The Disadvantages of Prepackaged Food
Written by Jessica Bruso; Reprinted fromhttps://healthyeating.sfgate.com
While processed and prepackaged foods can be fast and convenient options for meals and snacks, they aren’t always the healthiest choices. Making your meals from whole foods or using minimally processed ingredients, such as frozen fruits or vegetables, is usually a better option due to the high levels of unhealthy ingredients commonly found in highly-processed foods.
Healthy people should limit consumption of sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams per day, and those who are African-American, elderly or who suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease should limit their sodium intake to less than 1,500 milligrams. Most of the sodium in the American diet comes from processed and packaged foods, including pizza, snacks, soups, breads, meat dishes, pasta dishes, sandwiches, processed meats and cheese.
Sugary drinks, sweets and baked goods contribute high levels of added sugars to your diet. Many processed foods also contain added sugars, including high fructose corn syrup. Consuming high amounts of added sugars increases your risk for diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, obesity and tooth decay. Women should consume no more than 100 calories from added sugars per day, and men should consume no more than 155 calories. Each gram of sugar in your food equals 4 calories.
Prepacked food often contains fat, including trans fat. Trans fat helps give prepackaged foods a longer shelf life. Any food that lists hydrogenated oil contains at least a small amount of trans fats, which increase your risk for high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke and heart attack and should be avoided as much as possible. Packaged foods also often contain unhealthy saturated fats, which should account for no more than 7 percent of your daily calories.
Additives are often used to improve the flavor, shelf life, safety or nutritional quality of prepackaged food or make it look more appealing. Although only additives generally regarded as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration can be used in foods, some people may have adverse reactions to certain additives. These include olestra, aspartame, artificial colors and flavors, monosodium glutamate, saccharin, sodium nitrate, sulfites, cyclamate, caffeine, BHA, BHT and acesulfame-potassium. Foods that contain a shorter list of ingredients including only those you are likely to have in your own kitchen are healthier than those that contain a lot of additives.
Prepackaged produce, such as bags of apples, carrots or salad mix, can be nutritious and convenient, but they are often treated to delay the signs of aging. Check the use-by dates to make sure your food is fresh. The older the produce, the fewer the nutrients it contains. Consumer Reports found that even those salads that were labeled “prewashed” still had some contamination, so wash your produce before consuming it to limit your risk of food-borne illness. Avoid any bulging cans, open packages and frozen vegetables that are frozen into a single lump, as these are all signs of potential contamination or lower nutritional quality.