Top 9 Nutritious Processed Foods

There is often an assumption that in order to eat well we need to steer clear of processed foods and only opt for fresh ingredients. While yes, most of us would benefit from eating more fresh ingredients and less highly processed foods (eg. using refined white flour, biscuits, chips, soft drink, lollies, etc.) there are many processed foods that are very nutritious and are fantastic to include in your diet. Food processing methods are used to preserve foods in order to extend the time food is still safe to eat. Different food processing methods include: freezing, canning, fermenting, pasteurizing, pickling, and dehydrating. So including some processed foods in your diet is really helpful (essential, even) as they keep for a lot longer than fresh, and they are very convenient for creating quick and easy meals that are nutritious. 

Here are my top 9 nutritious processed foods:  

1. Bread


Bread is such an easy staple food, simply eat it as it is - say in a sandwich, or cook it for a couple of minutes for toast. That's it, a couple of minutes and you've got the carbohydrate component of your meal. Unfortunately, all bread isn't created equally, and there is such a large variety of different types of bread available. When choosing a nutritious bread, I look for a wholegrain variety, with more grains and seeds visible the better. I also enjoy sourdough bread. These varieties will have more nutrition and are higher in fibre, which will help keep you fuller for longer (not eating the whole loaf of bread in one go), and have a lower glycaemic index (GI) meaning that they will help maintain blood glucose levels between meals.   

2. Tinned legumes

Tinned legumes are a super convenient and nutritious option to many meals. Just open the tin, drain the water and add to your salad, pasta sauce, or curry for a hit of protein and fibre. 

3. Tinned fish


I love tinned fish. Most people want to eat more fish, but it can be tricky to buy it fresh and cook it straight away, and many people are turned off cooking fish as it's unknown to them and as such, intimidating. Tinned fish is therefore a fantastic way to include fish in your diet, as all the hard work is already done and you can keep it in your pantry for ages. Simply open the tin and add to your salad, pasta or sandwich.  

4. Tinned vegetables

I don't buy too many tinned vegetables, as I prefer the texture of frozen veggies, but I do buy tinned beetroot which I love. So easy and delicious, it's my pick for when beetroot is out of season. I blend it into dips, or add to salads and sandwiches. 

5. Milk


Milk or a milk alternative, is a staple in most peoples diet, but it wouldn't be quite so popular if it wasn't able to be pasteurised. Pasteurizing milk means that it is heated and then cooled in order to kill bacteria and also to extend the shelf life of the milk. UHT or ultra high temperature processing heats the milk even higher, killing all bacteria and extending the shelf life even longer. 

6. Yogurt


Yoghurt is made by the fermentation of milk by certain strains of bacteria. This fermentation process breaks down some of the lactose (the carbohydrate in milk, that some people have trouble digesting) which may make yoghurt easier to digest than milk. Yoghurt that contains live bacteria are also referred to as a source of probiotics which can help promote a healthy intestinal environment, while it is unknown if the quantity of live cultures is large enough in some yoghurts to act as a probiotic, it is still an easy to digest source of vitamins and minerals (including calcium, potassium, and b12) and high quality protein. Eat yoghurt on its own or with some muesli and fruit for breakfast, or as a base to dressings and dips. 

7. Cheese


Cheese is a product made by processing milk. There are many different varieties of cheese, all of which are made using different processing techniques. Cheese is delicious, and is a rich source of protein, and many vitamins and minerals including calcium - which plays an important role in bone health and is required for many bodily functions and vitamin b12 - which plays a vital role in the nervous system and helps in making healthy blood cells. Cheese is great on a sandwich, in salads, with crackers and veggie sticks, or grated on top of pasta.  

8. Frozen veggies


Frozen veggies are snap frozen at the height of their freshness, which makes then a nutritious and also super convenient option, as you don't have to worry about them wilting down the bottom of your fridge. I love adding frozen veggies to scrambled eggs for a no fuss last minute dinner, or to fried rice, stir fry, or curries. 

9. Frozen fruit

Ditto to the above about freshness, but frozen fruit is also perfect for smoothies, and way more affordable that buying fruit out of season. You can also freeze your own fruit when it's in season, and enjoy it at other times of the year. We had a massive strawberry crop last Summer, and I am still reaping the rewards in my occasional smoothies, it's great! 

What are your favourite processed foods that are nutritious?? 

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The information in this article is general in nature, book into see an Accredited Practising Dietitian (like me, click here to book) for specific information for you.