Processed Foods 101

The term 'processed food' applies to any food that has been altered from its natural state in some way, either for safety reasons or convenience. This means you may be eating more processed food than you realize. Before you start to worry, know that processed foods aren't necessarily unhealthy, but anything that’s been processed may contain added salt, sugar and fat.

One advantage of eating whole foods and cooking food from scratch at home is that you know exactly what is going into it, including the amount of added salt or sugar.

Examples of common processed foods include:

  • breakfast cereals
  • cheese
  • tinned vegetables
  • bread
  • savory snacks, such as crisps
  • meat products, such as bacon
  • "convenience foods", such as microwave meals or ready meals
  • drinks, such as milk or soft drinks

Ingredients such as salt, sugar and fat lead to people eating more than the recommended amounts for these additives, as they may not be aware of how much has been added to the food they are buying and eating. Stay aware of how much of these ingredients you're consuming by reading nutrition labels can help you choose between processed products and keep a check on the amount of processed foods you're eating that are high in fat, salt and added sugars. Don't forget to look at the portion sizes!

Here are some handy numbers to keep in mind when you're reading food labels:

Total Fat High: more than 17.5g of fat per 100g Low: 3g of fat or less per 100g
Saturated fat High: more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g Low: 1.5g of saturated fat or less per 100g
Sugars High: more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g Low: 5g of total sugars or less per 100g
Salt High: more than 1.5g of salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium) Low: 0.3g of salt or less per 100g (or 0.1g sodium)

If you're still not sure if what you're eating is processed or whether it's good or bad for you, ask your trainer when you're next in here. We don't just work with you on fitness, we also arm you with the knowledge and tools so you practice healthy habits at home too!