12 fake foods to avoid (and what to eat instead)

I'm trying to eat less processed food (better for me, better for the planet), but the journey from fresh to processed is not a simple one, nor is it always clear what, exactly, makes something highly processed (the quick answer: the more a food is sliced, diced, and added to, the more processed it is). Here are 12 "fake" foods to avoid and the more natural options you should eat instead:

1. Frozen Veggie Burgers

Eat instead: Fresh edamame (whole soybeans)

2nd Choice (Somewhat Processed): Tofu

Shopping Tip: Try a gilled tofu kebab over highly processed veggie burgers as an easy vegetarian option.

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2. Apple Toaster Pastry

Eat Instead: Whole apple

2nd Choice (Somewhat Processed): Applesauce

Shopping Tip: While applesauce is a healthy choice, it has fewer nutrients than a whole apple.

3. Orange Drink

Eat instead: Whole orange

2nd Choice (Somewhat Processed): 100% orange juice

Shopping Tip: Many fruit drinks contain high fructose corn syrup and little real juice.

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4. Frozen Creamed Spinach

Eat instead: Fresh Spinach

2nd Choice (Somewhat Processed): Bagged prewashed spinach (precut greens lose their nutrients faster than the whole uncut bunch)

Shopping Tip: When buying frozen vegetables, avoid those packaged with sodium-rich sauces. Buy plain and add your own light sauce.

5. Frozen honey-glazed carrots

Eat instead: Loose carrots

2nd Choice (Somewhat Processed): Baby carrots

Shopping Tip: Baby carrots are healthy, but they are more expensive than regular-size loose carrots.

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6. Dehydrated Soup Mix

Eat instead: Soup from scratch

2nd Choice (Somewhat Processed): Canned soup

Shopping Tip: Homemade soup often has less sodium and more flavor than canned.

7. Frozen beef patties

Eat instead: Grass-fed beef

2nd Choice (Somewhat Processed): Grain-fed beef

Shopping Tip: Grass-fed meat is higher in nutrients and lower in fat than grain-fed beef.

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8. Chicken nuggets

Eat instead: Fresh chicken breasts

2nd Choice (Somewhat Processed): Deli sliced chicken

Shopping Tip: Chicken nuggets contain very little real chicken.

9. Egg Beaters

Eat instead: Pasture-raised eggs

2nd Choice (Somewhat Processed): Omega-3-fortified eggs

Shopping Tip: Pasture-raised eggs may have 35% less saturated fat, 60% more vitamin A, and 200% more omega-3s compared with omega-3-fortified eggs and Egg Beaters, which come from chickens kept in coops.

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10. Flavored yogurt drink

Eat instead: Plain yogurt

2nd Choice (Somewhat Processed): Flavored yogurt

Shopping Tip: Buy plain yogurt and flavor it at home with honey or fresh fruit.

11. Fortified White Bread

Eat instead: Whole grain bread

2nd Choice (Somewhat Processed): Wheat bread

Shopping Tip: If a whole grain isn't the first ingredient, you're missing out on nutrients.

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12. Instant noodles

Eat instead: Dried whole-wheat pasta

2nd Choice (Somewhat Processed): Dried white pasta

Shopping Tip: Whole grain pasta is higher in antioxidants than white or instant noodles.

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