5 smart alternatives to processed foods

Replace your favourite processed foods with these options instead.
Replace your favourite processed foods with these options instead.

Is your shopping cart filled with heavily processed foods? Some might seem to be time-savers, yet cost more than fresh foods and offer few nutrients. Others might actually harm your health.

Many of these pre-packaged, highly processed foods can contain more sodium, added sugar, colourants and preservatives than we bargain for.

And while these products can be convenient for those on the run who don't have the time to prepare a meal from scratch, pre-packed and processed foods end up costing us more money in the long run.

Here are the foods we often reach for in supermarkets, followed by healthier (but just as delicious and filling) alternatives. 

1. Processed meats

The first foods to avoid are processed meats, from hot dogs to deli cold cuts, including salami and bologna. Even those labelled "low calorie" are likely to contain questionable preservatives, such as salts and nitrates. Studies show that these are the worst types of meats for your heart.

Try freshly prepared turkey and chicken instead. In a hurry? A rotisserie chicken cooked at your favourite market is a good alternative.

2. Refined flour

Next, pass on processed foods made with refined flour. These include typical breakfast cereals, white breads and similar baked goods. For more nutrition, look for stone-ground whole-grain breads and steel-cut oats.

Substitute a mashed slice of avocado for a typical sandwich spread. You'll get great taste and great nutrition.

3. Chips

Instead of bagged chips and other packaged snacks, crunch some nuts. For only a slight difference in kilojoules, you get protein, healthy fats and fibre.

4. Salad dressings

Bottled salad dressings – even diet or low-fat versions – often contain corn syrup along with many additives. Whisk up your own vinaigrette with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar, or try non-fat yogurt with lemon juice, herbs and garlic.

5. Pre-packaged meals

If you're short on time during the week and can't cook, set aside a couple of hours over the weekend to make a few dishes that will last all week, like roasted turkey breast, salsa with fresh tomatoes and a stockpot of vegetable soup – far healthier than salt-filled canned varieties.

Image credits: iStock

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