Mar 29, 2019, 12:12:24 PM CDT Feb 23, 2023, 4:33:01 PM CST

8 ways to avoid processed food

Learn the difference between processed and unprocessed foods and see eight tips to remove processed foods from your child's diet

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What is processed food?

Processed food is anything altered from its original form. An example is an apple compared to an apple flavored breakfast bar, or cheddar cheese compared to a cheese cracker. These products have been altered and have lots of added or artificial ingredients, so they are considered processed. Most processed foods contain added sodium, sugar and fat to extend the shelf-life.

Is eating processed food bad for my child?

Consuming these ingredients in large quantities can lead to increased health risks such as weight gain, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Therefore, it is important to read nutrition labels at the grocery store. When comparing products, choose items with shorter ingredient lists and lower amounts of sodium, sugar and fat.

What kind of foods are unprocessed?

An unprocessed food, commonly referred to as a whole food, is a product in its original from, or close to it. Examples include carrots, unsweetened apple sauce with cinnamon, and ground turkey. These items are close to the item's original form with limited added ingredients. Some whole foods have been processed, such as canned tuna or frozen vegetables. These products have been processed to extend their shelf-life, but they do not have added ingredients and are still very healthy. Reading the nutrition label will help you recognize if a food is processed or not.

8 ways to remove processed foods from your diet

Below are some tips to help increase whole or unprocessed foods in your child's diet.

  1. Snack on fruit, vegetables or nuts instead of chips or crackers
  2. Drink water and unsweetened teas instead of sweetened beverages
  3. Skip eating out one or two times per week
  4. Set aside time to create a menu plan for the week instead of eating out
  5. Use your menu plan to create a shopping list and only shop for those items while at the store
  6. Pack your child's lunch and include healthy options
  7. Instead of allowing “treat foods” after every dinner, choose one special night per week to allow treats
  8. Learn about the MyPlate model to create balanced meals

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