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Convenience Foods: Not So Convenient for Your Health

Convenience food, or processed food, is commercially prepared food created as an easy way to get and consume. Most convenience foods provide little to no nutritional value and have excessive amounts of sodium, sugar, and saturated fats. While everyone should avoid these types of foods, it is highly recommended for individuals with health conditions like heart disease, hypertension, or diabetes to avoid these foods altogether.

Processed foods are also loaded with preservatives (MSG for example), unnatural coloring, added flavoring, and other unappetizing substances. If consumed regularly over time, such foods can quickly begin to harm a person’s health, which can contribute to serious health issues, for example – obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancers, and strokes.

The craving for processed food is more contributed to its added flavors and textures than the food itself. Convenience foods are developed with excessive amounts of salt and fats to give you a sensory overload to get you hooked, thus addicted to the need for its satisfying taste. However, since the taste for this type of added and unhealthy sodium is a learned habit, and if you want to “quit,” you can! It can take a few weeks to months to detox your taste buds, but it is better to do a gradual reduction in salt intake from processed foods. This way your taste buds can relearn the tastes of foods in their natural form at a more effective, slower pace.

The body’s ability to digest these foods can be difficult, as convenience food become modified when processed. Processed foods typically lack micronutrients which are required in trace amounts for the normal growth and development of living organisms, like our bodies. Micronutrients, more commonly known as vitamins and minerals, play an important role in your health by keeping your internal systems functioning properly. They include such vitamins and minerals as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, and B-vitamins, and minerals including magnesium, iodine, sodium, zinc, and copper.

Below is a list of popular convenience/processed foods:

  • Packaged chips
  • Canned vegetables
  • Bread
  • Commercialized fruit juices
  • Salt, sugar, flour
  • Frozen meals/pre-packaged foods
  • Items from fast-food menus

Now, here is a list of healthy whole foods to replace some of these popular convenience food:

  • Instead of packaged chips like potato chips, make your own chips or fries from whole organic russet potatoes or sweet potatoes at home. Simply thinly slice or wedge cut potatoes, add a little bit of olive oil, toss, and bake. Skip the ketchup for dunking and try one of these 6 Unique and Delicious Dips and Spreads instead. Do you have an awesome recipe for homemade potato fries? We would love for you to share it with us! You can submit your recipe, here.
  • Buy fresh, seasonal produce instead of canned. Many canned veggies are high in added sodium, even when the label says “low sodium.” If you must buy canned, do get the low sodium ones and rinse the heck out it. First, drain the liquid from the can, then transfer the contents to a strainer for further rinsing under cold water.
  • Use a juicer or squeeze your own fruit or vegetable juices! Doing this will not only provide your body with rich nutrients, but it will also give you a healthy boost of energy to go about your day. When juicing fresh fruits and vegetables, it is advised that you use organic whenever. From a thirst quenching green lemonade to a tastebud pleasing carrot cayenne elixir, here you will find Five Recipes to Help You Get Started with Fruit and Vegetable Juicing. What are your favorite vegetables or fruits to juice?
  • Opening a pre-packaged frozen meal at home still makes it a processed meal. Many households these days are crunched for time and it seems as though cooking at home has been shoved to the sidelines. Instead of buying frozen meals, set aside some time on your weekends or available time to make healthy homemade meals to portion out into freezer containers for the entire week. Though it is frozen, you made it from scratch at home! Try out these plant-powered recipes, The World’s Healthiest Veggie Burger Patty, and Lentil Tacos/Burritos. Veggie patties and burritos are super simple to wrap and store in the freezer for an easy to warm up dinner later in the week.

Image Source: Danielle Scott/Flickr

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