We’re all guilty of it, reaching for a bag of chips over the fresh fruit or veggies that are in the fridge. It’s difficult, why go spend time making food when you could just go out and pick something up? Well little do we know that the majority of processed foods that, in our heads taste much better, is actually something that contributes to obesity and makes us sick. It is all about being discerning and aware of which processed foods are harmful, and do your best to go for the fresh and healthier choices.

First off, what is processed food and why is it really so bad for us to have? Well, processed food is anything that has been altered from its natural state for either safety reasons or convenience. It includes canning, freezing, refrigeration, dehydration, and aseptic processing. These processes make most of the food high in trans fat, saturated fat, and large amounts of sodium and sugar. Not to mention odd named chemicals, preservatives, additives, and dyes that the majority of the population couldn’t spell, let alone pronounce. One in particular called Aspartame can be found in diet sodas, gum, sweets, and diet foods. What’s interesting is that this chemical was once listed by the Pentagon as a biochemical warfare agent, which really isn’t very appetizing.

While processed food is thought of as not being the greatest thing for your body, not all of it is really bad for you. For example milk would be considered a processed food because it is homogenized, pasteurized, and altered from its normal state. But milk is still a vital source of vitamins for your body. Another example of seemingly harmless processed food is frozen vegetables. While fresh vegetables are always the best choice, frozen is still able to lock in and preserve vitamins and minerals and is extremely convenient for those of us on the go. Because processed food does have a lesser evil, it is hard to differentiate where to draw the line.

Author and Celebrity Chef Candice Kumai known as the “Stiletto Chef” has some great ideas and tips on how to stay fresh and eat healthy

1. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, it’s chemical junk…don’t purchase it!

2. If it’s pre-packaged with a label that says, “low-fat, low-carb, low-cal, sugar free (aka chemicals!), fat free, I mean really, it’s not that fabulous. Put it down and go for that organic apple, gorgeous kale greens or deelish blueberries instead! Dried fruit and nutty nuts are great options to snack on! And they are REAL foods!

3. Watch for sales with food in season or check out your local farmers market. Be smart about your shopping. http://www.localharvest.org/

4. Become a clever cook, think about making recipes that can last the whole week! Cook with quinoa, barley, oats in bulk, and have some veggies, fresh fruits and an ammo of dried herbs and spices on hand always

5. Remember to feed your body only the best! If you are into purchasing only the finest clothing, cars, gas, beauty products, then why are you skimping on your food? Eh??

6. When in doubt always “Keep it real!” not just a silly slogan, apply it to your life… artificial sweeteners? -or- “Keep it real”, fake processed junk food or real whole foods? “Keep it real!”

To find out more information about how to cook healthy, tasty, and fabulous foods check out Candice’s new cookbook “Pretty Delicious” or her website www.stilettochef.com. And remember to do your best to avoid the nasty habit of toxic processed food.