Tag Archives: grocery shopping

Are you eating too much “highly” processed food?

Find a processed food


Which of the foods in the picture is a processed food?  TRICK QUESTION!! All of them are.  I’ve posted before about how we need to be more specific in defining the term “processed food”.  Almost everything we eat is processed.  Some of that processing is good, since it makes food safer to eat, such as pasteurizing milk or cooking meat.  Or making wheat into flour into bread can be a good kind of processing, depending on what is done to preserve nutritional quality.

I read about an interesting study that looked at purchases of processed foods (for an abstract of the actual study, click here).  The authors used data from more than 100,000 Americans who barcode scan their grocery purchases.  They categorized the foods purchased into varying degrees of processing – minimally, basic, moderately, and highly processed.  Unfortunately, more than 60% of purchases in the study were shown to be highly processed foods.  Also discouraging, when looking at the nutritional impact of these purchases, most of these foods were high in saturated fat, sodium, and sugar.

Clearly, we have some work to do as Americans.  We should skip that frozen lasagna and instead buy some noodles, canned tomatoes, and low-fat mozzarella cheese on our own.  Then we can control the salt and fat levels in our foods.  We should eat less convenience and ready-to-eat foods.  Cooking doesn’t have to take a long time, as shown by many of the recipes on this site – BELT sandwich, Black Beans and Rice, Cauliflower Quesadillas, Polenta with Sausage Ragu, Tilapia with Tomatoes and Green Beans, and many more.

One limitation to the study is that the data is limited to foods that have a barcode.  Most fresh produce doesn’t have a barcode.  So the proportion of purchases going to fresh produce isn’t accounted for.  This could mean that our diets aren’t so bad.  But the take home message remains that we should decrease the level of processing in the foods that we buy.

Happy eating!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!


Filed under Nutrition

Healthy on a Budget


Lots of store brand items with a dash of national brand for making tomato soup. This is what my pantry looks like.

A recent Freakonomics podcast discussed research on trends for people who buy store brands versus name brands in various products.  Some of these products were food and drink – sugar, salt, baking soda, etc.  Chefs were slightly more likely to buy store brands than the average consumer.

I found this podcast very interesting based on my own experiences at the grocery store and looking in family and friend’s pantries.  I buy A LOT of store brand items, but I know may people who do not.  Flour, sugar, herbs, spices, canned tomatoes, applesauce, and yogurt are just a few things I can think of that I buy regularly that are not name brand.  Store brand products offer a significant savings for me.  I’m on a fairly tight grocery budget.  Every dime I save on a store brand packaged product can be spent on fresh produce.

Also, I focus my store brand purchases on objects that have no nutritional differences from the national brand.  Flour is flour.  Sugar is sugar.  As long as there are no salt added tomatoes, Hunts has no premium over Walmart brand.  I have found some differences at times, however. For example, I bought Crisco shortening over store brand to avoid trans fats.  I recently purchased Campbell’s Tomato Juice in order to get a lower sodium version.

In the long run, it is your decision what to buy at the store.  But if your grocery budget is tight and you feel you don’t have enough money for fresh fruits and vegetables, look at your pantry purchases.  The money you save switching to store brands may be enough to make your budget stretch that much farther.

This post was not sponsored by any brands, companies, or stores.  The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Filed under Nutrition