Processed meat is highly popular in the U.S. and around the world, with some estimates showing that ¼ of meat products consumed are processed; those products include bacon, hot dogs, sausage, ham, salami, and canned meat, to name a few. I know these are emotionally charged foods, ripe with tradition and habits, not to mention taste.
But processed meats are high in sodium, saturated fat, and chemical preservatives. They contribute to weight gain and increase risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. More here and here.
Yes, many countries and cultures enjoy red meat and even processed meat, but it tends to be fresher and eaten in smaller quantities than in the U.S. (Samin Nosrat demonstrates the beauty of real food in her books and documentary Salt Fat Acid Heat).
Just One Thing to do:
Choose fish, poultry and beans for your protein source this week instead of red and processed meat.
Bonus: How? Cook extra chicken, turkey or fish on Sunday to eat for lunch throughout the week, then top leafy greens with grilled chicken, add roasted turkey breast to leftover grains, slice baked salmon onto a heap of chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, or drain and rinse a can of beans to mix with your favorite vegetables.
While focusing my January blogs on processed foods, I want to take a timeout to remind you - physical activity is a key component of your healthy lifestyle, and moving every day is critical.
Do you like to exercise? If so, schedule in exercise appointments for the gym, a fitness class, a swim, or any other workout that makes you break a sweat for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week.
Don’t like to exercise? Think physical activity instead – things that get you up and moving but don’t pressure or frustrate you. You’ve got to enjoy this for the long haul! Try making a morning walking date with a friend, taking a lunchtime dance class with a colleague, or finding an online yoga class that you appreciate as “me time” – also aiming for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week.
Just One Thing to do: Get moving!
P.S. Sledding, throwing snowballs, ice skating, building snowmen, playing in the snow with your dog, even shoveling - all great ways to get exercise in the winter!
Americans eat a lot of processed foods, and the rest of the world is not far behind. Highly processed foods make up over half (50-60%!) of the calories we eat, and these tend to have more sodium, sugar, and unhealthful fats than less-processed foods. That means they increase our risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other chronic disorders (leading to lower quality of life, expensive meds, & shortened life expectancy). Top sources of highly processed foods include breakfast cereal, instant soup, frozen meals, and sodas.
Just One Thing to do: After revisiting my previous “Just One Thing to do”, make a shopping list to replace these processed culprits. Try oatmeal and Cheerios in place of sweetened cereal; low sodium chicken vegetable soup in place of instant chicken noodle; frozen chicken tenderloins and vegetables in place of frozen dinners; and sparkling water in place of sweet soda.
The simplest way to define processed food is an edible item that is not in its natural form – for example, potato chips are processed while potatoes are not. Some minimally processed foods are nutritious and healthful, such as whole wheat bread, canned tomatoes, and frozen berries, which would be considered processed if you use the technical definition. For health purposes, however, I choose to focus on unhealthful highly processed foods: food that has been handled and manipulated in a way that (1) breaks it down into a less nutritious product (apples to apple juice), (2) adds ingredients that contribute calories but not nutrients (packaged noodles with cream sauce), and (3) foods that are not readily recognizable as an actual product of the earth (tater tots, Doritos).
I’ll be on my soapbox during the month of January to help you cut back on these imposters. For now…
Just One Thing to do: Take a thorough look through your kitchen, tossing out any of these highly processed items in your pantry: boxed noodle or rice mixes, canned meals such as spaghettios, poptarts, and crackers with cheese filling, then in your freezer: pizza rolls, hot dogs, French fries and tater tots.