5 Whole Foods That Are So Much Better Than Processed Junk

Because pre-packaged foods are tasty and so readily available, it’s easy to find yourself eating way too many of them. Though you can find some decent options, most of us know Twinkies and Cheetos aren’t among them. Even ones that sound health aren’t necessarily the best option, though. Undoubtedly, the best way to get the most nutrients from what you eat is by sticking with foods that are as minimally processed as possible. Skip the added sugar, sodium, and other unhealthy nutrients, and opt for the whole versions of these five “healthy” foods. Your body will thank you later.

1. Rice instead of rice cakes

A rice cake with a serving of peanut butter

Rice cakes have few vitamins and minerals. | iStock.com

Rice cakes are often praised as a healthy snack for dieters, but in terms of nutrition, they’re not all they’re cut out to be. While they’re usually low in calories, keep in mind there’s more to the story. The benefits rice cakes offer are very minimal, delivering no fat or fiber and only a few vitamins and minerals. Depending on the brand and flavor you choose, they can also be made with tons of sodium and artificial flavors. Not to mention, they also have a high glycemic index, meaning these cakes cause your blood sugar to spike. You’re much better off going for a serving of whole-grain rice instead. You’ll get more fiber and nutrients than you would from a fat-free, low-calorie rice cake

2. Vegetables instead of vegetable chips

Pre-packaged beet chips

Go for real veggies instead. | iStock.com

Don’t be fooled into thinking vegetable chips are the healthy snack you’ve been looking for to satisfy your cravings. They’re still chips. In fact, Today says these crispy veggie snacks aren’t any better for you than regular potato chips. If you take a look at the ingredients, some are made with mostly potato or corn flour, with just a bit of veggie powder added to the mix. Sure, some better versions may actually have vegetables as the main ingredient, but the processing usually strips nearly all the nutritional value. Instead of reaching for pre-packaged products, slice up some of your favorite veggies, toss with oil and your favorite seasonings, then roast them yourself for a much healthier version.

3. Unprocessed fruit instead of dried fruit

An assortment of dried fruit including apple rings, apricots, cranberries, and bananas

Fresh fruit will always be healthier. | iStock.com

Whoever told you eating dried fruit is just as good for you as eating regular fruit lied. When it comes to sugar, dried fruit is pretty much on par with candy. Take a serving of fresh and dried cranberries, for example. According to Well + Good, you can expect 4 grams of sugar when eating 1-cup of the fresh fruit, as opposed to 70 grams of sugar of the same portion size when dried. This is likely because many brands add sugar for a bit more sweetness. The sugar in fruit, also known as fructose, can also increase bad cholesterol in your body when eaten in excess. There’s also the calorie count to consider, because you’ll be eating way more when you go for dried fruit, which can contribute to weight gain. Eat a piece of whole fruit instead.

4. Whole fruit instead of juice

Fresh-pressed carrot, orange, and ginger juice

Go for the whole fruit for that added fiber. | iStock.com

Fresh-pressed juice has become trendy because it doesn’t have the added sugar and preservatives you see in the versions that line store shelves. Mayo Clinic says that they also contain most of the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients whole fruits deliver. However, the problem with juicing is it takes away most of the fiber in fruit, so the likelihood of feeling satisfied after drinking a sugar-packed bottle is pretty low. This might make you want to reach for an additional snack. For those worried about calories and sugar intake, this can be a real diet disaster. If you’re really in the mood to sip your fruits instead of eating them whole, try blending instead of juicing them to make sure you’re getting all the essential nutrients.

5. A piece of fruit and a handful of nuts instead of packaged bars

A fruit and nut granola bar

Packaged granola bars are loaded with sugar. | iStock.com

While fruit and nut bars are all the rage among health-conscious eaters, some are much less healthier than you think. According to Livestrong, saturated fats and sugar are often very high in these packaged snacks. They can make both your blood sugar and bad cholesterol levels rise, which can contribute to heart disease. All those calories can lead to weight gain as well. To avoid falling into the trap of eating a high-fat, sugary bar in disguise, it’s best to have a piece of fruit and a handful of healthy nuts on the side instead. The whole food combo offers a ton of vitamins, fiber, fat, and protein to keep you full, all without the unnecessary processing.