Why to Avoid Processed Foods

Canned foods on conveyor.

Processed Foods

If we go back in American history to the 1930’s, we learn that our government worried that many citizens were suffering malnutrition as a result of eating too little. Today, the concern is because many of our citizens are malnourished from eating too much of the wrong things. Nowadays, we get far more than enough calories in our diets. The problem is these calories largely come from highly processed foods and are devoid of the nutrients and fiber we require to be healthy. As a result of eating poor diets, we now have an epidemic of metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, gout, and cardiovascular disease. Most of these can be directly tied to our consumption of processed foods.

Child eating breakfast cereal.

PepsiCo and Cap’n Crunch Cereal

One of the first processed foods we introduce our children to is breakfast cereals. When you look at the obesity trends over the years, this could be seen as the jumping off point for the slow, swirl around the proverbial drain of life. We are turning our children on to one of the worst offenders for processed foods. Many, if not most of the breakfast cereals which line the shelves in our grocery stores now contain pure sugar for about half the ingredients.

In 2019, the breakfast division at PepsiCo released a new variety of Cap’n Crunch cereal. This new variety was named Cotton Candy Crunch and it contained seventeen grams of sugar per serving. This made up roughly half of the cereal, and my God, who eats just one serving? Just think, we give our kids this much cereal and then might refuse to give them a candy bar which contains just about the same amount of sugar. This is equal to giving them a candy bar for breakfast instead. To add insult to injury, the typical breakfast cereal is also made up of heavily processed corn and oats that our body converts to sugar almost instantly. When you feed your child most breakfast cereals, you are actually giving them a heaping bowl full of sugar.

Open door

Opening the door wide open for processed foods.

When the demographics of our work force began to change when women started leaving home for work also, food companies were ready to assist with processed foods. If a mother was now working, she no often longer had the time for meal prep as mothers in the past. With the introduction of more and better processed foods, the convenience and speed of preparation of processed foods became more attractive. Processed food companies were the first to grasp just how big of an opportunity they had been given by women entering the work force. Speed of preparation made it even easier to get people hooked along with the sugars, salts and fats these ready made foods contained. It was a win for processed food producers.

General Mill’s CEO, Charles Mortimer coined the term “convenience foods.” He had stated in a meeting of  a business group:

“Convenience is the great additive which must be designed, built in, combined, blended, interwoven, injected, inserted, or otherwise add to or incorporated in products or services if they are to satisfy today’s demanding public.” “It is the new and controlling denominator of consumer acceptance or demand.”

And we have been getting more obese with each passing year since.

Processed food producers are giving us what we demand.

To provide us with our demands, processed food producers have given us time saving convenience.  Every aspect of processed food has been engineered to shave off seconds of time. Instead of making your child a sandwich for lunch, you can now hand them a Lunchable. To wash the Lunchable down, they can pop open a can of sugary soda pop, and then enjoy a tube of yogurt for dessert.

None of this is good for your child, but it is good for your convenience, right? You can sit your child down with this garbage and then be able to concentrate on something more pressing for your time. Today, we can do the same for any meal we want to feed our families. Never mind if it is healthy or not when being convenient and delicious is a priority instead.

Brown and white sugar

The shift to more sugar in processed foods.

As producers of processed foods have brought us convenience, they have been slipping in more sugar while they have been at it. They use more than sixty types of sugar – from corn syrup to concentrated fruit juices – to march around every aisle of your favorite grocer and sweeten products that formerly were not.  Their goal was what food technicians refer to as the “bliss point” for sugar. They understand the addictive nature of sugar in foods to keep us coming back for more!

The bliss point for sugar is when our brain has become so aroused, the brake in our brain has no chance to say “NO!”

Breads, yogurts, tomato sauces and on and on have had sugar added in order to increase their bliss point. To make this worse, “presweetened” has become a selling point on the front of many food labels. Presweetened adds to the convenience of saved time. About seventy five percent of the foods in your store now have added sweeteners. This has created an expectation in us that everything we eat should have some sweetness to it.

man eating while driving car
Man eating pizza and coffee while driving car dangerously

It has become socially acceptable to eat anytime and anywhere.

Processed foods of convenience have now made it possible, and socially acceptable to eat anywhere and anytime. It once as only socially acceptable to eat at meals, now  we snack like never before.

Snacking is now like having a fourth meal for the day. As profits grow for producers of processed foods, so do our waistlines. We just keep getting fatter and it seems no one really cares anymore, as long as they can eat whenever, and whatever they want. We do not snack on foods we have to prepare, we snack on processed garbage that we can find everywhere nowadays. Processed food companies have engineered cheap and convenient snack foods to meet our insatiable demands. We buy this garbage while on the fly.

In order to keep us coming back for more junk food, garbage, food processors give us a large variety to choose from. They do this because they know we can become bored with the same ol’ same ol’. Their strategy to manipulate us is to give us variety. Variety comes by turning a potato chip into ten flavor choices. They give us 200 kinds of breakfast cereals. Ice cream comes in exotic flavors such as Banana Peanut Butter Chip and Brown Butter Bourbon to name a couple. In 1995, Goldman Sachs reported that cereal sales had reached $8 billion and cited how the “constant flow of new products that added variety and stimulated consumption.”

In 2015, it was announced at Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago that 46 percent of consumers now snack three or more times per day. Today, there are variety packs for many snacks.  These packs can be loaded with cookies, candy, or anything the producer wants to market. They do this so that we never feel full. They have researchers who make their living studying how to keep us that way. Sadly, they do this with no regard for how disordered our eating has become over the years.

As consumers, we are manipulated each and every day by marketers of processed foods. They study everything about us, and give us the variety we demand. Researchers have figured out that if you give a person M&M’s with ten colors instead of six, they will eat more of them even though they all taste exactly the same. If you give people a plate of spaghetti, they will stop sooner than if you give them a plate of tortellini made of the same pasta but just a different shape.

Fat man eating in front of television

Distracted eating.

Researchers also know that we eat more when we are distracted – as in when we are watching television or on our phones. We sit down with a convenient snack, and then turn our attention away to something as gripping as an electronic device, and our brain forgets that we are eating. Researchers have figured out that when we come back to our food, it looks like it has slightly changed, as if it is something new. This may not be perceptible to you, but it is a real phenomena they know affects our ability to defend against overeating.

Researchers for these processed food companies know that we want convenience, variety, and low price more than we want healthy. This was all on their agenda when processed food manufacturers met in Bermuda in 2014. The occasion was the annual meeting of a group that functions as a research arm of the processed food industry. This group is known as the International Life Sciences Institute.

Suzanne Biggs of the University of Birmingham in England had a presentation called:  “Free Will or Fate: What Drives Our Food Choice decisions.” Biggs noted that variety was one of the things that will cause us to lose track of what we eat, along with other distractions that go far in subverting our free will. Is it any wonder we are getting fatter as a society?

Biggs gave insight to these companies on how they can overcome our free will to control our eating habits. Low price, convenience, and variety get boosted when our memory also gets exploited. She did this by showing how distracted eaters who watched television while they ate, ended up feeling hungry again sooner than if they had not been distracted while eating. In her experiment for the group, she showed that the people who watched television while they ate their lunch, also ate more cookies as an afternoon snack.

Processed food producers know exactly how to manipulate we the consumers.

Through their diligent research, they have seized a firm grip on the biology of our desire. Their path to power over our appetites has been remarkably easy for them to achieve. Companies such as PepsoCo, Nestle, Kraft, Heinz, Coca Cola and Mars now have sales in the double-digit billions of dollars and lineups of huge brands that have become deeply familiar to us. The fast food restaurants who serve us tons of processed foods now rake in $1.5 trillion  from people eating out. They exploit our love for cheap and easy foods of convenience.

In the fight for our appetites, the processed food industry has blurred the lines between eating in and out. Grocers now sell Cinnabon baking kits, Auntie Ann’s pretzels, and Taco Bell sauces while fast food chains have added Doritos and Oreos to their menu boards. And often, even when we believe we are eating at home as we used to with traditional, whole  foods, we no longer cook like we used to.

Is it any wonder we have such a problem with obesity nowadays?

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To Snack or Not Snack



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