On the processed food debate

 cheese sauce

We’re told that for our health (and our waistline), we should avoid processed foods at all costs. Despite the dire warnings, many of us – even though we can understand the health implications and don’t have any obstacles that stand in the way of healthy cooking – choose to eat packaged foods anyway. The reasons for this are complex, says London restaurant critic Grace Dent.

The obvious thing that people miss when railing against the evils of processed foods is that many of them are delicious, Dent opines. “Processed food is easy, tasty and restorative. It hits the spot. It celebrates, it pacifies, it is a light of hope at the end of another tricky day. It is what you reach for when you need to get the job of eating done,” she explains.

Maybe it’s because I have, in recent years, done a lot of backsliding on processed foods from once shunning every drive-thru, but this article seemed to hit the spot like an order of McDonald’s fries fresh from the fryer. Even though I eat a mainly plant-based diet and make the majority of my meals from scratch, after a long day’s work and a rough commute, sometimes it is satisfying to just pop through the drive-thru so I can focus on other tasks that need to be accomplished. 

Photo of Cheese sauce for cheese fries and nachos from Serious Eats

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  • raowriter  on  June 3, 2018

    There are other ways to overcome the time thing, such as a stash of home-prepared ‘fast’ foods in the freezer. Processed foods eaten occasionally are okay, but it’s too easy – for all the reasons you give – to fall into the trap of relying on them. Devastating for health and weight.

  • nicolepellegrini  on  June 4, 2018

    I think one of the big problems with processed foods is how it short-circuits our taste buds and, when consumed regularly, makes it more difficult to appreciate more "all natural" foods and ingredients properly. All those sugar, fat, and carb bombs out there in the drive-thrus and convenience stores make it so we get programmed to crave, say, a bag of "BBQ chips" in a pinch instead of reaching for a banana or apple—even if they are sitting right there ready to eat in the corner deli right next to all that junk. As someone who's lost 60 pounds over the past year by largely cutting out all that junk, I agree with raowriter that there are ways to overcome the seeming "inconveniences" of eating well, instead of eating fast. But it does take planning, and making a personal commitment to making one's health a priority.

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