Dear Marcia

Because of my schedule, I often buy frozen dinners or packaged foods that are low-fat or low in carbs. I see it as a healthy
alternative to fast food but my sister tells me that they are equally unhealthy. Is she right

Jacklyn Roberts, Columbia Maryland

Dear Jacklyn,

Your sister is right.

Processed foods are everywhere.


Our kitchen cabinets are full of it. Grocery store shelves are overflowing with it. We eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. They taste good. They’re easy. And they’re economical. But processed foods are at the root of the obesity epidemic and to lose weight, you have to shift your mind to eat foods that are raw, fresh or frozen. She wins.

Processed foods originated with the advance of industrialization. To extend shelf life, improve taste and offer convenience, foods were canned, packaged, dehydrated, refrigerated, frozen, or pasteurized. Salts, sugars, oils, additives and preservatives were also added.

Through this process, nutritional value is often lost and unhealthy additives are introduced. Even though packaging may claim the food is low-fat, have no trans-fat, or be low in carbs, it doesn’t make the food healthy. Processed foods that hurt your diet include canned foods, foods with refined white flour, high-calorie snack foods, frozen dinners, sugary cereals, packaged cookies, and processed meats. Any and all processed foods made with saturated fats, trans-fats, or high amounts of sugar and sodium should be avoided at all costs.

Keep in mind Jacklyn that not all processed food is bad for you. The pasteurization of milk kills harmful bacteria.  Frozen fish, fruits, and vegetables; whole grain breads; juices; and packaged oatmeal are all examples of perfectly healthy processed foods.

Process foods cause weight gain because they are low in fiber. Fiber-rich foods such as fruits, veggies, and whole grains keep you feeling fuller longer. When you’re not as hungry, you eat fewer calories, and are therefore on your way to losing or maintaining your weight without even trying.   Processed foods also contain refined grains, sugars, and starches. These refined carbohydrates raise your blood sugar. When this happens, more insulin is produced. When these carbs are not quickly burned, the body stores them as fat. Many people also don’t pay attention to the serving size. You may think you’re eating one serving, but you can easily wind up eating two.

So what should you eat?


A diet of fewer processed foods will help you maintain a healthy weight, give you more energy, and prevent chronic health conditions. Aim to eat more fresh and whole foods in their natural state. This includes fresh or frozen fruits and veggies and whole grains. You’ll eat more vitamins, minerals, and fiber, all while consuming fewer calories, less sodium, and less fat.

Knowing what you’re eating, knowing where your food came from, and knowing each ingredient is important and keeps your weight right where you want it. Good luck.

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Marcia Ra-Akbar

Special to the AFRO