10 Processed Foods To Avoid & 10 Actually Healthy For You

10 Processed Foods To Avoid & 10 Actually Healthy For You

Anyone with a surface-level knowledge of nutrition knows to avoid the scourge of the food industry: processed foods. But some foods are more processed than others and, aside from most meats and produce, almost every food at the grocery store is processed to one degree or another. In reality, the catch-all umbrella term “processed foods” can be a little misleading, as any food that was altered and packaged is technically “processed.” So here are 10 processed foods to avoid and 10 that are actually healthy for you. 

1. Packaged Cookies

This one should be a no-brainer. Packed with refined flour, sugar, and unhealthy fats, packaged cookies are probably the last thing any health-conscious person should reach for in the supermarket. With little to no fibre or essential nutrients, packaged cookies are just empty calories that should be avoided. 

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2. Sugary Cereals

Although delicious, these quick and convenient breakfast options are chalked full of refined sugars and artificial flavours. Not only do they provide very little in the way of nutritional value (save for the milk that you pour over it), they are also proven to cause blood sugar spikes. Instead, you’re much better off with whole-grain cereals or oatmeal. 

Haley-Owens-Qdwrsyjv3 4-UnsplashPhoto by Haley Owens 

3. Soda

Just about the worst and most frivolous thing you can consume, soda serves no other nutritional purpose than to spike your blood sugar, cause weight gain, and potentially lead to diabetes and tooth decay. Even diet sodas, which contain harmful artificial sweeteners, aren’t a better alternative and may even be worse for you in the long run. 

SodathumbPhoto by Hamed Mohtashami pouya

4. Instant Noodles

This college dorm room staple is cheap, convenient, and ultimately bad for your health. Sure, instant noodles might get you out of a bind or just serve as an enjoyable comfort food, but they’re also loaded with sodium, unhealthy fats, and preservatives. And with little to show in the way of protein, fiber, or vitamins, you’re better off looking elsewhere for your noodle fix. 

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5. Processed Meats

Shockingly high in sodium, saturated fats, and preservatives, processed meats are a no-go when it comes to making the right choices for your health and well-being. Fresh lean meats, albeit less convenient and inexpensive, are a far tastier and wholesome option and, most importantly, they’re not linked to increased risks of heart disease and cancer. 

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6. Potato Chips

There’s nothing quite like ripping open a bag of chips and throwing on your favourite show, but you might want to think twice the next time you're tempted to do so. Sadly, these delicious snack foods are often high in unhealthy fats, sodium, and calories — making them nothing more than a frivolous snack food with next to no nutritional value to speak of.

Mustafa-Bashari-S4Pc4Sekwkg-UnsplashPhoto by Mustafa Bashari

7. Frozen Pizza

Cheap, convenient, and easy to make: frozen pizzas are great when you’re in a pinch. But are they great for you? No. Frozen pizzas are often loaded with sodium, unhealthy fats, and preservatives. They’re also calorie-dense and generally low in protein and other essential nutrients. Next time try making your own from scratch or even just going to the local pizzeria. 

Tamas-Pap-Xlmhrnv8Yuc-UnsplashPhoto by Tamas Pap

8. Margarine

It’s not so hard to believe it’s not butter when you realize just how much worse it is for you than butter. Unlike butter, margarine is made with hydrogenated oils that are packed with trans fat. Margarine also contains a litany of artificial additives and preservatives that should simply be avoided at all costs. 

1024Px-2022-06-03 Butter And Margarine For Sale In New Zealand SupermarketMaksym Kozlenko on Wikimedia Commons

9. Canned Soup

Canned anything will almost always pale in comparison to its fresh counterpart, but this goes doubly for soup. Unfortunately, canned soups are generally high in sodium, preservatives, and artificial flavours — not to mention the BPA found in most canned goods. Homemade soups from scratch using fresh ingredients may be less convenient but they pack a nutritional punch that canned soups could never deliver. 

Calle-Macarone-Vl78Endijaq-UnsplashPhoto by Calle Macarone 

10. Candy Bars

Everyone loves a good candy bar here and there. Why wouldn’t you — they’re delicious! But sadly, they’re also chalked full of sugar, unhealthy fats, and empty calories. Weight gain and other health issues like diabetes and heart disease can be linked to these high-sugar snacks. Fruit or dark chocolate is a much better alternative to help quell your sweet tooth. 

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1. Greek Yogurt

Packed with protein, calcium and digestive-supporting probiotics, greek yogurt is a no-brainer when it comes to supporting your gut health. Just be sure to avoid sweetened versions that contain added sugar and artificial flavours, as you can always add some flavour yourself with protein powder, fruit, or even some honey. 

Wesual-Click-Lymx5D2Sswm-UnsplashPhoto by Wesual Click

2. Canned Beans

Canned fans often get a bad rap (see the previous point about canned soup) but not all canned foods are created equal, and beans are certainly the exception. Packed with protein, fiber and essential nutrients, this convenient option is both healthy and affordable. Just be sure to look for canned beans with low sodium, as well as BPA-free cans if possible.  

Tanushree-Rao--Ocfbcutphw-UnsplashPhoto by Tanushree Rao

3. Frozen Vegetables

Flash-frozen at the peak of ripeness, frozen vegetables are often cited as being even healthier and more nutritious than their fresh counterpart. Frozen veggies are a great way to have wholesome and convenient foods at the ready, without having to worry about them going bad and throwing your hard-earned money away. 

Bozhin-Karaivanov-3Tmhc2Vqupk-UnsplashPhoto by Bozhin Karaivanov

4. Nut Butters

Natural nut butters are some of the healthiest processed snack foods you can find. Not only are they high in protein, healthy fats, and vitamins, but they’re also relatively inexpensive and long-lasting. Just be sure to look for nut butters (like almond and peanut) that aren’t highly processed and full of added sugars and hydrogenated oils. 

Dan-Gold-Dqyktpao2De-UnsplashPhoto by Dan Gold

5. Canned Tomatoes

Canned tomatoes are great for making sauces, soups, and stews. Not only are they a cheaper and more convenient alternative than fresh tomatoes, but they also retain quite a bit of nutritional value, including vitamins A and C, potassium, and lycopene. Just be sure to always check the label and avoid brands with added sugar or excessive salt. 

San Marzano Tomatoesthepinkpeppercorn on Wikimedia Commons

6. Whole-Grain Bread

This superior alternative to white bread is far more nutrient-rich and far and away the better option when it comes to bread. Offering more in the way of fiber, vitamins and minerals, whole-grain bread is a way to get your bread fix when you’re hankering for a sandwich or piece of toast. 

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7. Hummus

This versatile dip/spread is both delicious and simple. Its main ingredients include chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, and lemon juice — and if you’re lucky, you should be able to find a brand that doesn’t add any unnecessary fillers or hydrogenated oils. Enjoy this nutritious and convenient snack with veggies, crackers, or even pita bread/chips. 

Ludovic-Avice-Yr-Sw X9Ahk-UnsplashPhoto by Ludovic Avice

8. Canned Fish

This convenient source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and vitamins is an indispensable pillar of any pantry worth its salt. Whether it's tuna, salmon, or sardines, these convenient cans are chalked full of essential nutrients that can be added to your diet in a variety of fun and delicious ways (including salads, sandwiches, and even pasta dishes). 

Ignat-Kushanrev-Wph0Ntcftui-UnsplashPhoto by Ignat Kushanrev

9. Dark Chocolate

This healthy yet satisfying dessert can be enjoyed in moderation and practically guilt-free. With its high cocoa content (70% or more), dark chocolate is an excellent source of antioxidants while also containing a lot less sugar than its milk chocolate counterpart. It’s by far one of the healthiest ways to satisfy your sweet tooth. 

Jason-Leung-Jmizqi9Nbtg-UnsplashPhoto by Jason Leung

10. Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut can be polarizing, but there’s no doubt that it's easily one of the healthiest and nutrient-dense processed foods out there. This tangy fermented side dish is high in probiotics, vitamins K and C, and fiber — making it a great digestive-supporting addition to any healthy diet. 

Kelsey-Todd-Wfb8X386Eds-UnsplashPhoto by Kelsey Todd