Today we’re discussing how to stand up against all of the sweet treats, fattening foods and temptation to over-indulge when you’re on a diet and faced with an array of delicious choices at the holiday table this Christmas and Chanukah season.
While the rules of low-carb eating will differ from someone who is going the traditional healthy, fat-limiting and calorie-restricting route in an effort to lose weight, the best advice is to make healthier choices regardless of what type of diet or eating plan you’re currently practicing.
The general agreement is that the more vegetables you include in your diet, the healthier you will be because you’re receiving adequate nutrition from a variety of plant-based sources.
However, there are also certain foods that don’t spell healthy no matter how you present them. The rule of thumb here is that if the food is highly processed, it’s going to contain less nutrition and likely some unwanted additives that are not good for you or contribute to weight gain.
In order to increase understanding and awareness, let’s explore what “processed” refers to when we think of packaged foods. Processed foods are subjected to high heat or a boiling process to separate out the water. Because significant nutrition is lost when exposing foods to high heat in this manner, the foods that you see on your grocery store shelves that come in packages often have vitamins and minerals added back in so that they contain some amount of nourishment according to the FDA’s standards.
Canned soups that are made from fresh whole ingredients which are cooked and then pressure-canned for longer shelf life, are generally not considered processed.
Soups that come in powder form, which come in a packet (think powdered French onion, chicken noodle or vegetable soup mix) are highly processed.
Real cheese that comes from cultured milk which is then aged is considered a whole food, and not processed.
“Powdered cheese food” is processed. Products such as Velveeta, which is made by separating the components of milk in a way that removes the healthy bacteria cultures needed to digest the milk in the first place, might be extra nice melted on top of your casserole. However, the price to pay is the body’s difficulty in processing foods like this, not to mention higher sodium levels to deliver flavor where it has been removed after processing.
Hot dogs, some lunch meats, and chicken nuggets are processed foods to varying degrees because they contain less desirable parts of the animal that are then ground up with different fillers added in to form the new, fake meat product.
If you opt to prepare homemade dips for the holidays, don’t be tempted to take a shortcut by mixing in powdered flavor packets or soup mixes. A homemade appetizer can be just as tasty when prepared with natural garlic and onion powder (which do not contain additives) as well as seasoned with salt, pepper, herbs and spices.