Processed foods are often referred to as bad or unhealthy. They are blamed for chronic health issues like obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The truth is most of the items in the grocery store have been processed to some extent. Processed foods are more than frozen pizzas and sugary beverages. Things like peanut butter and whole wheat bread are also processed. Although some should only be consumed occasionally, processed foods still have a place in a balanced diet. Here is how to tell apart the nutritious from the not-so-nutritious processed foods.

Any food that has undergone some change from its natural state is “processed.” Processed food may be cooked, canned, frozen or packaged to make it more convenient, shelf-stable or flavorful. When you prepare and cook food at home, you too are processing food.

Virginia Aparicio is Health and Human Sciences educator with Purdue Extension Elkhart County. She can be reached at 574-533-0554 or

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