Warning sounds over processed foods

 Could these be reason it’s hard to lose weight? 

Image result for royalty free image processed foodWe are constantly told there is an exploding obesity crisis threatening us.

Celebrities front the latest glitzy diet plan, claiming their plan helped them lose stones in weight.

Looking for reasons the obesity crisis, could it be that processed food is contributing to this obesity crisis.

By definition, processed food is a food item that has had a series of mechanical or chemical operations performed on it to change or preserve it.  

Yet the many of us rely on a box of ready-prepared food from the supermarket as a time-saving solution for preparing a meal.

Processed foods are those that typically come in a box or bag and contain more than one item on the list of ingredients.  e.g. the box we grab with the enticing picture on the cover, that is going to give us a quick, easy meal when we get in from work.  We might not recognise many of the ingredients, but rely on this easy solution to preparing a meal when we are short of time and tired after work.

Those of us worried about our weight will be dismayed to read the US National Institutes of Health has said ultra-processed foods may be affecting hunger hormones in the body, leading people to keep eating.   https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-study-finds-heavily-processed-foods-cause-overeating-weight-gain 

Just to be clear

A healthy eating plan is made up of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. It also includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts. A healthy diet limits saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars. It also emphasizes eating minimally processed foods.

Today, shoppers can be seen anxiously reading information written on a box containing a frozen ready-meal. However, to save time, I look at the food and ask “would Granny have served this?”  And if it’s package soup, a ready-meal, or even some cooked meats, etc. the answer would be no.  So it stays on the supermarket shelf.


As a journalist I am a big fan of the official US medical websites, and their reports on the latest in cancer research.  Their information is easy to understand, and very often far in advance with their medical research.  So I was interested to read about a recent study in which volunteers had every morsel of food they ate monitored for a month.

i\t was discovered that when given ultra-processed food (ready meals), they ate 500 calories a day more than when they were given unprocessed meals.

Ultra-processed food linked to cancer

There are scientific arguments about the definition of ultra-processed food but lead researcher Dr Kevin Hall said it was “like pornography – it’s hard to define but you know it when you see it”.

Warning signs include:

  • ingredients you cannot pronounce
  • more than five ingredients listed on the packet
  • anything your grandmother would not recognise as food  (don’t forget salami, chorizo, etc).

Look at this photo, and if it puts you off – good!

Ultra-processed food

So go back to basics

When planning meals think ‘simple’ ;  a matchbox sized piece of cheese, an omelette;  salad with chunks of tuna fish (Salade Niçoise);   boiled eggs, etc.  and build up from there.

Make a list of the basics you MUST eat every day, and as long as you include enough of these, you can find that Gran’s cooking can develop into easy meals.  Gran had to spend hours chopping veg and braising meat to make it tender.  Mince to her meant getting out the heavy mincing machine, clamping it to the table, then cranking round a stiff handle of the machine  feeding in pieces of stewing steak she had to cut up.  Today we can open a tray of minced meat and know that how much fat it contains – and nothing else.

And don’t forget Gran ate a lot of delicious foods.  I have gone back to Full Fat Milk.  Yes, it is full of fat, but it fills you up.  I asked a Nutritionist about this, and her theory is that provided you stick to a glass rather than a gallon, and monitor what you drink, it’s OK.  Likewise with other foods;  take a good look, weigh up pros and cons – and perhaps go back to what our ancestors ate.  And don’t forget, they walked, carried shopping, had no machines to do the housework, and were much more active so that burned off the calories in their food.

It was TB, polio, smallpox and a host of other nasties that killed off Gran and previous generations.  If they survived these, they lived well into their 80s and 90s.  But unless we eat carefully we risk being the first generation that doesn’t live as long as the one before.  A sobering thought.