Processed Foods for a Healthier Diet?

Processed foods are bad. Processed foods are the cause of the obesity epidemic. Processed foods cause diabetes, cancer and annoyingness. Processed foods shot JFK!!!  


Everyone loves a bad guy. Having a bad guy in a movie means you can blame everything on him and not have to think too much about it. It gives the cause of a problem a label; people love labels. It also helps to remove ambiguity; people hate ambiguity.


So, it’s very easy for people to blame the current obesity epidemic on processed food; the bad guy of the nutritional world… right? To a certain extent is true. The EXCESSIVE consumption of processed food does lead to obesity and all it’s associated health problems; cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancer etc. {1,2}.


So does that you “need” to eliminate all processed food from your diet? In the last paragraph, notice the emphasis on the word “Excessive” which is defined as “going beyond the usual, necessary or proper limit”. Excess of anything can be bad! If you eat too much pizza, you’ll get fat, but the same applies if you eat too much avocado or too many almonds.


But what if I told you that a little bit of processed food could actually help you improve your diet, especially if your diet is not so great to begin with?


Processed food can make your diet better?

Let’s use Bobby as an example, again. You may remember Bobby from a past article on the Ice-Cream Diet.


Let’s assume Bobby is following a pretty poor western diet:

  • too much food in general (too high in calories)
  • low in fruit and vegetables
  • high in refined grains and sugars
  • high in processed meats

Now, Bobby recently got the results from his latest medical check-up and things don’t look so good. In fact, he’s so shaken up by his poor health that he goes to a nutritionist who recommends the following:

  • Reduce total calories
  • Eat more fruit and vegetables
  • Eat more whole grains
  • Replace processed meats with other lean proteins

It’s a pretty sound nutritional plan for better health and Bobby is pretty damn motivated to regain his health. There’s only one problem, Bobby doesn’t like vegetables, he isn’t a big fan of whole-grains and he finds chicken breast and beans to be pretty damn bland. (Bobby was a spoiled child and his parents didn’t realize that letting him eat whatever he wanted would spell disaster for his health in the future).

And then a miracle happened...

Despite this dislike for “healthier” foods, Bobby figured out a way to make all of those changes in his diet and still enjoy the food he was eating. Now he eats less overall, eats more fruit and veg, and eats plenty of whole-grains, legumes and other lean proteins. He’s lost weight, his health has improved dramatically and he feels great in general.


How, the heck did he do it?

 Simple! He just used processed food to make the “healthier” food more appetizing.

  • He uses delicious salad dressings on a massive salad that he eats everyday.
  • He uses stock cubes to season brown rice and other wholegrain and veg dishes
  • He buys pre-prepared soups and fills them with extra vegetables, legumes and lean proteins to make delicious and healthy stews.
  • He puts sweetened and flavored protein powders into his morning whole-grain oat porridge
  • He serves wholegrain pasta and veg with processed pasta sauces* 

*I personally use all of these strategies when preparing my food and you can see many of these dishes on my Instagram account.


A Diet Transformation

Now, if you’re the type of person who looks at the above changes that Bobby has made and says “Yeah, but his diet is still no good because he’s still eating processed food”, then you just can’t see the forest for the trees! A diet does not need to be 100% perfect to be healthy. In fact, studies have shown that excessively restrictive diets can result in failure of that diet and return to older eating habits or binging {3}.


A diet is no good if you can’t maintain it long term so conversely, the best diet is the one that you can easily stick to.


If using a small amount of processed food in your diet helps you to vastly improve it, then it’s absolutely worth it.


Think about it, if 80-90% of your diet is coming from healthy, whole and unprocessed foods, then the other 10-20% of processed foods really isn’t going to have much of a negative effect (if you think otherwise then you really are missing the big picture!).


Those huge improvements that bobby made in his new diet above (eating less overall, more fruit and veg, plenty of wholegrains, legumes and lean proteins) are all thanks to including a few convenient processed foods in his diet that not only make his food tastier but also make his food prep much more convenient. This type of flexible dieting has been proven to lead to a healthier relationship with food (less feelings of restriction and subsequent binging) and to lead to greater dieting success {4-6}.


My own cupboards and fridge are filled with different sauces, dressings, stock cubes and pre-prepared soups and thanks to them I am happy and satisfied eating a healthful diet filled with vegetables, wholegrains and legumes. Thanks to this flexibility with processed foods I’ve been able to happily maintain this way of eating for years without feeling restricted.

Nutrition is rarely Black & White

I don’t like blanket statements like “Processed foods are bad for your health” or “Carbs make you fat” or “Refined sugar is evil” because out of context, they’re not true. Excess of almost anything will make you fat and is bad for your health. Thinking in such overly simplistic "black and white" terms is often not really applicable to nutrition where concepts exist in a continuum of greys.


Nor am I telling you to suddenly start throwing loads more processed food into your diet. I’m saying that if consumed in thoughtful moderation, processed foods can help you enjoy a much healthier diet overall.


Eat well folks.


  • Alberti KGMM, Zimmet P, Shaw J. Metabolic syndrome--a new world-wide definition. A Consensus Statement from the International Diabetes Federation. Diabet Med. 2006;23(5):469–80.
  • Malik S, Wong ND, Franklin SS, Kamath T V, L’Italien GJ, Pio JR, et al. Impact of the metabolic syndrome on mortality from coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and all causes in United States adults. Circulation. 2004;110(10):1245–50.
  • Meule A, Westenhöfer J, Kübler A. Food cravings mediate the relationship between rigid, but not flexible control of eating behavior and dieting success. Appetite. 2011;57(3):582–4.
  • Smith CF, Williamson D a, Bray G a, Ryan DH. Flexible vs. Rigid dieting strategies: relationship with adverse behavioral outcomes. Appetite. 1999;32(1995):295–305.
  • Stotland S. Moderation: An alternative to restraint as a mode of weight self-regulation. Eat Behav. 2012;13(4):406–9.
  • Meule A, Papies EK, Kübler A. Differentiating between successful and unsuccessful dieters. Validity and reliability of the Perceived Self-Regulatory Success in Dieting Scale. Appetite. 2012;58(3):822–6.

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Comments: 1
  • #1

    Sonia (Thursday, 22 February 2024 05:10)

    ¡Hola! Me pongo en contacto contigo porque recientemente ha sido posible recibir financiación para empresas como la tuya, incluso si enfrentan cargas de deuda o dan pérdidas.

    Colaboramos con especialistas en financiaciones bancarias y reestructuración de deuda, que trabajan con bancos líderes como BBVA, Santander o la entidad financiera que utilices habitualmente.

    Debido a la alta demanda, durante esta semana ofrecemos un estudio previo gratuito sin compromiso.

    ¿Podrías facilitarnos un número de teléfono?