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Whole versus Processed Food

by Taun P Chapman last modified Mar 17, 2013 09:34 PM
Millions of tons of natural resources go into processing, packaging and transporting our food. Processing is the work of cooking and assembling the product; adding coloring, additives, and preservatives.
When Mar 17, 2013 to Mar 25, 2013 (EST / UTC-400)
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What to we mean by whole food?

We can think of a whole food as one that is taken directly from its source, whether plant or animal, and contains all of its original nutrients. Whole foods include fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, whole meat parts, and whole milk. Whole foods don’t have any additives or preservatives. They also don’t have their nutrients removed.
Eating whole foods has many benefits. Eating a variety of whole foods will provide you with all the vitamins and minerals your body needs. Also, whole foods are less expensive because there is usually no packaging or added ingredients. For example, 5 lbs of potatoes are about the same price as a large order of french fries. However, the 5 lbs of potatoes provides you with much more nutritious food than the french fries.(Source:

What does it mean to be processed?

Processing is altering the food from the form it is found in nature. An apple would be an example of a whole food. Old-fashioned homemade applesauce has been processed - in the sense of being
chopped into fine pieces from a whole apple. It still tastes like an apple, and although it does not look like an apple, you can imagine how it is made from whole apples. An apple pop tart has been processed further and contains many other ingredients besides apples. A pop-tart would be considered a highly processed food. You can see the complete ingredients list here by clicking on Ingredients.
What are my attitudes toward eating whole foods?  Simple meals? Where do those attitudes come from? To what extent do they support or hinder my having a healthy diet?
Can I get along without packages, canned or convenience food? Why do I buy these foods? To what extent are my eating habits influenced by the media?
What role does fast food play in my eating habits? What need does fast food fulfill? Can I imagine other, healthier strategies that could also meet that need?
Create a vision
Describe your ideal mix of foods for daily meals.
On your own or with your family, using magazines and other images, create a collage of foods you feel would feed your body and soul and post it where you can see it daily.

Take stock

Track your eating for two days. Note which items are whole and which are lightly and which heavily processed.

  • Identify at home or at the store 3 to 5 processed food items and make a list of the additives and preservative. Here is a suggested form to identify ingredients and additives.
  • Use this list to identify the health concerns that may be related to their ingestion. Make a list of ingredients you will avoid. Use this link to look up the inredients at the Center for Science in the Public Interest Chemical Cuisine Resource Database.


Take some time this week to learn more about food processing


At the bookstore or library: Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss

Reviews at: and and NY Times Book


Super size  MeTrailer here: Available free online at a number of sites

Fat, sick and nearly dead at


Foster Alternatives: Food Cooperatives

Want to buy bulk food with less packaging and higher quality, but don't want to give up the convenience of a regular grocery store? There's no need to wait for your closest  mega-chain supermarket to carry the good stuff. You can join a local food coop or create a neighborhood coop. Food cooperatives are worker or customer owned businesses that provide grocery items of the highest quality and best value to their members. Coops can take the shape of retail stores or buying clubs. All food coops are committed to consumer education, product quality, and member control, and usually support their local communities by selling produce grown locally by family farms.

Resources to explore:

Since 1977 Neshaminy Valley has distributed organic foods and natural products and is USDA Certified Organic. Neshaminy Valley distributes over 4000 items, many unique, including over 300 commodities in bulk, most certified organic. These organic grains, beans, seeds, nuts, snack mixes, dried fruits, flours, cereals are also available in Neshaminy Valley’s 1 lb and 5 lb. sizes which are hand-packaged fresh daily. Neshaminy Valley also distributes thousands of organic groceries, organic dairy products, ecologic homecare products, organic frozen convenience foods, wheat-free and gluten-free foods,

body care products with organic ingredients and more (i.e. vegan, vegetarian, macrobiotic, kosher).

Reduce harm

  • Packaging: For 5 days, place all the food related packing you use in a plastic bag. At the end of the 5 days, weigh the bag and guessimate its volume.
  • Discuss how you might reduce that waste over time.
  • Learn more about added salt
  • Learn more about sweeteners. Apartame, Nutrasweet and Splenda all have controversies surrounding their potentially damaging health effects. They have been banned in some European countries. Be informed and decide if artificial sweeteners are safe for you to use. One review is found here
  • Learn more about sweet drinks.
  • Learn more about sweet snacks.
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