Want to Lose Weight? How Much Processed Food Are You Eating?

May 30, 2019   11 Comments

The meal above is a perfect example of my definition of processed food. It comes out of a freezer or can and can be heated in the microwave.

Want to Lose Weight?

Research scientists at the National Institutes of Health wanted to measure if a processed food diet would lead to weight gain. This isn’t an easy type of study to do and it costs quite a lot of money - but they managed to convince 20 healthy adults to live at NIH for 4 weeks. You can read about their study here: NIH study finds heavily processed foods cause overeating and weight gain.

Thank you, people who volunteered!!

At the lab, they were fed three meals per day (plus snacks) and every calorie they ate was measured. One group was assigned whole foods and another was assigned processed foods.

Both groups were allowed to eat as much as they wanted for every meal (go ahead have seconds, thirds!!).

The first image in the post is of the lunch that was served on Day 7 to half of the group. It is:

Macaroni and cheese (Stouffer’s), 
Chicken tenders (Perdue), 
Canned green beans (Giant)
, Diet lemonade (Crystal Light) with NutriSource fiber. The researchers had to add drinks with fiber to make up for the lack of natural fiber in the processed food.

Here is what the whole food group got on for the same Day 7 lunch:

Grilled chicken breast, Quinoa (Nature’s Earthly Choice) salad with raisins (Monarch), onions, chopped walnuts (Diamond), parsley, fresh squeezed lemon juice and olive oil, Side salad (spinach, tomato and cucumber) with vinaigrette (balsamic vinegar (Nature’s Promise) and olive oil)

The researchers designed the two diets so that they contained roughly equivalent amounts of calories, carbs, fat and sugar.

What do you think happened? The processed food group ate 500 more calories per day than the whole food group!! They gained about 2 pounds.

The processed food diet caused a rise in hunger hormones compared to the whole food diet and the poor people in the processed group ate more.

I do feel sorry for the processed food diet volunteers because that must have been hard.

The people on the whole food diet lost weight! Remember, they had unlimited access to food that someone else served them - and they lost weight. This group lost 2 pounds.

The unprocessed diet led to higher levels of appetite-suppressing hormones and lower levels of the hormone that stimulates hunger. How about that?

Here are some other examples of the food from the study.

Processed snacks:

Whole food snacks:

Which would you rather eat? Be honest with yourself. But, what if you knew that eating the whole food is proven to stop you from feeling hungry? I think that might sway me toward the healthy stuff.

Here are some dinner test meals.

This is a processed food meal - Peanut butter (Monarch) and jelly (Monarch) sandwich on white bread, (Ottenberg) 2% milk (Cloverland) with NutriSource fiber,
Baked Cheetos (Frito-Lay), 
Graham crackers (Nabisco), Chocolate pudding (Snack Pack) with NutriSource fibe.r

This is a whole food meal:

Stir fried beef tender roast (Tyson) with broccoli, onions, sweet peppers, ginger, garlic and olive oil , Basmati rice (Roland), Orange slices
, Pecan halves (Monarch) Salt and Pepper (Monarch).

The researchers revealed that it cost them 40% more to make the whole food diet meals. That, my readers, is one of the biggest problems. It is expensive to make healthy food and it takes time. I get it. I serve frozen food (heated up) at dinner sometimes because I am out of time and I need to get food on the table. I have noticed how much it costs me to provide my family with fresh fruits and vegetables.

But, when you reach for that convenience food you might not feel satisfied after you eat it. What is that doing to your waistline and overall health?

My advice is to take a look at your meals and see which photos they most resemble. Then, figure out how you can get them to look more like the whole food photos. You will probably lose weight without counting a calorie.

What do you think of this study? Does it make sense to you?

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I found that, using meal plans (I use Hello Fresh), I'm much happier prepping meals with few processed ingredients. The meals are correctly portioned as well, which is hard to track sometimes. They are also fairly easy and very tasty. I am able to recreate meals we've enjoyed with little effort, which helps keep us on track.

I think more need to be done like this...there are so many things added to processed foods to give them flavor, shelf life, make customers continue to buy and want to eat them. Chemicals not intended for human consumption which over time can cause side effects like migraines, joint pain, inflammation and other symptoms customers may not ever attribute to eating processed food. The older I get the more I believe that food is medicine, and too many symptoms experienced come from eating chemicals for years. People don’t want to believe the food they’ve grown up eating and think they can’t live without could cause symptoms or even make them crave it...people need to wake up and start paying attention to what they eat.

You may want to add that the groups rotated to the other diet after 2 weeks.

I can see how this makes perfect sense. Especially begin a WW member, the zero Smart Points have a tendency to be whole foods (lean proteins in grilled chicken, fish, beans, fruits, vegetables, greek yogurt, etc.) and are very satisfying. So it isn't my imagination that I am less hungry eating these good foods. Hmmmmm......

Lisa, Thanks for sharing this very interesting study with your readers!

I find fruit to be the biggest challenge in finding fresh alternatives. Everything has such a short season and is shipped from the far ends of the country. Frozen often seems to be the most nutritious but doesn’t taste as good. It seems to be the crunch and the chew and the water volume that give real satisfaction.

Great choices! I eat at least one of my meals a day by making an antipasti. Grape tomatoes, sliced red bell pepper, marinated *fresh* (unripened or not aged) mozzarella, garbanzo beans, Castelvetrano olives (low salt), Black Forest ham, and 3 or 4 mandarin oranges are on the menu. I buy the fresh mozzarella cheese in the pearl size and the ping pong ball size. The PP size come in the marinade and when the cheese is gone I add a package of the pearl size balls to the marinade. Goat cheese fried and topped with Olive Garden Italian dressing is another alternate. Fresh cheeses are so good and a little goes a long way. You can add marinated asparagus, marinated artichoke hearts, and/or marinated mushrooms. There is hardly any prep as all these come in glass jars. This is a low calorie, high protein, high C, high calcium meal and great anytime of day.



Reading this post reminded me of something you said years ago: it was something like, "yes choosing to eat healthy is much more expensive, however, spending more on healthy foods will actually save you money down the road. It will save you money later because you won't have the health problems you might have by eating processed foods". Sorry I know that isn't the exact wording. But that little nugget of truth has stayed with me since I read it 4 or 5 yrs ago. And you are totally right. I do wish the powers that be would make healthy eating more accessible by making it cheaper on the everyday consumer. I believe the price tag of healthy eating is what keeps a majority of people from making healthy choices. I know I fall in the processed food trap for because of pricing from time to time. By the way I want you to know I have learned so much from you over the years, thank you for that. I love how straight forward you are and how you admit to not always making the best or healthiest choices. I truly appreciate the work you do.

Thank You, all so much, great to read inspiration, we need to

keep every so often, to remind each other we are not alone,

& we will be here for one another. I appreciate you "Snack Girl" & all of "You" with "your wonderful input". Thank You. Have a Blessed Day. Be Safe. anneippi

Girls, the other section has not responded me yet :(

Can you guys do me the favor in checking this blog out ? It seems very real but I'm not quite sure yet. Thanks anyway.

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