At what point is home cooking “processed food”?

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I hate the term for this reason. Something can be processed and healthy and other things could be unprocessed and be not so good.


It doesn’t matter, so long as you’re doing it at home. Processing by itself isn’t the worst thing in the world. It changes the structure of food, usually breaking down fiber and protein and whatnot, but that’s generally fine. The problem with commercially available processed food is, once they’ve broken foods down into base components, they’re free to adjust whatever they want. It’s never to make it healthier. Only to make it go down faster, leave you hungrier, and stay stable on a shelf longer. When you cook you can make conscious decisions about how much butter or salt you want to include, or how rich a dish should be, etc. So you keep control (assuming you can manage it). It’s commercial processed food that you lose control over. The slight exception would be things like fruit, if you’re only eating applesauce and never apples, it’s less healthy because of the fiber thing I mentioned. Our bodies are simply designed to eat foods in relatively whole form, so the closer you stay to that, the easier it will be to stay fit and healthy.


Processed food is stuff that comes in boxes at the supermarket. It isn’t the stuff you cook at home using ingredients. Unprocessed food doesn’t mean raw food.


Technically, “processed food” includes food that has been cooked, canned, frozen, packaged or changed in nutritional composition with fortifying, preserving or preparing in different ways. Any time we cook, bake or prepare food, we’re processing food. Processed food falls on a spectrum from minimally to heavily processed: * Minimally processed foods — such as bagged spinach, cut vegetables and roasted nuts — often are simply pre-prepped for convenience. * Foods processed at their peak to lock in nutritional quality and freshness include canned tomatoes, frozen fruit and vegetables, and canned tuna. * Foods with ingredients added for flavor and texture (sweeteners, spices, oils, colors and preservatives) include jarred pasta sauce, salad dressing, yogurt and cake mixes. * Ready-to-eat foods — such as crackers, granola and deli meat — are more heavily processed. * The most heavily processed foods often are pre-made meals including frozen pizza and microwaveable dinners. There are positives and negatives to consuming “processed foods.” For example, processed food can help you eat more nutrient-dense foods. Milk and juices sometimes are fortified with calcium and vitamin D, and breakfast cereals may have added fiber. Canned fruit (packed in water or its own juice) is a good option when fresh fruit is not available. Some minimally processed food such as pre-cut vegetables and pre-washed, bagged spinach are quality convenience foods for busy people. If you want to minimize your intake of processed food, aim to do more food prep and cooking at home. Base meals on whole foods including vegetables, beans and whole grains.


I think the idea is “minimally processed”. Processing can be as simple as chopping or pickling. But generally when it’s referred to in this context people mean factory processing that removes nutrients and replaces them with nutritionally deficient fillers.