Updated: 2019, Sep 7

Does Your Family Need a Processed Food Intervention?

Processed foods are associated with certain health risks. Discover what they are and how you can avoid these foods!
Processed Food
Can processed foods be part of a healthy diet? Shutterstock Images

What if I said to you while making your child’s lunch “don’t forget to pack the cigarettes!”

Would you think I was crazy?

According to the World Health Organization[1], unhealthy diets are now a more significant threat to global health than tobacco.

When’s the last time you compared the food labels in your home pantry to a list of chemicals?

Never?

I know me either! But we need to.

Packing your child’s lunch with foods that contain unnecessary ingredients could be as detrimental to good health as smoking.

Smoking and eating highly processed foods are both implicated among the leading causes of premature death and chronic disease.

Since the innovation of the T.V. dinner, there have been significant advancements in food preparation.

Today, over half the food in an American supermarket are pre-packaged or pre-prepared.

Before the innovation of fast food- food consisted of whole fruits and vegetables eaten in season or preserved in the summer months for a long cold winter.

Real food came from animals that grazed on pastures and was allowed to live out their instincts by scratching, pecking, birthing, and wandering around.

Well, in most cases, mostly that has changed. Today’s lifestyles are so fast-paced that busy people are always looking for things to simplify their lives.

I do it all the time. Industrial agriculture has been created to assist in growth.

In an attempt to feed more people in a faster, more efficient way, food has become “products” full of chemicals- not real food.

These denatured food products are a contributing factor to diseases that are shortening the human lifespan- for the first time in the history of humans.

According to the journal of Medicine, obesity, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes are at an all-time high, and most of these diseases are controllable by the food we consume[2].

So, how do we get around this?

Education. Read your food labels and investigate what is in your pantry and on your grocery list!

Shop at your local farmers market and ask questions. Small local farmers are lovely people and love to sell you healthy food products.

In 2000, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill launched a nation-wide, study that lasted twelve years and included 157,142 households[3]. The participants used a UPC barcode scanner to record all foods and beverages they purchased from grocery stores for one year.

The study revealed that highly processed foods make up more than 60 percent of the calories they consumed.

Several of the participants considered processed foods to be tasty, convenient, and affordable.

However, medical professionals contend that the combination of sugar, fat, salt, and flavoring in these foods promotes continuous overeating, which led to a plethora of other problems.

Avoiding Processed Food

As a parent, avoiding processed food may be a challenge. Shutterstock Images

Is it time to examine what we are offering to our families?

I know you want what is best for your family, as we all do.

Most parents and caregivers are apprehensive about making the necessary changes to our mealtimes.

I completely understand why.

Let’s face it, changing a family routine it’s not an easy task, and who has the time?

Not to mention, we will always face resistance from someone else’s standpoint.

Our pediatric population is over-run with high rates of obesity and disease.

Could this be from over-processed foods and the shelf stabilizing chemicals?

Our food supply is full of products that make our lives simpler, but in turn, it can be harmful to our family’s long-term health.

I was once a small business owner, full-time graduate student with two children, fifteen months apart — one of me, two of them.

I can certainly relate to change being time-consuming.

The long term effects of not changing our nutrition plan were much more terrifying to me as a young mother.

As a food professional, I knew what was going on in our food supply, which had made me nervous.

Although fast foods and frozen meals existed since the 1950s, the trends of fast-prepared foods were on the rise.

American’s began to work harder, longer hours and started cooking less.

Due to these trends, consumer pre-cooked, fast-prepared meals became the save.

Alternatively, are they?

As a busy parent, I decided to simplify my cooking. Although I remained choosy about what went into my grocery cart, I began to question the ingredient labels.

Years later, listening to my adult children talk about when they were little, visiting a friend’s homes and their families choices of food.

They reminisce about not knowing what a toaster pastry was, or tasting a boxed or canned sugar drink for the first time.

It’s all funny now, but it was not that case when they were grown-up. They accused me of depriving them. Today, I see they are exercising daily, drinking water for thirst, and eating whole organic food whenever possible.

If there is one legacy I brought to my family, it was the importance of eating clean to sustain long term health — a proud achievement as a parent.

If you are reading this, you’re most likely considering a positive change; I applaud you.

It’s not easy, but it’s the right thing to do. Just take it slow and begin by making a few changes here and there, nothing drastic.

Once a new habit becomes a natural part of your family routine, add another. Every small yet positive change is a step toward a healthier lifestyle for everyone. Start today and soon you and your family will be living, and feeling better!

Today more than ever is the time to seek change.

Our population is full of obesity and disease from consuming over-processed foods with mass chemicals in them.

Our food system is producing a matrix that makes our lives simpler, but in turn, what are we sacrificing? Are you willing to wait to find out?

Here are a few changes you can implement to get on the road to feeding your family cleaner.

Shop at the Farmers Market

Shop at the Farmers Market

When parents bring kids to farmers markets, it’s an opportunity to learn about healthy food options. Shutterstock Images

If you have not jumped on the farmers market wagon, it’s a must! Get to know the people that are growing and raising the food you are consuming. It’s also great to shop outdoors, and the kids will love trying samples from the farmers.

Most markets have live music and activities for the kids, so it’s like a family outing.

Make it a tradition- it’s a free activity and will resonate with the whole family.

There’s nothing like a good old’ family memory surrounding healthy foods.

In most cities, you can look up weekly locations on the internet.

You will notice a difference in how fresh foods will compare to your local chain grocer.

Buying clean means more nutrients available for your body; remember not to overcook them.

Shop on the Perimeter of the Grocery Store

Here’s a tip. If you can’t access a farmers market stay away from the food isles that house refined and convenience foods in boxes, cans, or jars. Usually, these are the interior isles of the grocery store.

Limit Highly Processed Foods and Sugar

Choose foods that are as close as possible to their original state, or close to it.

Purchase regular whole rolled oatmeal instead of the instant packets cooking oats, which only takes about two minutes longer.

Occasionally try alternative products like a nut, meats, plant-based burgers, or even tofu.

Be mindful and watch out for fillers, or highly refined healthy products. Plant-based vegan products can also be full of shelf stabilizers required by law.

Just because it is a plant-based product that doesn’t make it fit. If it’s highly processed, avoid it.

Especially hot dogs, pressed, or processed deli meats.

Read the label. Keep sugary foods to moderation. You will feel better and begin to notice many other health benefits by detoxing from refined sugar. You will also benefit from increased energy, clarity, and satiety.

Serve Water

If our bodies came with an instruction manual, I’m betting it would tell us to drink lots of water. We are made up of water, not soda, coffee, or juice.

We should continuously be replenishing our human.

Avoid soda, sugary drinks, processed juices, mixers, or anything from concentrate. Always avoid drinks with food coloring or dyes. If you need that carbonation to make your own. You can also purchase unflavored carbonated water and add real essential oils, or fresh juice.

Just remember, if flavoring with fresh juice they are high in natural sugar.

Sugar is sugar no matter where sourced.

Kids playing sports?

Need electrolytes?

Think again, studies show that a child doesn’t play games hard enough to need a replenish of electrolytes unless they are a professional athlete.

If your child needs electrolytes, offer them a whole food such as a bite of a banana, a fresh juicy Cara Cara orange wedge, or a handful of raisins.

Add More Fruits, Vegetables, Whole Grains and Legumes

Add More Fruits

Eat more fruit and vegetables to become more healthful. Shutterstock Images

Your body will thank you in the long run. Cook with unprocessed rice & grains instead of the instant varieties. Manufactures strip the outside area of the grain to cook quicker, removing all the nutrients.

Which means why bother eating them?

Try cooking new grains like bulgur, quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice.

You can even experiment with different varieties of beans, or lentils, which are delicious and high in protein.

They are a great addition to your families, meals, and cold salads. They come in all types of fun colors too.

Try to experiment in the bulk grain aisle of your organic grocery store.

Cooking in vegetable stock and aromatic vegetables, or bone broth adds excellent flavor to all grains and legumes.

Flavor Your Foods

Use fresh herbs and ground whole spices rather than packaged rubs and marinades that contain shelve stabilizers.

Make your taco seasoning monthly and keep in a glass jar for your weekly Taco Tuesdays.

You will be amazed at the flavor. Each family member can take a turn making their blend.

Make Your Dressings and Marinades

Simple yet a great way to get the kids involved in the kitchen. Make these items monthly instead of purchasing salad dressings, ketchup, and even mustards that can contain shelve stabilizers.

Try recipes with fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oils and your favorite spice blends for salad dressings.

Experiment with rice vinegar and apple cider vinegar to add variety.

I know this sounds like too much work, but it’s effortless to whip up your mayo and ketchup, and the kids won’t believe they made it themselves.

It will give them something to do while you are getting family meals together.

Build your marinades too, but remember to discard the liquid after any raw foods were soaking in them.

DIY Soups

Soups are the quickest and easiest meals to prepare. They also freeze well. Lookup a few from scratch recipes instead of purchasing the shelved variety, everyone loves soup, and you can find a recipe for every season, even summer.

Invest in an inexpensive immersion blender.

A handheld device that will liquify and cooked ingredients when submerged and right in the pot, you cooked them in.

You can make fresh, wholesome, nutrient-dense soup in under 20 minutes.

Check Bread Labels

Don’t be fooled in the bread aisle. If bread packaging is listing all kinds of ingredients that you cannot pronounce chances are you are making the wrong choice.

Choose whole-grain bread if you can. Avoid any loaves of bread containing the word “Dioxin.”

Dioxide is a by-product of a flour bleaching process.

Making your own is best, but I’m also realistic on time management with families.

Get to know your local artisan baker. Ask where they purchase ingredients. Most bakers carefully source and are happy to share!

Read Nutrition Labels

Read Nutrition Labels

Read the nutrition label when buying foods. Shutterstock Images

One of the single most important things to do when protecting your family. Stock your kitchen with good choices.

Let’s be real- reading labels will slow you down, but once you become more accustomed to nutritional information, you will breeze right through this step.

Also, keep in mind that most processed foods are packed in attractive marketing or promotional information. Think about the children’s cereal packaging. I, for one, am overwhelmed in the cereal aisle.

If you need to go into the packaged food aisles, try to shop without the kids in tow. Even if it means hiring a sitter for an hour, or arranging a short play date with another parent.

Manufactures will make wholesome claims spinning words, at a child’s eye- level too, especially in the cereal isles. Pay close attention.

When reading ingredient labels keep in mind that manufacturers are required by law to list ingredients in the order they are present. The first few ingredients will always the largest in quality.

Here is an example, Think about shopping for your families’ favorite juice product. You read the ingredient label and notice the list begins with, “high fructose corn syrup”- then continues additional ingredients such as, “corn syrup,” or “juice from concentrate” —this product is mainly containing ingredients that might not be the healthiest choice for your family.

Beware of manufactures grouping ingredients listed together, so it looks as though sugar is not the first ingredient.

Items grouped can be listed first by law. Many fruit enhanced products listed as, “fruit-flavored”- which are artificial flavors and nothing more than food coloring added.

Roast Your Meats

For sandwich making — roast-beef, turkey breast, and fresh ham. Most manufacturers must preserve their products to prevent unwanted bacteria growth.

They do this by freezing their meats or adding a large amount of sodium-based preservatives such as sodium lactate, sodium phosphates, modified food starches, and sodium nitrates.

Choose a free-range, butchered properly fed animal part to season and roast it yourself.

For instance. Roast a whole chicken or turkey for dinner and make sandwiches for the next few days.

Cook once, eat three times! Ham is a little more challenging to find unprocessed, so if you must, look for a nitrate-free ham. It’s a start.

Educate Yourself and Your Family

Know the differences between USDA organic, organic, and the term, natural flavors.

Take a moment to watch the award-winning shorts like The Meatrix[4]. A fun, educational video that is only a few minutes long.

The Meatrix will help you get an idea of why factory farming is so grossly wrong and why we should be eating foods raised responsibly.

The short films are full of humor. They use creative satire found in pop-culture. These shorts are well made and entertaining, which helps to educate viewers about the food we eat.

All the films feature three superhero farm animals, including Leo, the young pig who wonders if he is “The One.” Chickity, the feathered family farm defender, and Moopheus, the trench-coat covered cow.

The Meatrix website also offers information on the issues surrounding factory farming, as well as alternatives to conventionally-raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs.

Google consumer watchdog groups such as Free Range Studios, or Graces Sustainable Table, they pretty much do the footwork for us.

Purchase Organic Dairy Product free from Antibiotic and Hormones

Organic Dairy Product

Organic milk is produced from cows not treated with antibiotics. Shutterstock Images

If you consume milk and dairy products, I am urging you to purchase hormone-free, organic dairy products. Doing so will help your family avoid secondary additives that come from treated cows.

When cows are injected with a hormone to produce more milk for more significant profits, they end up getting very sick, likely from overproduction. Subsequently, they are fed antibiotics to keep them providing milk beyond their natural abilities.

If you think about it, we are the only mammals that drink another mammal’s milk. Kind of sounds creepy, doesn’t it? My family cut cows milk out, cold turkey. If we do cook with, or consume any dairy, it’s not too often, and it is usually rice or nut milk.

Eat Vegetarian Once in Awhile

Reducing reliance on animal-based products might be something to think about, doing so can be a family-based discussion and decision. Some families follow the ever-popular “Meatless Mondays”— as their special day of the week to go meat-free.

Read Next: Get Better Detox Results By Avoiding These 10 Foods

Don’t Think a Precut Apple in the Package only Contains an Apple.

Think about this one for a minute. An apple is an apple.

Alternatively, is it? Apples turn brown when cut, and fairly quickly.

If they are in a package, sliced and not brown, what could they possibly be?

Next to cows milk filled with hormones, this food choice worries me. It should concern you too.

Go ahead, cross-over to the green side of the pasture. I’ll see you there! If you need support, I’m only an email away!

References
[1] https://www.nextnature.net/2015/03/junk-food-or-tobacco/
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11795/
[3]Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). (2015, March 29). Highly processed foods dominate U.S. grocery purchases. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150329141017.htm
[4] www.themeatrix.com GRACE Communications Foundation
Author

Chef Gigi Gaggero

Chef Gigi Gaggero is an award-winning chef with over thirty-five years of culinary industry experience. Former Academic Director who

Advertisement

Related Posts

View All