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.