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Fresh Foods vs. Processed Foods

Fresh Foods vs. Processed Foods

Fresh Ingredients

Fresh, whole ingredients are the cornerstone of a healthy and well-rounded diet. If you're looking to eat better, you'll want to understand the benefits of consuming more fresh foods and how to find the best fresh options. 

Let's take a look at the key differences between fresh and processed foods and why eating fresh is simply better.

Fresh Foods vs. Processed Foods

Not sure of the differences between fresh foods and processed foods? We're breaking down everything you need to know.

What Is Fresh Food?

There is no singular, finite definition of fresh food. It often refers to food items that come straight from the source. Fresh food is typically minimally processed, meaning it is harvested and sold with very little or no preservatives or additives. 

How Important Is Fresh Food?

A healthy diet relies heavily on fresh ingredients. By choosing less processed meal options, you can enjoy dishes that are better for you and offer greater nutritional value.

Fresh food also tends to have a better flavor profile than overly processed options. You'll notice many recipes suggest you use fresh ingredients in the dish to get the best taste possible.

What Is Processed Food?

Processed food refers to food items that are altered in some way during the preparation process. The following are examples of common food processing techniques:

  • Dehydrating
  • Pickling
  • Freezing
  • Canning
  • Salting
  • Coloring
  • Pressing
  • Milling
  • Refining
  • Canning

Most of us have consumed processed foods at one point or another. Some popular examples include:

  • Cereal
  • Bread
  • Sausage
  • Pasteurized milk
  • Soda
  • Ice cream

Processing practices can extend a food's shelf life, kill microorganisms and make ingredients look more appetizing. However, consuming overly altered foods can be unhealthy, especially if you are not balancing your diet with enough fresh ingredients.

Why Are the Cons of Processed Food?

Processed foods can be harmful to your overall health. They tend to have higher amounts of sugar, fats, salt and oils than fresh foods. They can also feature unnatural additives and preservatives that do not contribute to a healthy diet. In fact, some of the health risks associated with eating a lot of highly processed foods include:

  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Cancer
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Diabetes

With that said, not all processed foods are bad for your health, and some nutritious items may require a small level of intervention to be safe for consumption. What is most important is that you think critically about the ingredients you are eating and how they impact the way your body feels and functions.

How to Find Fresh Ingredients

The following are some of the best ways to source fresh ingredients for meal prep purposes.

Shop at Local Farmers Markets

Local farmers markets are among the best places to find fresh, in-season foods. By purchasing ingredients from growers and butchers in your area, you can support your local community and enjoy food that has not endured thousands of miles in transport. 

Another perk of shopping at a local farmers market is choosing items that are at peak freshness. Unlike the produce at grocery stores that is plucked before ripening, local sellers tend to harvest fruits and vegetables that have matured for longer. 

Learn How to Assess Produce Freshness

how to assess produce freshness

You can find many unique tips and tricks for choosing fresh produce. In general, you'll want to explore the following three factors when determining ripeness:

  • Color: A good indication of freshness is a vibrant color. Look for bright items with few spots or discoloration. 
  • Firmness: Mushy, flimsy and soft produce is likely past its prime. Look for firm items with a consistent texture when choosing fruits and vegetables.
  • Smell: Your nose is an incredible tool for choosing fresh produce. In general, the more potent produce smells, the bolder its flavors will be. 

Use a Meal Kit Delivery Service

The easiest way to ensure you get fresh, delicious ingredients for meal prepping is to utilize a high-quality meal kit delivery service like Fresh Meal Prep. 

Signing up for a meal kit subscription is an amazing option if you don't enjoy cooking or packing the meals yourself. You can skip all the hassles of finding recipes, planning your shopping list, running to the grocery store and spending hours in the kitchen.

Why Is Fresh Food Better?

The following are some of the key benefits of fresh food:

Better Taste and Texture

A huge perk of choosing fresh ingredients for your meals is better taste. The food will look more enticing, and it will also have a fresher and more enjoyable flavor without all the unnecessary additives. 

Fresh food also has a more appealing texture. For example, consider the difference between a new, crispy piece of spinach versus one that has been wilting away for a week. 

Higher Nutrient Density

Another advantage of meal prepping with fresh food is higher nutrient density. When you choose processed options, they tend to lack the essential nutrients for a healthy diet. Produce typically starts losing nutrients a day or so after farmers pick them, so getting the newest items is important. 

Eating whole, unprocessed foods is key to meeting your daily nutrient requirements. 

Fewer Preservatives

A major benefit of fresh food is avoiding potentially harmful chemicals and preservatives used to keep food items on the shelves for longer. 

The Environmental Working Group notes that you should avoid buying food products with any of the following 12 additives, dubbed the dirty dozen:

  1. Nitrates and nitrites
  2. Potassium bromate
  3. Propyl Paraben
  4. BHA
  5. BHT
  6. TBHQ
  7. Titanium Dioxide
  8. BVO
  9. PFAs
  10. Artificial colors
  11. Artificial sweeteners
  12. Heavy metals

Fresh food won't have those icky ingredients, and you can enjoy healthier, more nutritious meals. 

Fresh Food Examples for Meal Prep

Fresh food examples include fruits, vegetables and meats that vendors have harvested, caught or butchered recently. 

Some of the healthiest fresh food options for meal prep include:

  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Carrots
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Salmon
  • Lean beef
  • Green beans
  • Chicken breasts
  • Shrimp
  • Tuna
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes

feeling hungry yet?

Get Started With Fresh Meal Plan Today

If you are looking for meal prep options that are full of healthy food ingredients, turn to the selection from Fresh Meal Plan. We offer hundreds of five-star chef-crafted meals on our rotating menu. You can get delicious, nutritious meals sent straight to your door.

Our meals are a healthy and hassle-free way to eat better, with no added sodium, sugars or artificial preservatives. You can get farm-to-table food options that suit popular diets, like keto or vegan. With over 10 million meals delivered, we understand the importance of fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

Feeling hungry yet? Get started with Fresh Meal Plan now!