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10 Surprisingly Processed Foods

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One of the guiding principles of Core Performance nutrition is eating clean, or choosing the least processed foods available to fuel your body. If you think you’re eating clean but you’re not seeing the results you want, check our list below of surprisingly processed foods. Some brands of so-called healthy foods, like yogurt, tofu, and veggie burgers, are loaded with sugar, additives, and other preservatives that can derail an otherwise clean diet. Here's our list of foods to watch out for and recommendations for what to eat instead.

1. Yogurt

Many leading brands of yogurt are packed with high-fructose corn syrup, modified corn starch, artificial coloring, and preservatives. These ingredients provide few health benefits, and high-fructose corn syrup has been linked to increased appetite and insulin resistance.

Healthier Choice: Go Greek! Greek yogurt has three times as much protein, nearly as much calcium, and less sodium than traditional yogurt. Try Chobani or FAGE.

2. Veggie Burgers

The primary ingredient in many veggie burgers is texturized vegetable protein, a product made by extracting soy protein from soy beans, heating it, and drying it. Veggies, seeds, nuts, and legumes usually appear further down on the ingredient list with additives like artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, and modified starch.

Healthier Choice: Try a grilled veggie sandwich using fresh veggies on whole wheat bread. For extra protein, add edamame, tempeh, or a slice of low-fat cheese. If you love veggie burgers, Dr. Praeger's All Natural Veggie Burgers are less processed compared to other brands.

3. Multigrain Bread

The majority of multigrain breads sold in grocery stores are simply white bread with grains and coloring added to it. These breads may seem healthy, but they're actually loaded with sugar and contain minimal fiber, so you won't feel as full and may eat more as a result.

Healthier Choice: Look for bread with 100 percent whole wheat on the label and whole wheat flour listed as the first ingredient on the nutrition panel. This will provide you with a healthy amount of complex carbohydrates and fiber to help you feel fuller, longer.

4. Tofu

This popular Asian staple is made by soaking, boiling, grinding, and straining soy beans before coagulating the protein and oil with salt or acid. While this protein is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D, the process of making tofu actually destroys some of the isoflavones that are good for your health. The firmer the tofu, the more processed it is.

Healthier Choice: Shop for unprocessed forms of soy like tempeh, soybeans (edamame), or soy nuts for healthier skin and a healthy heart.

5. Granola Bars

These bite-sized snacks may seem like a quick, healthy snack option, but many of them are packed with sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, trans fat, and artificial colors, flavorings, coconut and palm oil, and cream and butter.

Healthier Choice: Look for a bar with more than 3 g of fiber, more than 4 g of protein, and less than 10 g of sugar per serving. A great option is Kashi.

6. Trail Mix

These pre-packaged mixes appear to be the perfect on-the-go snack, but they're typically doused in oil and sugar and loaded with preservatives, anti-caking chemicals, and artificial colors and flavors.

Healthier Choice: Create your own trail mix at home by mixing unsalted peanuts with unsweetened dried fruit and whole grain cereal (multigrain Cheerios are a good choice).

7. Commercially-Prepared Soup

Despite offering a wide-range of veggies, a single can of soup often contains more than the daily recommended amount of sodium. Plus, these soups are often loaded with chemically-manipulated ingredients like MSG, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and flavors.

Healthier Choice: If you want a canned soup, choose one labeled reduced-sodium such as Amy's Organic soups. Add fresh or frozen veggies to increase the nutritional value. Or whip up your own healthy soup at home. Visit our recipe library for some healthy soup options.

8. "Healthy" Frozen Meals

Frozen meals are a fuss-free meal option, but they're typically light on veggies and high in refined grains, preservatives, artificial flavors, and loaded with sodium.

Healthier Choice: Make home-cooked meals on the weekend, break them into portion-controlled servings, and pop them in the freezer. Keep staples like chicken breasts, peanut butter, eggs, frozen veggies, and whole wheat pasta and rice on hand for quick meals. 

9. Lunch Meat

A lunchtime staple, pre-sliced lunch meat is typically high in sodium, calories, and fat, and loaded with preservatives and artificial flavors.

Healthier Choice: Bake, broil, or grill turkey, chicken, or beef in big batches and freeze it for later. If that isn't an option, then choose lunch meats from the deli counter. They have fewer preservatives than pre-packed lunch meats.

10. Banana Chips

These crunchy yellow discs are bathed in coconut oil and sugar, which gives them a nutrition profile worse than that of French fries.

Healthier Choice: Chop up and freeze bananas for a healthier banana-based treat, or pop light popcorn to satisfy your craving for something crunchy.

For more clean eating tips, read "How to Eat Clean."

Tags: Health, Food