10.15.2010

Processed Food: Evil or Not?

First off, let me declare I am not a nutritionist and this info is anecdotal. I consider certain processed foods "evil." I don't mean to sound angry, but...

Here's what I avoid. More exist, for sure, but if you're new to label reading, start with these.

  • High fructose or any variety corn syrup. A few decent brands use a small amount of corn syrup and claim no "high fructose."
  • Red/blue/yellow or any other dyes or artificial colors
  • Artificial vanilla or other flavors
  • Mono sodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils
  • Sodium nitrate
  • Enriched flours of any kind
  • Corn oil (My son is sensitive to corn. Read about this in my upcoming post on food sensitivity.)
  • Fruit juice with added sugar

Then there's Non-Evil Processed Foods. Less than five ingredients, low in sugar, salt and fat. What do I mean by low? Depends on what you’re trying to do. For me, fat is less concerning than sugar and salt, mostly because I don’t like overly sweetened or salted food.

Also, sugar binges cause me jitters, headaches, and I-need-a-nap-right-now moments.* To specify, culprits for me are cane sugar, corn syrup and other processed sugars that spike blood sugar suddenly. Hence I look for items sweetened with fruit juice, agave, beet sugar, palm sugar, coconut, or rice syrup which affect me less so.  I seek out sugar free jam*, cereals with less than five grams sugar per serving, and eat dark chocolate with high cocoa percentage (more than 60% cocoa translates to less sugar).

Now for salt. I’ll hold up two or three bags of chips or salty snacks/crackers, compare salt mg per serving then pick the lowest one only because I prefer the taste. As for fat, most of what I buy isn’t too bad and don't contain hydrogenated oil (let's call them "HOs", shall we?) anyway. For a while I thought the HOs had disappeared, until I was on a road trip and read the ingredients on a crinkly bag of chips at a gas station “grocery store.” It’s out there. Still.

**Extra! Extra!**
  • When mother of the birthday girl offers moist and delicious chocolate butter cream frosting with pink flower piece of cake I accept. Pushing three-year-olds out of my way to jump into bounce house to burn off jitters not my best work. Nor was head bobbing driving home from the party.
  • Recently found sugar free jams at Southport Green Market.  Strawberry rhubarb, mixed berry, and blueberry! I sometimes (okay, often) eat it by the spoonful.
  • Check out Southport Green Market Saturdays June-October. From Wrigley Field take Waveland west from the park, hang a right on Southport, walk toward Music Box sign until you see Blaine School marquee. It is, in the true sense, the "Little Market that Can." With just a few vendors, you won't get overwhelmed. Worth a pop over every Saturday.