Everybody is eager to eat healthy, to eat “clean.” Processed foods are so vilified that even healthy foods like whole wheat bread and tomato sauce are frowned upon by some dieters. But did you know there are some processed foods that even dietitians agree are good to include in our diet? Here are just a few suggestions for your healthy eating plan.
1. Minimally Processed Foods
Foods that are considered “minimally processed” are mostly just prepared the way you would make them at home. Examples of this type of food would be precut fruit, vegetable platters, and bagged salads.You can also buy some more interesting items, like the arils (seeds) of a pomegranate in a sealed fruit cup.
2. Foods Processed to Preserve Nutrients and Freshness
Frozen fruits and vegetables fall into this category. So do canned tuna, beans and tomatoes. Any dried fruits or vegetables would qualify here, too, as long as there is no added flavors or preservatives. You may also find some more unusual products like vacuum-packed corn on the cob. This product is pre-cooked and has a shelf life of one year, so you can enjoy the corn all year and not just when it is in season.
3. Processed Nuts and Legumes
Packaged nuts (not the flavored or sugar-coated ones) and nut butters fall into this category, especially those spreads that have only one ingredient. Hummus is another example of a processed food that can be very healthy. It’s a good way to add legumes to the diet, especially if your family doesn’t much care for other types of beans.
4. Probiotic Foods
Lacto-fermentation is the process used to pickle many foods. This includes traditional dill pickles, sauerkraut, and also kimchi. Fermentation preserves food and locks in or increases some vitamins and other nutrients. It also results in gut-friendly microbes that promote health and aid in digestion.
If you are a lover of Asian foods, you may already be eating foods like tempeh, miso, or kombucha tea. But yogurt containing active bacterial cultures, kefir, and even cheeses made from unpasteurized milk are also probiotic foods.
Most dietitians agree that juices are not the best way to consume fruits and vegetables, especially commercial juices that include added sugar or artificial sweeteners, and chemical flavors or preservatives. But there are some naturally flavored soda waters and seltzers available, for those who like a little fizz now and then. Buy soda water and add your own fruit, or purchase a commercial seltzer with natural flavors and no added sugar.