat which are so adulterated by processing that we do not recognize it as a food. Things like "Processed cheese food" or foods loaded with ingredients for flavor enhancement or some preservatives, or heavily refined carbs. These items are processed and packaged for convenience and often contain large amounts of sodium or chemical additives. We can avoid them, but few of us can avoid them all.

An example:
The OP asks if we mean to avoid milk, as it goes thru a process. When it comes out of the pasteurization process, milk is still milk. Even after homogenization or skim production, it is still usually a single source item. (I like my chocolate on occasion, thank you)

Nitpicking to the point of "all cheese is processed" or "peeled potatoes are processed" is exaggeration and intended to offend. Sorry, but grammar/definition of processed by dictionary is not the spirit of the word as used on the board and the OP has been around long enough to know that.
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Old 03-09-2011, 05:35 AM   #11
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Honestly I'm not getting any of the "provoking" tone from Larry when I read the post. (?) I do think it's an interesting question, one I don't see discussed often. It's definitely given me something to think about. Lay's potato chips, when you look at the ingredients, say "potatos, oil, salt". But I would consider that processed food for sure. Is that just because I didn't do the frying?

I spend ~85% of my grocery dollars on the outside aisles at the grocery store (produce, meat, bread, dairy), so I figure I'm eating decently clean, which is perfectly fine by me. But I think it's an interesting discussion.
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Old 03-09-2011, 06:11 AM   #12
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i really do not agree that OP intended to provoke or offend.
either way it is interesting to see how science or protocol defines 'processed food', compared to those of us that are eating healthy and just trying to avoid what i would call 'over processed' food. it is ridiculous that peeled potatoes would be considered processed, but i guess technically they would have gone through the process of peeling. to me its just another example of technical term vs. real world life.
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Old 03-09-2011, 06:44 AM   #13
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I don't feel that this was intended as a provocative thread. On the contrary, I find it fascinating to see how differently people define terms like "clean eating" and "processed foods." If you think about it, "clean" is a pretty vague term; to one person, it might mean opting for pre-baked 100% whole wheat bread, while to another it means baking bread from scratch with organically grown whole wheat and your own sourdough-type starter instead of packaged yeast.

I generally take "processed" food to mean "stuff that's had a lot of stuff done to it so I have to do less stuff to it." My heat-'n'-eat Lean Cuisine meals that I have for emergencies and lazy days? Those are "processed." My packaged frozen spinach that I use as an ingredient in other dishes? Minimally "processed," even though I'm aware that it's actually been harvested, sorted, washed, blanched, chopped, and flash-frozen for me.

There's some intriguing physical and physiological evidence that we've evolved to eat "processed" foods in the literal sense--that our digestive systems, bite diameters, and dentition show that we've been cooking and mashing our food for enough millennia that it's actually shaped our bodies. In fact, some researchers think that our unique ability to process our food before it enters our mouths helped drive evolution. Read more at this Wired article. Fascinating stuff!

Anyway, that's kind of a tangent. I think we all have a fairly good idea of what "processed" means when we use it here in the connotative (and usually pejorative) sense even if its denotative sense applies equally to peeling potatoes. I know that a chicken, an apple, and a potato that I cook for myself will probably be more conducive to good health and weight loss than McNuggets, an apple pie, and some fries from McDonald's (unless I "process" it with tons of butter, sour cream, and sugar).

Y'know, it's funny--I was trying to think of a good working definition of "processed" and "clean" foods, but there really isn't one. When you start looking for that line between the two, it disappears. That's why there are raw-food adherents, people against pasteurization and homogenization, people who won't drink milk at all, people who only drink it if it's raw, people who won't buy frozen stuff, and so on.

Everyone draws the line between "clean" and "processed" in their own most comfortable place, I think, and having mutual respect for other people's dietary habits is always a good plan.
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Old 03-09-2011, 07:47 AM   #14
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Quote:
Do you mean like pasturizing and homogenizing milk or freezing vegetables and meats as commercial processing? How about cheese? It does not occur naturally. Should we stop eating all bread or using any kind of flour 100% grain or not? After all it has to be commercially processed.
I guess I just found the "tone" of this to be a bit provoking.

You all do have a point though, it is interesting to know how far we should go.
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Old 03-09-2011, 08:10 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry H View Post
Do you mean like pasturizing and homogenizing milk or freezing vegetables and meats as commercial processing? How about cheese? It does not occur naturally. Should we stop eating all bread or using any kind of flour 100% grain or not? After all it has to be commercially processed.
Once again, I think you are overthinking this.

Is it a food, or isn't it? Is it something that your great-grandmother would have recognized as food, or is it a food-chemist's thesis project that has been engineered and manipulated to alter nutrient content, replace expensive natural ingredients with cheap synthetic ones, extend shelf life with synthetic additives, make for cheap shipping, etc?

These are rules of thumb, not etched-in-stone bright-line definitions that you will be punished if you literally infract. That's all. Thinking beyond that is, as I think you can see from this thread, counterproductive.

Here are a few examples of applications of this rule of thumb to foods which are "processed" in the overly broad sense you are clinging to here.

* Whole grain bread handmade in your local bakery: pretty recognizable as food, despite some literal "processing".
* Wonder Bread: flour so denuded of nutrients that the product is factory "fortified" with vitamins to pretend it has some value. Artificial additives to soften the product and extend its shelf life for months. This is not food. It is a processed food product.

* Real cheese: some salt added, perhaps some cultures added or encouraged, but this is still recognizable as food.
* Low-fat cheese: Fat removed, often replaced by gelatin and sugar so the product has some flavor and stands up and melts properly. In this case, I would check the ingredients carefully before deciding. Not all low-fat cheeses are created alike. One whose ingredients are low-fat milk, salt, and rennet is pretty basic food. One whose ingredients include gelatin, emulsifiers, sugar, and preservatives, I'd stay away from.

The above examples are meant to show that if you apply your common sense, it's not rocket science to tell the difference between what is a clean food and what isn't.

Of course, reasonable minds can differ, and not everyone is going to agree on what is worth eating and what is not. So don't think so hard, read labels, and eat what your common sense tells you is closer to the ground.
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