Foods that are fresh out of the ground or off the vine are considered unprocessed. It means they haven't had any alterations to them that disturb their natural make-up.
Conversely, foods processed during food manufacturing are often loaded with trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, or saturated fats during food processing. Eating processed foods has been linked to health problems.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, anything that's been canned, frozen, or altered in anyway from its natural state its considered processed food. Even simply cooking foods means its been processed. But a diet of unprocessed foods, or raw foods, alone isn't sustainable. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that a minimal amount of processed foods can be added alongside a diet of whole foods as balance. Minimally processed foods
List of Unprocessed Foods
Fruits and vegetables - fresh fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and fiber. The nutrients delivered from fruits and vegetables can help protect against high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
Whole grains - whole grains and whole wheat are an ample source of fiber. Read the label to ensure no harmful ingredients are included during food processing. Some gluten free options are now available for breads and brown rice.
Pasta, couscous and polenta - the flours these items are made with are an excellent source of protein.
Legumes - beans, chickpeas, lentils and other bean sources a good combination of fiber and protein.
Milk, cheese, yogurt and eggs - rich with calcium and vitamin D. There is some food processing involved with these food items but it is minimal. So long as no corn syrup used for added sugar.
Dried fruits, nuts and seeds - handfuls of nuts, seeds and dried fruit as snacks provide protein.
Beverages - water should be the main choice of beverage as it is the most unprocessed food option of all. Minimally processed beverages would include coffee, tea and some wines.
The Trend of Unprocessed Foods in Restaurants
Healthy eating habits have become a growing awareness among consumers. The benefits of eating organic, unprocessed foods has even made its way into restaurants and onto fast food menus.
Whole grains, gluten free options, fresh fruit and lean meats are being consumed more with a reduction in processed foods. Sustainability and the reduction of food waste is also at the forefront of new developments in dining out.
More restaurants are using some form of technology to track their food waste and correct it. While others are coming up with ingenious ways of re-purposing the discarded food into new items through clever food processing.
With the scare of a meat shortage at the end of 2020, many consumers shifted to a plant-based diet. According to data from a Grubhub report, over 25% of consumers have ordered vegan-friendly options compared to past years.
To ride this trend, a number of companies are introducing meatless options. Even fast food chains known for years of highly processed foods have started shifting with the trends. Carl's Jr. and Burger King are now offering plant-based meat substitutes from the companies Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods.
They aren't without their processing faults as many don't agree with the added ingredients that are being used in the meatless products. But it's a start in the right direction. Even with the concern, millions of diners still clamored for the plant-based chicken option from Kentucky Fried Chicken. The new food product sold out within hours at several locations.
Giving customers new options on the menu that cater to a healthy lifestyle is a draw for some of the chains. But consumers are savvy and on the lookout for any added ingredients. Still, having the option can draw in new customers.
Conclusion to Unprocessed Foods
Plant-based and meatless options are now being offered at restaurants and fast food chains to meat the demand for different menu items which cater to healthy eating.
Unprocessed foods are any foods that haven't been altered from their original, raw state.
Minimally processed foods have been only slightly modified through freezing or roasting, but no additives have been used.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends eating as close to nature as possible.