How to Identify and Avoid Highly Processed Foods

Sports dietician Leslie Bonci gives tips on how to stay away from bad processed foods.

You've heard of processed foods, but you still might have questions about them. STACK talked to sports dietician Leslie Bonci to learn more about processed foods and how to avoid the bad ones.

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Almost all food in our diet goes through some type of process before we eat it. Rinsing fruit, boiling, baking and frying foods are all processes that make food edible.

Foods are also processed in ways that preserve them so people do not get sick. For example, beef jerky is dried, a process that makes the portable protein snack healthier and last longer than raw meat. But some foods are much more processed than others, making them lose their nutritional value. Those are the processed foods you want to stay away from.

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For example, potatoes are generally healthy. People boil them and bake them to make them more edible. Then, of course, there are potato chips. Much of the potato's nutritional value is lost in potato chips. The fiber is gone and lots of salt is added.

Another example is fruit. After being rinsed, fruit technically becomes a processed food, but "fruit snacks" like gummies are a completely different form of fruit. Though the package advertises "fruit," the amount of fruit in the snack is minimal. The snack is highly processed, containing much more sugar than actual fruit.

If you're trying to remove highly processed foods from your diet, shop in the produce isle, eat whole grain products and beware of items that include added sugar. That's how to avoid the worst processed foods.

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