There’s lots in the news about high fructose corn syrup the most recent I’ve read is that consuming high amounts of it contributes to obesity……WELL, consuming excess calories in ANY form contributes to obesity.

The ONLY way one gets high fructose corn syrup is to eat processed foods and beverages that are made with it. It does not occur in nature, so won’t be in those whole or minimally processed foods you buy.

Nutritionally speaking, we would all be better off if we avoided a lot of “processed” foods! But, remember: foods are “processed” when they have had ANYTHING done to them. You process food when you prepare or cook a food! Some of the processing that is done commercially actually makes truly healthy eating more easy. Here is a list of commercially processed foods that are actually quite healthy, those to just plain avoid, and those to eat sometimes, but not all the time. NOTE, I’m not promoting anything that has high fructose corn syrup or trans fats in it

Processed foods that serve us well:

  • Meat that is butchered and cut for us…yes that is “processing”
  • Boneless/skinless chicken that has NOTHING added to it;
  • Pasteurized milk–non-fat or 1% best for people trying to avoid weight gain
  • Plain regular or Greek non-fat or low-fat yogurt (flavor it with fresh or frozen fruit, use it as a sour cream substitute)
  • Frozen vegetables and fruits that have NO salt, sugar or fat added to them
  • Canned beans, tomato puree, tomato paste, tomatoes (whole or diced)–low or no added salt are bes
  • Pre-washed fresh lettuce, spinach. other veggies
  • Pre-shelled nuts, without added salt or sugar
  • Whole grains that are ready to cook (brown rice, quinoa, rolled or steel cut oats, cracked wheat or bulgar, whole grain pastas…)
  • Some ready to eat cereals (shredded wheat, puffed kamut, bran flakes)…those which have at least 3 gm fiber for every 100 calories, and no more than 5 gm sugar for every 100 calories (that takes out almost ALL granolas!)
  • Whole grain breads, tortillas, rolls, English muffins
  • Mustard/mayonnaise
  • Salsa

Processed foods to avoid as much as possible:

  • Highly processed meats: bologna, salami, hot dogs, pepperoni,
  • Boneless/skinless chicken that is pre-frozen in a salt solution
  • “Flavor enhanced” fresh meats (have a salt solution injected into them)
  • Frozen veggies in sauces, frozen fruits in sugar
  • Very high salt canned soups, canned chili, canned/jarred spaghetti sauce
  • Salted/sugared nuts
  • Sugared ready to eat cereals (you know the type: sugar frosted flakes, fruit loops, cocoa puffs, etc)
  • Seasoned, boxed rice/pasta/potato mixtures (e.g. “Rice a roni”, noodles romanoff, macaroni and cheese, au gratin potatoes–you can make far better tasting and healthier versions yourself)
  • Potato chips, cheetos, doritos…..

Processed foods to limit—eat occasionally in small amounts, but not every day:

  • Bacon/ham/fresh sausages—these foods are best used as flavoring for something else.
  • 2 slices of bacon to season Brussels sprouts, or other veggies to serve 4 people
  • 1 ounce of ham to season a soup or pot of beans that serves 4 people (use more if making a big pot of something)
  • 1 lb of chicken Italian sausage (I like Isernios brand the best! It is gluten free, no nitrates, preservatives, colors, etc)¬† to make spaghetti sauce that makes 8-12 servings.
  • Tortilla chips–get the type made with whole corn and a healthy oil (e.g. canola)–these are loaded with calories, so need to be a “once in a while food”
  • Ice cream…eat it in a teacup, NOT in a cereal bowl or big mug!
  • Lower sodium canned soups (in the best of all worlds, less than 500- max of 700 mg sodium per serving–many canned soups have 800 to 1200 mg sodium per serving!)
  • Flavored yogurts (I’m a big fan of using plain and flavoring it yourself–but sometimes a flavored yogurt just fits the bill)
  • You can probably come up with several “processed” foods that are reasonable to eat occasionally!

Your goal is to eat foods that are “whole” and fresh as often as possible, BUT there are healthy “processed” foods that you want to include on a regular basis, and sometimes you are going to eat some of those less healthy processed foods–just don’t make them your “mainstay”.

The above lists are NOT all inclusive by any means, but they give you a start!