Deceptive food

Is industrially processed food same as real food?


Although brands are visible in these pictures these particular ones are not different from any other brand. All brands have similar marketing strategies and advertisements for selling processed foods. Unpackaged bulk food items in grocery stores, without any brand names, also can be highly processed particularly the snacks. It is the nature, ingredients and preparation of the food item that determines if it is highly processed, irrespective of the brand name, packaging or health claim.
Dairy and similar non-dairy products
Some ideas for real food alternatives of these industrial foods are discussed at the bottom of the page.
processed food, junk food
Yogurt is gaining significant popularity as a "healthy" food. Yogurt indeed is good for health but not all yogurt products available in market are same.
Most of the yogurts advertised as healthy snacks or foods for weight loss are infact highly processed.
The 'light' yogurt low in fat is often high in sugar to make it palatable.
1 teaspoon of sugar is equal to 4 grams
Most yogurt cups may have about 5-10 teaspoons of sugar. If you make flavored yogurt at home you will not be adding this much sugar. And off-course you will never be adding calcium phosphate and vegetable juice for color, malic acid or modified food starch. You will not add a vitamin pill to the yogurt either.
processed food, junk food,
Yogurt smoothy should have only yogurt, water, fruit +/- sugar.
Compare this to any store bought yogurt drink which is often marketed as health food. Yellow 5 food color, locust bean gum, artificial flavor etc are not the ingredients we would be adding to smoothie at home. Sugar content is often significantly higher than what we would add at home.
These again are indicators of high level of food processing.
processed food
Yogurt is being heavily marketed now as a probiotic food. There is no question that these foods are good for us but there is no special industrial preparation needed for probiotic foods. These foods have been prepared and consumed by humans for thousands of years. The foods that have live bacterial cultures are what probiotic foods are.
We have to look for what exactly are we consuming in the name of probiotic healthy foods.
A plain yogurt is no less probiotic than the one labeled "probiotic" that has other ingredients added to increase craving.
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Flavored milk along with other junk foods is a big contributor to childhood obesity.
Looking at these ingredients makes us realize why that is the case. Even though some of these ingredients may seem harmless how do we know if the resulting concoction is as nutritious as we assume it to be. For example we would never think of adding gelatin, tricalcium phosphate or carmine to a glass of milk. Sugar content is higher than what we would add at home. The flavoring agents are also such that they increase craving.
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Non-dairy milks are a health related choice for many but these too are not free of unwanted additives. Again, whether these ingredients are natural or artificial is not the question. The most important question is when you want to buy organic coconut milk, why magnesium phosphate, carrageenan or calcium phosphate etc are being sold along with it. Did you really ask for these ingredients or did you ask for the organic coconut, almond or soy milk?
processed food, non dairy creamer, junk food
Non-dairy creamers are nothing but junk food. If you are avoiding dairy/lactose for health or other reasons non-dairy creamer might be a worse alternative as it is negatively affecting your health. Regardless of what these ingredients are derived from you would never think of creaming your coffee with these ingredients at home. But the flavor and appearance often fool us in believing that it is a coffee creamer. When was the last time you added vegetable oil to your coffee?
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Although compared to other products unflavored milk has significantly less processing. We may or may not chose to buy it but we should be aware of any alteration to the nature of the food.
What we buy and eat should be an informed choice.

The milk available in most stores is homogenized to increase its shelf life (milk is treated under high pressure to convert the milk fat into micro-globules much smaller than they normally are). Whether this has adverse health effects is still under debate but no doubt is a significant deviation from milk's natural state , something not achievable in home kitchens.

Fat free or 2% milk is also an alteration that we should be aware of and make that choice actively. Using small amounts of whole milk is not what adversely effects the health. It is drinking a whole lot of whole milk (or for that matter even fat free milk) that adversely effects the health.

One should also note that vitamins/supplements are often added to the milk. These are added to boast a health claim for the nutritional superiority of milk. Milk itself does not become nutritionally superior by these additives.
Being aware of this supplementation is what is important. This knowledge lets you decide whether you want to use milk as it is or you prefer to take your vitamin supplements mixed with the milk.

Real food alternatives to the industrially prepared breakfast cereals and cereal bars

Flavored yogurt alternative
Buy plain yogurt and add fresh or dried fruits and nuts at home for flavoring. Even if you want to add sugar or honey the sugar content will still be less than that sold in the market. However, if you develop a taste for the natural sweetness of dried or fresh fruit in yogurt you will prefer it that way (the flavor otherwise gets masked by added sugar).
Here is a link to a yogurt-fruit-nut recipe

Yogurt for probiotic properties
Any plain yogurt store bought or home made without the label of "active cultures" or "probiotic", is no less in its probiotic effect. You may find slightly different bacterial cultures depending on the origin of yogurt. An example is Plain Bulgarian yogurt available in many grocery stores. No one type of plain yogurt is better than the other. Variety is always good in foods.

Yogurt smoothie made at home
This is very easy to make at home. Just blend yogurt, fruit and water. Add sugar according per your choice. Please note that there is no significant difference in the "sugar-effect" on the body of various forms of sugars and sweeteners (honey, agave nectar, brown sugar, any other syrup for the same amount of sweetness, will give you the same sugar load). When you prepare anything at home you have the choice and full control of what you're adding.

Flavored Milk alternative
Prepare a milk shake same as a yogurt smoothie mentioned above except the addition of water. Mangoes, strawberries, banana all go very well with milk. You can also add pure cocoa powder for the chocolate flavor

Non-dairy Creamers
The fact is that there is no such thing as non-dairy cream. If we use any thing else such as milk or soy milk in place of cream we should not expect the same taste, consistency and texture.
  • If you are avoiding cream because of its high fat content then the alternative could be whole milk which would lower in calorie and fat content than cream or half and half.
  • If you avoid cream because you are lactose intolerant or opposed to dairy for other reasons then the non-dairy milks such as soy, almond or coconut milks can be an option if you are able to find the ones with least amount of processing and additives.

Non-homogenized (also called cream-on-top) milk without any additional supplements of vitamins is available in some grocery stores. In El Paso/ Las Cruces area the two brands that sell NonHomogenized whole milk are Organic Valley and Kalona. Both are available at Cielo vista natural market, Mountain view market, Toucan market and occasionally at sprouts.

More pages to be added soon