Feeding our Children: Processed Foods

Processed food
"What about processed foods? If they are organic, are they not healthy?"

This is a complex question, which requires multiple answers. So here is a break down, to help simplify:

"What is processed food?"

It is food that does not come straight from the ground, or animals, to us. It is food that has been changed from its natural state, and packaged in factories. Think of a peach and an apple. Now look at the picture above. Does it look like a peach, an apple, or any other fruit?

Processed food
A few examples of processed foods: fruit pastes, cereals, tomato sauces, frozen dinners, cookies, canned foods, hot dogs, potato chips, frozen onion rings, salad dressing, mayonnaise, ketchup, frozen mashed potatoes, frozen lasagnas, packaged sliced cheese, chicken nuggets, packaged bread, candy, yogurt smoothies... basically, most food sold in supermarkets, in a box, can or plastic bag.

Unprocessed foods: fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, beans, raw meat, chicken, eggs... basically, the stuff that you need to either wash, cut, and/or cook in order to eat. Foods sold in farms, farmers markets, the side aisles of supermarkets, and natural food stores.

''Why bother if the food is processed or not?'' 

Processed foods are wonderfully convenient. We cannot realistically lead a normal everyday working life in the US without the help of at least some of those foods, even if used just as a back up.

Processed food
Most processed foods have been changed into something ''else'' that is made to look ''more'' attractive to the consumer, especially children. Why children? Because, like I said in the post Feeding our Children, our children will ask and ask and ask until they wear us down into getting (buying) what they want in this case, to eat. Once we, as kids, become accustomed to certain foods, we will view and ask for them as our ''comfort food'' for the rest of our lives. That means that if we are used to, say, eating oatmeal and honey for breakfast, we will tend to ask for it later in life, or at least be comfortable with it. If we are used to, say, donuts and pop tarts for breakfast, unfortunately it will take a lot of willpower in order to reverse that habit, as they do taste great no matter how crappy they may be for us.

Most processed foods have additives and preservatives added to them in order to give them a longer shelf life, added vitamins to make up the ones they lost in the processing, and even food coloring to make them look better. 

But the very real problem with this food is that it is no longer fresh, and it is no longer the real food. It has been manipulated. Not just cut and frozen, like frozen vegetables or a piece of frozen game meat. It has been changed, and in the ''process'' it has lost its nutrients. So, to answer the question...

Processed food
"If processed foods are organic, are they not healthy?" 

Not really, as they have lost their nutrients in the industrial manipulating and packaging process- just as much as any other non-organic processed food. And not all of it is as ''organic'' as one may think. Notice in this package, for example, what it says: ''made with organic pasta and tomatoes.'' But what about the cheese??? That would be the most important ingredient, in this case, to buy organic!!!! Non-organic cheese comes from cows that are fed GMO corn, given bovine growth hormones, and treated with antibiotics. Do you really want to eat, or give your kids, milk and cheese from those cows?...

''The answer...''

There is no magic bullet when it comes to feeding our kids healthily. I wish I could just say that by ''buying organic'' we would be set. That would be a disservice to my readers. The key is to give our children fresh, nutrient-rich real food: fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, rice, beans, eggs, chicken, meat, potatoes, cheese, milk... there is so much real, wonderful food out there, so much more beyond the packaged stuff. Think of real food not as work, but as the incredible adventure of exploring and learning about the world that it really is... one vegetable, fruit, nut, grain, bean, meat, cheese... at the time.

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