- 1 Processed foods: contributions to nutrition.
- 2 Eating processed foods
FROM THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
Eating processed foods
A processed food is any food that has been altered in some way during preparation.
Food processing can be as basic as:
Not all processed foods are unhealthy but some processed foods may contain high levels of salt, sugar and fat.
What counts as processed food?
Examples of common processed foods include:
- breakfast cereals
- tinned vegetables
- savoury snacks, such as crisps, sausage rolls, pies and pasties
- meat products, such as bacon, sausage, ham, salami and paté
- “convenience foods”, such as microwave meals or ready meals
- cakes and biscuits
- drinks, such as milk or soft drinks
Not all processed food is a bad choice. Some foods need processing to make them safe, such as milk, which needs to be pasteurised to remove harmful bacteria.
Other foods need processing to make them suitable for use, such as pressing seeds to make oil.
What makes some processed foods less healthy?
Ingredients such as salt, sugar and fat are sometimes added to processed foods to make their flavour more appealing and to extend their shelf life, or in some cases to contribute to the food’s structure, such as salt in bread or sugar in cakes.
Buying processed foods can lead to people eating more than the recommended amounts of sugar, salt and fat as they may not be aware of how much has been added to the food they are buying and eating.
These foods can also be higher in calories due to the high amounts of added sugar or fat in them. Find out more about calories.
How can I eat processed foods as part of a healthy diet?
You have no control over the amount salt, sugar and fat in processed food but you do have control over what you to choose buy.
Reading nutrition labels can help you choose between processed products and keep a check on fat, salt and sugar content.
Most pre-packed foods have the nutrition information on the front, back or side of the packaging.
If the processed food you want to buy has a nutrition label that uses colour-coding, you will often find a mixture of red, amber and green.
When you’re choosing between similar products, try to go for more greens and ambers, and fewer reds, if you want to make a healthier choice.
There are guidelines to tell you if a food is high or low in fat, saturated fat, salt or sugar.
The guidelines, which are for adults, are:
High: more than 17.5g of fat per 100g
Low: 3g of fat or less per 100g
High: more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g
Low: 1.5g of saturated fat or less per 100g
High: more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g
Low: 5g of total sugars or less per 100g
High: more than 1.5g of salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium)
Low: 0.3g of salt or less per 100g (or 0.1g sodium)
If you are trying to cut down on saturated fat, try to limit the amount of foods you eat that have more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g.
Red and processed meat can be high in saturated fat. We are advised not to eat more than 70g a day.
Try the Food Scanner app to look up the sugar, saturated fat and salt in everyday foods and drinks. Simply scan the barcodes of more than 110,000 products and get suggestions for healthier alternatives.
If you’re pregnant, find out what food you should avoid.
When cooking food at home…
Page last reviewed: 01/06/2017
Next review due: 01/06/2020
Fast-food chains have come under criticism over concerns ranging from claimed negative health effects, alleged animal cruelty, cases of worker exploitation, and claims of cultural degradation via shifts in people’s eating patterns away from traditional foods.
The intake of fast food is increasing worldwide. A study done in the city of Jeddah has shown that current fast food habits are related to the increase of overweight and obesity among adolescents in Saudi Arabia. In 2014, the World Health Organization published a study which claims that deregulated food markets are largely to blame for the obesity crisis, and suggested tighter regulations to reverse the trend. In the United States, local governments are restricting fast food chains by limiting the number of restaurants found in certain geographical areas.
To combat criticism, fast food restaurants are starting to offer more health-friendly menu items. In addition to health critics, there are suggestions for the fast food industry to become more eco-friendly. The chains have responded by “reducing packaging waste”.
Although trying to overcome criticism through healthy options on fast food menus, Marion Nestle, who serves as the chair of New York University’s Department of Nutrition and Food Studies, suggests that fast food industries intentionally market unhealthy foods to children through advertising options and therefore create customers for life.
Despite so much popularity, fast foods and fast food chains have adverse impacts not only on the job and social skills, but on the health and academic performance of students. Fifty six percent of students consume fast food on a weekly basis. The researcher of Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser, highlights this fact, arguing that this is not only a financial but also a psychological bait. The students are lured towards this early employment opportunity knowing little that the time spent on this no-skill-learning job is wasted. Two other researchers Charles Hirschman and Irina Voloshin highlight their dangerous impacts and consequences regarding hiring and firing of teenager school-goers in the fast food industry. Kelly Brownwell of The Atlantic Times has further supported this argument that another dangerous practice was adopted by Burger King and McDonald’s for marketing to the innocent children.
In a research study conducted by Professors Purtell Kelly and Gershoff, they found that the students of fifth grades, who ate fast foods as compared to the students of the same age after some other social factors were controlled.[clarification needed] Also, the percentage of the students having consumed fast food and showed poor grades was around 11% more than those who used organic foods. They are of the view that other social factors such as television watching, video games and playing were controlled to assess the real impacts of the fast foods.
There have been books and films designed to highlight the potential dangers of fast food as it is mentioned heavily in regard to obesity. The film Supersize Me (2004) showed the negative health effects of excessive fast food consumption.