10 Processed Foods to Avoid


Processed foods are any foods that have been altered during preparation. This just means these foods are not whole, natural foods. Something has been done to them in the process from harvest to shelf.

Not all processed foods are unhealthy. However, many are full of salt and sugar.

You might not think of the supermarket as a food trap, but between the cookie and frozen food aisles you might be leaving the store with foods that do more harm than good (despite all of your good intentions). So before your next trip to the grocery store, you might want to check out the 10 processed foods you should avoid according to Healthline.


We hate to tell you this. We really do because everything is better with bacon. But because of its high levels of sodium, saturated fat and countless preservatives, bacon tops the processed foods list. Eating foods like this can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity.

Granola Bars

Granola should be healthy, right? Well, not quite. Food production companies load many common granola bars with tons of sugar and a high number of simple carbohydrates with little to no nutritional value. Sure, the box features picturesque landscapes that create the illusion of all-natural ingredients, but a glance at the food label lists ingredients you can't even begin to know how to pronounce.

Instant Ramen

Broke college students rejoice. Instant ramen got them through midterms, but each salty seasoning packet contains almost 2,000 milligrams of sodium. This unhealthy cuisine, along with beer pong and all-night cram sessions, should be left behind after graduation.

Dried Fruit

Sure, reaching for dried fruit is better than reaching for gummy bears, but be careful. Even small portions of dried fruit can be loaded with sugar and unwanted calories.

Flavored Nuts

Flavored nuts have come a long way from the regular salted and unsalted options. Nowadays you can find anything from wasabi to chocolate to Cajun. No matter the flavor, the reason we find these seasoned, pre-packaged nuts so delicious is because they have added salt and sugar.

Fruit Snacks

While the little miniature treats might look like fruit, this is where their similarities end. Made from ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, these sticky, chewy snacks will stick to your teeth and waistline. Try these low-carb snacks instead.


Margarine can be high in trans-fat. The Food and Drug Administration considers trans fat one of the unhealthiest fats, and it can increase bad cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease and stroke.

Microwave Popcorn

With microwave popcorn, all the problems lie inside the bag. Perfluoroalkyls is just one of the harmful chemicals found inside microwave popcorn bags. In 2010, the Oxford Journal linked microwave popcorn to kidney disease and other health issues.


A fry's best friend, ketchup offers none of the nutritional value of tomatoes because Heinz and Hunt's dilute them with salt and sugar. A little bit of ketchup can be a nice addition, but slathering this on your burger can be a problem.

Frozen Dinners

While nothing beats the convenience of a frozen dinner, the prepackaged meals have added sugars, soy, fat and sodium. These can lead to weight gain and other health problems. While it might be tempting to quickly grab one of these options, it's better to buy and cook your own dinner yourself.

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Processed Foods FAQs

What are considered processed foods?

Processed foods are anything that has been altered during preparation. Typically this involves the addition of fats, sugar, and salt to packaged foods. Not all processed foods are unhealthy, but eating whole foods is important for any diet.

What are the healthiest processed foods?

Processed foods are convenient and last longer. If you do need to buy processed foods, frozen fruits and vegetables, tofu, nuts, canned fish, and hummus are some of your best options. When purchasing frozen foods, check the nutrition label for sodium content as these can often have high sodium.

What are some healthy unprocessed snacks?

Fruits and vegetables are the best unprocessed snacks. You may also want to snack on nuts or seeds, like sunflower or pumpkin.


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