Welcome to Debate Club! Please be aware that this is a space for respectful debate, and that your ideas will be challenged here. Please remember to critique the argument, not the author.

Processed Foods - Did we ever find a definition?

2

Replies

  • janejellyroll
    janejellyroll Posts: 25,878 Member
    lemurcat2 wrote: »
    ndj1979 wrote: »
    lemurcat2 wrote: »
    I think processed means processed, and like the OP said, I think most anything is processed, especially since cooking it is a form of processing. Judging foods by the amount of processing seems unrelated to any rational aims.

    When reading anti processed food articles or posts, I think the issue is specific types of processing:

    (1) Adding sugar, fat, or salt, so that the food is higher cal or less healthy for at least some;
    (2) Removing nutrients or qualities that make the foods less filling or easier to eat quickly (so refining for grain-based products, removing fiber, other such things);
    (3) Premade meals that are less nutritious than one might make at home (although obviously this depends on what is in the meal vs. what one makes at home) -- I'd use the example of ordering fast food or a TV dinner that lacks any significant amount of veg, and is also why some people have claimed that certain fast food items are "processed" and some not; and
    (4) Perhaps most controversial, the idea that certain additives are to be avoided -- this is especially problematic when some see a long list of additives or additives that they do not recognize as inherently bad when often if you actually know what they are they are vitamins or other innocuous ingredients.

    I think this list identifies things that people should be aware of in the foods they eat, but I don't think it makes any sense to go from this to "processed foods are bad" or even "ultra processed foods are bad," especially since the above doesn't even apply to all commonly defined processed foods (for example, Fage 1% plain greek yogurt), and you can make foods at home that share in the supposedly problematic aspects.

    Instead, I think it simply suggests some things to look out for in evaluating the nutritionary benefits of specific foods (i.e., I add butter, sugar, and refined flour to cookies I make at home too, so does it matter that many would consider them somehow less processed than a purchased cookie?), and therefore to evaluate what percentage of one's diet they should make up. (Similar to the ketchup example, sriracha is processed and contains sugar, but it's not like I consume enough that the amount of sugar is ever a concern.)

    I agree with the four point breakdown.

    What gets me is the whole one meal of processed foods i.e. McDonalds ruins your intake for that day. As long as one is hitting micros/macros and is in calorie target, what difference does it make. The McDonalds diet guy ate all McDonalds and was able to have better blood work, and lost weight.

    Yeah, agree. For many who are overweight or especially obese, losing weight will improve health, period. If one does that eating McD's, and also getting sufficient vitamins and minerals, great (I think the McD's guy took supplements).

    And McD's isn't problematic because it's processed. Similar burgers and fries cooked at home with the same cals would be, well, the same. Other, more esteemed restaurants (that I like better) will do a burger and fries that are actually more problematic (although less condemned), since much higher cal. McD's is IMO problematic if consumed too frequently because the cals in the average meal ordered is high, most don't log or count cals, and you get almost no veg. If people would focus more on what to include to have a balanced, nutritionally sufficient diet and less on bad foods vs good foods (or weird ideas about processing!), I think we'd be better off.

    There's a poster here who goes on about processed foods being bad yet posts about eating lots of McD's (eggs and burger patties) who I think is being silly about the processed thing, yet has a point that eggs and burgers are eggs and burgers. It's just the same is true more broadly re so called processed foods or bad foods (and carbs aren't actually evil, that too).

    I won't get started on the posters who claim protein powder is amazing but processed foods bad, will leave that to Ann. ;-)

    Yes, I don't want to fall into the trap of analyzing food choices a vacuum, but if someone is overweight and choosing between a container of full-fat artisan low-processing yogurt and a tube of "Gogurt" and the first one is 300 calories and the second is 90 calories, there may be situations where the 2nd is actually a better choice!

    (Obviously I'm setting aside considerations like satiety, which also impact which choice is "better").

    There are specific processed foods that individuals are using to help meet their calorie goals and if these swaps satisfy an individual person, then these processed foods are serving a valid purpose.

    If I'm craving a hamburger and a 250 McDonald's hamburger does the trick, it may actually be a better choice than my handmade equivalent or one at my local organic cafe (again, ignoring the rest of what I'm eating during the day).
  • ndj1979
    ndj1979 Posts: 29,147 Member
    lemurcat2 wrote: »
    ndj1979 wrote: »
    lemurcat2 wrote: »
    I think processed means processed, and like the OP said, I think most anything is processed, especially since cooking it is a form of processing. Judging foods by the amount of processing seems unrelated to any rational aims.

    When reading anti processed food articles or posts, I think the issue is specific types of processing:

    (1) Adding sugar, fat, or salt, so that the food is higher cal or less healthy for at least some;
    (2) Removing nutrients or qualities that make the foods less filling or easier to eat quickly (so refining for grain-based products, removing fiber, other such things);
    (3) Premade meals that are less nutritious than one might make at home (although obviously this depends on what is in the meal vs. what one makes at home) -- I'd use the example of ordering fast food or a TV dinner that lacks any significant amount of veg, and is also why some people have claimed that certain fast food items are "processed" and some not; and
    (4) Perhaps most controversial, the idea that certain additives are to be avoided -- this is especially problematic when some see a long list of additives or additives that they do not recognize as inherently bad when often if you actually know what they are they are vitamins or other innocuous ingredients.

    I think this list identifies things that people should be aware of in the foods they eat, but I don't think it makes any sense to go from this to "processed foods are bad" or even "ultra processed foods are bad," especially since the above doesn't even apply to all commonly defined processed foods (for example, Fage 1% plain greek yogurt), and you can make foods at home that share in the supposedly problematic aspects.

    Instead, I think it simply suggests some things to look out for in evaluating the nutritionary benefits of specific foods (i.e., I add butter, sugar, and refined flour to cookies I make at home too, so does it matter that many would consider them somehow less processed than a purchased cookie?), and therefore to evaluate what percentage of one's diet they should make up. (Similar to the ketchup example, sriracha is processed and contains sugar, but it's not like I consume enough that the amount of sugar is ever a concern.)

    I agree with the four point breakdown.

    What gets me is the whole one meal of processed foods i.e. McDonalds ruins your intake for that day. As long as one is hitting micros/macros and is in calorie target, what difference does it make. The McDonalds diet guy ate all McDonalds and was able to have better blood work, and lost weight.

    Yeah, agree. For many who are overweight or especially obese, losing weight will improve health, period. If one does that eating McD's, and also getting sufficient vitamins and minerals, great (I think the McD's guy took supplements).

    And McD's isn't problematic because it's processed. Similar burgers and fries cooked at home with the same cals would be, well, the same. Other, more esteemed restaurants (that I like better) will do a burger and fries that are actually more problematic (although less condemned), since much higher cal. McD's is IMO problematic if consumed too frequently because the cals in the average meal ordered is high, most don't log or count cals, and you get almost no veg. If people would focus more on what to include to have a balanced, nutritionally sufficient diet and less on bad foods vs good foods (or weird ideas about processing!), I think we'd be better off.

    There's a poster here who goes on about processed foods being bad yet posts about eating lots of McD's (eggs and burger patties) who I think is being silly about the processed thing, yet has a point that eggs and burgers are eggs and burgers. It's just the same is true more broadly re so called processed foods or bad foods (and carbs aren't actually evil, that too).

    I won't get started on the posters who claim protein powder is amazing but processed foods bad, will leave that to Ann. ;-)

    Yes, I don't want to fall into the trap of analyzing food choices a vacuum, but if someone is overweight and choosing between a container of full-fat artisan low-processing yogurt and a tube of "Gogurt" and the first one is 300 calories and the second is 90 calories, there may be situations where the 2nd is actually a better choice!

    (Obviously I'm setting aside considerations like satiety, which also impact which choice is "better").

    There are specific processed foods that individuals are using to help meet their calorie goals and if these swaps satisfy an individual person, then these processed foods are serving a valid purpose.

    If I'm craving a hamburger and a 250 McDonald's hamburger does the trick, it may actually be a better choice than my handmade equivalent or one at my local organic cafe (again, ignoring the rest of what I'm eating during the day).

    like this morning, I had to fast because of lab work that needed to be done. SO on way into work I got an egg Mc Muffin meal (yes I ate the hashbrown) but for lunch I am having turkey on whole grain with cottage cheese, and hten NY strip and roasted potatoes and cucumber/tomato salad for dinner...I will be within calories for the day and my macros are pretty much spot on..

    The processed/clean crew would say my whole day is shot because McDonalds = bad/processed...
  • ndj1979
    ndj1979 Posts: 29,147 Member
    In a package..ingredient list is full of unpronounceable chemicals, resembles nothing in nature, its probably processed food.

    I'm not going to limit my food intake by what I can pronounce, I'm notoriously terrible at pronouncing even simple terms and don't get me started on how atrocious my spoken French is.

    I never got this one either...
  • SunnyBunBun79
    SunnyBunBun79 Posts: 2,228 Member
    edited February 2021
    I sometimes think about processed foods ( not the minimally processed ones ) as
    "Hollywoodization" of food and trying to make food more entertaining ...and therefore sometimes going into Frankenfoods :D .. we enjoy them...but too much can distort the reality of our health
  • ninerbuff
    ninerbuff Posts: 46,318 Member
    Another takeaway that "clean eaters" tend to say "it's made from all natural ingredients". Lol, but it's in a bottle or box. It's STILL processed.

    A.C.E. Certified Personal and Group Fitness Trainer
    IDEA Fitness member
    Kickboxing Certified Instructor
    Been in fitness for 30 years and have studied kinesiology and nutrition

    9285851.png
  • janejellyroll
    janejellyroll Posts: 25,878 Member
    I sometimes think about processed foods ( not the minimally processed ones ) as
    "Hollywoodization" of food and trying to make food more entertaining ...and therefore sometimes going into Frankenfoods :D .. we enjoy them...but too much can distort the reality of our health

    The thing about this definition is that I can make some pretty entertaining foods from ingredients that are generally regarded as "clean" or minimally processed.

  • lemurcat2
    lemurcat2 Posts: 7,892 Member
    I sometimes think about processed foods ( not the minimally processed ones ) as
    "Hollywoodization" of food and trying to make food more entertaining ...and therefore sometimes going into Frankenfoods :D .. we enjoy them...but too much can distort the reality of our health

    The thing about this definition is that I can make some pretty entertaining foods from ingredients that are generally regarded as "clean" or minimally processed.

    Yeah, agree. For example, I've been experimenting with doing an American restaurant style Szechwan beef and veg, and while I do use some ultra (or whatever) processed ingredients (oil, soy sauce, cornstarch), it's largely whole ingredients, until I process it myself, and I don't see why it would have any negative impact on my health (absent existing health conditions). Here's an example of one of the recipes I used as inspiration (but simplified and took ideas from some others and eliminated the sugar which I thought was unnecessary): https://omnivorescookbook.com/szechuan-beef-stir-fry/

    My favorite foods for actual entertaining (with the exception of a summer grilling party, maybe, when I might get brats) tend to be pretty whole food based.
  • lemurcat2
    lemurcat2 Posts: 7,892 Member
    edited May 2021
    tsazani wrote: »
    Pretty much everything in the center aisles of a USA-like supermarket.

    The good stuff is along the walls.

    The cheese and bakery and deli (with things like pizza, processed meat, and pasta salad, among other things) are along the aisle at my grocery, as well as alcohol. The veg and fruit is internal, as well as lots of high nutrient foods (and anything frozen).

    Also, anyone who thinks people need such simplistic ways of identifying foods as center vs perimeter vs actually being able to identify a nutrient-rich diet seem to me to be assuming others are idiots, IMO.
  • L1zardQueen
    L1zardQueen Posts: 8,756 Member
    Where I shop, the produce is in the center of the store.
  • ccrdragon
    ccrdragon Posts: 3,261 Member
    edited May 2021
    tsazani wrote: »
    Pretty much everything in the center aisles of a USA-like supermarket.

    The good stuff is along the walls.

    The Kroger I shop in has along the walls: deli meat counter, organic processed foods, produce, dairy (including pre-made coffee creamer), eggs, cheese, frozen pastries/cookie dough, butter, yogurts, meat counter, frozen packaged foods, pharmacy and seasonal items. Staples like beans, rice, frozen veggies and fruits are internal to the store.

    So in my store, you might be 1/2 right.
  • janejellyroll
    janejellyroll Posts: 25,878 Member
    tsazani wrote: »
    Pretty much everything in the center aisles of a USA-like supermarket.

    The good stuff is along the walls.

    In my supermarket, the "good stuff" is ice cream, soda, and pre-made dinner items.

    I feel like the people who say stuff like this don't pay attention to how grocery stores are actually laid out and they're going from some 1980s urban legend.
  • lemurcat2
    lemurcat2 Posts: 7,892 Member
    It was simplistic, unnecessary advice that indeed does not seem to fit most supermarkets.
  • glassyo
    glassyo Posts: 6,545 Member
    I'm trying to think of the walls in the market I go to most....baked goods, deli, meat case, dairy, cookie dough/biscuits/jello/pudding :), 50% off items, soda, and fruit and veggies.
  • neanderthin
    neanderthin Posts: 7,841 Member
    Looking at an oreo cookie doesn't bring to mind fields of wheat and cane.
  • janejellyroll
    janejellyroll Posts: 25,878 Member
    Looking at an oreo cookie doesn't bring to mind fields of wheat and cane.

    Maybe not for you, but some of us read ingredient labels and are very aware of what makes up our food. Those are two well known sources of cookie ingredients.
  • candysashab88
    candysashab88 Posts: 71 Member
    probably all the food that comes in a can or a box?