Drive through windows, carpool lanes, and instant noodles: we’re all about making the most of our time and taking shortcuts whenever possible.
We’re used to having everything instantly. Our busy lifestyles demand it. In our rushes, we don’t seem to have the time to eat healthily, and with so many pre-packaged and ready-to-go options, we often sacrifice healthy meals for convenience.
Unfortunately, convenience isn’t always better. Especially when it comes to pre-packaged, heavily processed foods. Sure, they’re popular – and easy to grab and go – but, they’re often loaded with additives, sodium, unhealthy fats, and sugars.
Here’s a look at some added nasties that exist in heavily processed foods. See why you’ll want to think twice before you reach for that pre-packaged meal by reading below.
You may have heard that it’s important to “watch your sodium.” Although some sodium is necessary, too much can increase your risk of stroke, heart failure, and kidney disease. Most people should limit their sodium to less than 1,500 milligrams per day. Unfortunately, processed food is filled with sodium. Leading offenders include pizza, frozen dinners, soups, snacks, processed meats, and cheese. While this doesn’t mean that you have to throw out everything in your cupboards, it does mean that you should be aware of the amount of sodium in your food and avoid overly processed, sodium-laden products.
Additives are used in most pre-packaged foods to preserve the items, and to also help them look and taste appealing. Common additives that might be lurking in your food include monosodium glutamate, aspartame, saccharin, sulfates, sodium nitrate, artificial colors and flavors, and many, many more. While government approved, these ingredients can still cause adverse reactions in some people… and they’re certainly not considered healthy. As a general rule, you’ll want to look for foods that include a shorter list of ingredients, and only ones that you understand!
As you undoubtedly know, many drinks, treats, and sweets have excessively high levels of sugar. But you may not know that many pre-packaged foods – not just sweet treats – also contain sugar. Tomato sauce, salad dressing, many breakfast foods, yogurts, and low-fat items are often loaded with it. Too much sugar can increase your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Pre-packaged foods are often high in fats, including trans fat. While trans fat helps to give processed foods a longer shelf life, it can also increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Look out for foods that include hydrogenated oil, as it contains trans fat.
While it might not be the most convenient option, choosing fresh and non-packaged foods is the best way to eat healthier. Look to replace some of the processed food in your diet with fresh alternatives. Your body will thank you for it!
Do you have any time-saving food prep tips?