One of the first things that people are told when starting a diet or a healthy eating plan is to avoid 'processed' foods. However, this is not always the easiest advice to implement, some processed foods are actually quite good for you and some unprocessed foods should be avoided. There is also the issue of how processed is processed - most of our food these days is processed to some extent, so a certain amount of common sense needs to be applied when choosing to buy or avoid certain types of foods. The main aim of this thread is to help clarify which 'processed' foods are OK to include in your diet. I would be grateful if people would add their own recommendations to what they find acceptable. Frozen veggies, fruit, meat and fish. In many cases these can actually be fresher than the fresh items you buy from the shops. This is because there are rules and regulations that mean that these items have to be frozen within a fairly short time of being harvested, whilst the fresh stuff you buy in the shops may have been sitting round in warehouses or on the shelves for quite some time. Buying frozen items can be a quick and easy alternative to buying fresh. If you are eating for one, keeping a supply of several different types in the freezer means that you can easily eat a good variety of foods without worrying about waste. Frozen stuff may work out cheaper to buy than the fresh and it is often prechopped so can be easy to add a handful to your dinner without having to prepare it - great if you come in tired and hungry from training. One thing to be aware of with frozen items though is that some of them may have things added to them to make them easier to cook, e.g. I get some chargrilled frozen veggies from Sainsbury's but they do have some vegetable oil added to them. Obviously be aware that breadcrumbed or battered fish may not be a good choice (particularly if you are paleo) and items with sauces can have oils, sugars and other additives added to them for flavour. Dried fruit Dried fruit can be a good addition to meals but be aware that it contains a fair amount of fruit sugars and read the small print on the pack to see what extras have been added. The stuff you find in the baking isle of the supermarket may have added sugars, candied fruit and even added corn syrup. It may also contain preservatives, which some people prefer to avoid. Dairy products and proteins Proteins These can be a good, cheap way to get extra protein into your diet. Unflavoured basic whey is a byproduct of the cheese industry so it relatively unprocessed (if you eat cheese, then I can't see any valid objection to using whey). However, the moment it is added to premade shake mixes the processing level increases, other flavours, sugars, additives and preservatives can be mixed in with it and so that needs to be taken into consideration when choosing a protein mixture. Casein is another milk product protein that is relatively unprocessed. Dairy Milk can be processed to a various degrees. Most of the milk we buy is homogenised and/or pasturised. Homogenisation is a process that breaks up the fat particles to a standardised size, this prevents the formation of the 'cream of the milk' at the top of the bottle. There is a suggestion that the smaller fat particles in homogenised milk are potentially more of a health threat than the larger fat particles found in unhomogenised milk (although the initial studies that suggested this have never been supported by other researchers). If this is an issue that bothers you, then look for milk that is unhomogenised and has the cream layer at the top of the bottle (e.g. Gold Top Jersey Milk). Obviously there are also a variety of fat concentrations of milk around (full fat, semiskimmed, 1%, skimmed etc), be aware that the fat in milk it useful to help with the absorption of fat soluble vitamins so buying the low fat version might not be the healthiest choice. Pasteurisation is the process of heating the milk to kill bacteria. It also removes some of the B vitamins (~10%) from the milk, but as these are present in relatively high concentrations this is not really a problem. About 20% of the vitamin C is also removed by this process, but milk is not a major source of vitamin C for most people, so again it is not really a problem. UHT is a version of pasteurisation in which the milk is heated to over 135°C for a few seconds, again there is a loss of vitamins with this process and more of the folate is destroyed with UHT than basic pasteurisation. UHT is also used for other products - fruit juices, cream, soups, stews, yoghurts for example, and again can remove certain vitamins from the foods. Butter - be aware that the 'spreadable' butters have oils (usually vegetable) added to them to make them spreadable. Low fat varieties of products - these may not be the healthiest choice, they often contain relatively more sugar than the full fat versions and may have added sugar (or other additives) to enhance the taste. Fat in a product also has the effect of helping with satiety (keeping you feeling fuller for longer), so the full fat product is often a better choice than the more processed, low fat version of the same product. Just be aware that fat is calorie dense, so drowning your veggies in butter might not be the best option if you are struggling to lose weight (however some butter will help you absorb more vitamins from the veggies and help keep you feeling full). Processed Sauces Sometimes it's easier to open a jar of sauce than faff around making your own. Now I class sauces as fairly processed, but there are some things to look out for if you are going to use them. Try to buy sauces that are low in sugar and that are made from a base of olive oil rather than vegetable oil - this might be one of the occasions where the low fat or reduced calorie version is a better choice, as these often contain less oil and more vegetables (e.g. more tomatoes in the tomato version) than the full fat ones. Right so that is the first installment of the 'processed foods' thread. It is obviously not a comprehensive review of all the issues, but more of an introduction and some pointers to the sorts of things to be aware of. Hopefully we can expand the thread with more suggestions, as other people contribute.