Today, consider eating real food an act of self-care, not self-control.
After all, that’s really what this is all about.Your Future Self
Why is processed food so bad anyway?
Have a watch while you enjoy your coffee. No sugar, please!
How to tell how processed a food is
Start with the ingredient list
How long is it? The more ingredients, the more processed it is.
Check for any of the 56 names for sugar.
Food makers realize that consumers are conscious of sugar added to food. If a consumer sees “sugar” listed as one of the first three ingredients, they might not buy the product.
To make it appear as if there is less sugar in a food, makers will use multiple sources of added sugar–honey, brown rice syrup, and fruit juice concentrate, for example.
Since ingredients must be listed in descending order by weight and the total sugar in the recipe is divided among three different ingredients in this example, no one sugar source will be a top ingredient.
Thus, the maker disguises sugar in names we might not recognize and dilutes the appearance of sugar by spreading the total grams of sugar in the product throughout multiple ingredients.
While you’e at it, check for refined grains
“Enriched” flour is a sign of processing. Enrichment adds back the vitamins and minerals lost in processing. If the grains were left whole, they wouldn’t need to be enriched.
“Whole wheat flour” does not imply the grain is whole, but “whole grain wheat” does.
If you see “hydrogenated” in the ingredient list, walk away
If any ingredient has been “hydrogenated”, it means the food contains trans fat, another marker of processed food.
This is true even if the Nutrition Facts panel says the food has 0 g trans fat!
The food maker is not obligated to list the amount of trans fat on the nutrition facts panel if it is less than 0.5 g per serving. But, if it’s present, which it is any time a “hydrogenated” oil is used, it’s harmful. And, if you eat more than one serving, the amount of trans fat you ingest can quickly add up.
And lastly, avoid those chemical-sounding ingredients: nitrates, red no. 40, aspartame, sucralose
They are preservatives, colorants, emulsifiers, and artificial sweeteners. Consider them the markers of ultra-processed food. These additives exist to make the food appeal to your senses and remain shelf-stable for long periods of time. You won’t find them in real food!
Pick three foods that come in packages that you have in your home right now. Check the ingredient list for code names for sugar and the words “enriched” and “hydrogenated”. And, for more helpful info, see our Shopping Guides.
Visit the Challenge forum. Tell us what you learned when you examined those three processed foods. Any surprises?