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Processed Foods vs. Whole Foods. Which are Safe to Choose?

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By Christine Ardigo MSRD

What are Processed foods? What are Whole foods?

Confused by the two? Walk up to a tree, pluck off an apple, bite down and eat it. Whole food. The less you do to a food, the closer it is to a whole food and the more nutrients it has.

The supermarket provides a gamut of items and the majority of them are not even real foods. Froot Loops, Twinkies, Cheez whiz, Spahgetti-O’s. It’s amazing our bodies survive as long as they do. Then again, people are acquiring diseases 10, 20, 30 years earlier than their parents.                                                                                                                                                  .

The Evolution of a Processed Food

Ingredients in an apple: Apple.

Ingredients in flavored applesauce: Apples, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Strawberry Puree, Natural flavors, Ascorbic Acid, Red #40.

Ingredients in Kool-Aid Jammers Green Apple Juice: Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Apple Juice from Concentrate, Ascorbic Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Citric Acid, Calcium Disodium EDTA (Preserves Freshness) Yellow #5, Blue #1

The more we process a food, the more junk is added and that junk is deposited directly into our bodies. A body that needs the finest ingredients to keep you healthy and alive.


A fresh apple has plenty of it’s own vitamins and minerals, almost 5gms of fiber and natural sweetness. When you pound it, peel it or cook it, the apple loses nutrients and fiber. When you turn it into juice it strips the majority of the nutrients.

The same with vegetables. Raw broccoli: tons of nutrients!  Boil it until it’s a soft pile of mush and the tiny florets are falling off: not much left to it.

Eat fresh fruits and vegetables and try to check out your neighborhood Farmers Markets. The next best choice is frozen which is plucked and frozen almost immediately. Try to steam these vegetables or add frozen fruit to protein shakes. Canned fruits and vegetables are the worst.

Butter or Margarine

There’s been much controversy over butter vs. margarine. Let’s look at the ingredients here.

Butter: Cream, salt.

That’s it.

Ingredients in Margarine: Vegetable Oil Blend (Soybean Oil Liquid, Soybean Oil Partially Hydrogenated, Cottonseed Oil Hydrogenated) , Water, Salt, Soy Lecithin (Potassium Sorbate, Calcium Disodium EDTA Used to protect quality) , Whey (Milk) , Vegetable Mono and Diglycerides, Artificial Flavors, Beta Carotene color(s), Citric Acid, Vitamin A Palmitate.


Like I explained previously in How to Read a Food Label, whole foods do not contain food labels because they are whole foods, untouched, unprocessed, what you see is what you get. Slap a label on it and the whole game changes.

Meat vs. Processed Meat Substances

The more they do to meat, not only does it cost more but it may be unclear what you’re left with.

Ingredients in Chicken breast: Chicken breast.


Ingredients in Chicken nuggets: Breading(Wheat flour, salt, dextrose, spice, soybean oil, whey extractives of paprika) Chicken with rib meat fritters, Batter mix (water, yellow corn flower, corn starch, spices, salt, sugar, autolyzed yeast, extract, guar gum, leavening sodium acid, pyrophosphate, sodium bicarbonate, monocalcium phosphate, Garlic powder) water, textured soy flour, modified food starch, salt, yeast extract, sodium tripolyphosphate, flavoring, spice, fried in vegetable oil with BHT.

If it has a food label, read it carefully and then hopefully put it back on the shelf.

Fat-Free Sugar-Free Foods

My favorite is fat free and sugar free foods. Understand this, if they take out one of these, they add the other. They need to do this in order to make it taste good. Loving that fat free frozen yogurt? You can guarantee they dumped a ton of sugar into it. Happy they came out with a sugar free muffin? Along with all the artificial chemical sweeteners, you can bet they added more fat to it as well.

Here are the ingredients in regular Mayonnaise:  Soybean oil, water, whole eggs, vinegar, salt, sugar, lemon juice, Calcium disodium EDTA (To protect quality).

Ingredients in LOW FAT Mayonnaise: Water, Modified corn starch*, Soybean oil, Vinegar, High fructose corn syrup*, Egg whites, Salt, Sugar, Xantham gum*, Lemon and lime peel fibers*, Colors added *, Lactic acid*, Sodium benzoate*, Calcium disodium EDTA (Used to promote quality) Phosphoric acid*, Natural flavors. *INGREDIENTS NOT IN REAL MAYONNAISE.

It’s obvious which one is better. That’s why it’s called REAL mayo.


Instead of mayonnaise, I add plain Greek Yogurt or Avocado to my sandwich.

Or add Mustard to your tuna and chicken salad!  Gives it a nice kick.                               Ingredients in Mustard: Distilled Vinegar, Water, Mustard Seed, Salt, Turmeric, Paprika, Spice, Natural Flavors and Garlic Powder.

Find or create your own healthier condiment substitutes!

This goes for Salad dressings too. Create your own or just use the 100% real ones but watch your portions. The fat free salad dressings just add a lot of sugar.

Processed Syrup

Basically all pancake syrup is high in sugar and chemicals.

Here is a popular Brand: Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Cellulose gum, Carmel color, Salt, Sodium Benzoate and Sorbic Acid (Preservatives), Artificial and natural flavors, Sodium Hexametaphosphate.

Target sells a 100% Pure Maple Syrup by Archer farms. This is the ingredient: Organic pure maple syrup. That’s it. A 12 ounce bottle is $7.00 but hopefully it will force you to use less!

I usually spread Greek yogurt and fresh berries over my pancakes/French toast/waffles instead  of syrup.

Here is a great homemade recipe for blueberry syrup:


Processed Desserts

Are there any good desserts?

Ingredients in Breyers All Natural Vanilla Ice Cream: Milk, cream, sugar, tara gum, natural flavor.

Ingredients in Blue Bunny No Sugar-added Fat-Free Vanilla Ice Cream: Fat free milk, polydextrose, Maltodextrin, Sorbitol, Whey Protein Concentrate, Glycerine, Grade A Whey, Carob Bean Gum, Mono & Diglycerides*, Cellulose Gum, Guar Gum, Corn Starch, Polysorbate 80, Carrageenan, Vanilla Extract, Vanillin, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, Vitamin A Palmitate, Annatto (for color).

Um…I’m scared. Check out the other weight-loss targeted ice cream products and their ingredients, like Weight Watchers and Skinny Cow products. Pretty scary, huh? Stick with the real stuff and just have less. A portion of ice cream is 4 ounces (sorry) but add some fresh strawberries on top or crush a small square of 80% dark chocolate on it to make it more satisfying.

Here are some quick, easy homemade ice cream/frozen yogurt recipes you can stir up yourself. One of them only has 1 ingredient!


And my favorite: Sugar free cookies! Everyone with diabetes is cheering: woo hoo! I can eat them because they have no sugar. Um, no. They still have starch and when you see the food label for let’s say, Sugar Free Oreos, you will see that 2 cookies have 17gms of carbohydrates. The same as regular Oreos!

Check out this Sugar Free Oreo Food Label:

It still has flour and the first ingredient is Manitol which is a sugar alcohol and can cause diarrhea if you eat increased amounts. Watch all products that end in that –OL. Like maltitol, xylitol, and sorbitol. These are all sugar alcohols.

If you want a cookie, eat the real deal and just stick with the portion size listed. Two Oreos not enough? Really? Think why you are eating them. Are you starving to death? Just want a little something sweet? Are you really  trying to lose weight? Two is enough to tickle your sweet tooth without stuffing your face. Better yet, bake your own cookies and add healthy nuts and fruit to them.

Bottom Line

  • Choose real foods without a food label.
  • If it has a food label choose a food with less than 5 ingredients and with ingredients you can pronounce.
  • Substitute highly processed foods with wholesome foods to fuel your heart and muscles and organs.
  • Design your own recipes to make your meals healthier.

So what do you think? What does your freezer and pantry look like? Throw out all that junk and promise to buy healthier choices next time. Let me know what changes you’ve made. I love hearing from you! Please drop me a line!
CHRISTINE ARDIGO – Author of Cheating to SurviveEvery Five Years & The Bridges Before Us

The greatest compliment you can give me is when you share this with others.
I sincerely appreciate it:

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20 Thoughts on “Processed Foods vs. Whole Foods. Which are Safe to Choose?

  1. Colleen on August 14, 2013 at 7:57 am said:

    Thank you for this great article. Couldn’t wait to share it.

  2. Fantastic info as always…

  3. Christine on August 14, 2013 at 8:56 am said:

    Thanx Joe! That means a lot! Spread the love! <3

  4. Anthony Rosina on August 14, 2013 at 12:57 pm said:

    Thanks Christine. Always great advice. And I was eating broccoli while reading this, too! 🙂

  5. Jennine on August 14, 2013 at 2:57 pm said:

    Great info everyone needs to read!!!

  6. Great article!

  7. Great article…what’s your thoughts on juice machines & juicing vegetables to get more of it in your diet 🙂

    • Christine on August 15, 2013 at 9:28 am said:

      Thanks Debbi. If it’s a juicer that takes it all in and uses it without waste and you enjoy it, go for it. If its for a meal replacement you can always add Greek yogurt, Peanut butter, Whey protein powder to add in protein and keep you full. Add lots of veggies to it also! The sweetness of the fruit masks the strong flavors of green veggies like spinach. You’ll never know they’re in there. You can add flaxseed too. (the only down side is i heard they’re a pain to clean, but if you dont mind and you love it…..Just Do It!) 🙂 Thanks for your question.

      • Make green smoothies instead… keep all the fibre and cleanup is a snap!

        • Christine on August 15, 2013 at 9:38 am said:

          Joe, do you use a regular blender? I use just a regular one and its so easy to clean. I’ve heard these expensive juicers take a lot to clean.

          • I use a Vitamix. Super high powered blender that liquifies everything!

            I personally do not juice for the cleanup reasons and I like to keep the food as whole as I can. Having the fiber removed for me, IMO does not fit the bill.

            I also believe that too much of anything, even good things, can become problematic. When you juice, you are consuming far more then you normally could and for me that sends up a red flag.

            All that said, if juicing works for you by all means juice. It’s better then the junk people get at the store.

          • Christine on August 15, 2013 at 12:23 pm said:

            Great advice Joe! I agree.

  8. I have Kordich’s power grinder & I love it! Easy to use & clean….I’m
    Still experimenting with the different recipes though 🙂 it’s fun to make fruit juices too, even my kids love it!

  9. This is a very helpful article. Thanks for sharing this. I’ve just started baking, well my mom does it most of the time hehe, and I wonder, in baking cakes and cookies, is virgin coconut oil or olive oil a good substitute for butter (if we don’t have yogurt, applesauce, and avocado as substitutes)?

    • Christine on October 5, 2013 at 7:23 am said:

      Thank you! I love coconut and olive oil, but i love butter too. They are ALL 100% fat, all 3 of them, so the most important thing is to watch your portions and eat them in moderation. They all have wonderful benefits. I use all 3. I use butter in baking. It’s high in Lauric acid which is a good thing. But all 3 are high in calories, so just be careful how much you are eating. 

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