Can Processed Foods Be Healthy Infographic

Processed foods infographic

Most of the food we eat today has been processed in some way, from salad mix to frozen dinners.[1] Some processed foods have ingredients added, some are fortified to add nutrients, some are prepared for convenience, and some are packaged to last longer or for food safety. Even foods labeled “natural” or “organic” can be processed.
More people are paying attention to processed food.

74% of consumers prefer less sodium in processed foods.[2]

Almost 50% of consumers have tried to eat fewer processed foods.[3]

What do you need to know?

Minimally processed foods have been manipulated (cut, cooked, packaged) in some way.

Some foods are processed with ingredients typically used in cooking, such as salt or sugar.

Highly processed foods are manufactured with ingredients that are not typically used in cooking.

1. Choose healthier processed foods. By one recent estimate, highly processed foods contribute 50% of the calories and 90% of added sugars in the American diet.

It’s important to:

  • Read food labels.
  • Look for the Heart-Check mark on packaged foods.
  • Make healthier choices when eating out.

2. Seek healthier alternatives to some highly processed foods.

  • Cook more meals at home.
  • Swap highly processed foods with less processed options.
  • Try fruits and vegetables from the produce aisle, the farmer’s market, or your own garden.

3. Watch out for sneaky sodium.

Extensive research has shown that too much sodium is related to high blood pressure, a primary risk factor for heart disease and stroke.[4]

Shake your sodium habit. Most of the sodium we eat comes from processed, prepackaged, and restaurant foods,[5] not the salt shaker.

Watch for the top sources of sodium: breads and rolls, cold cuts & cured meats, sandwiches, pizza, soup and chicken.

Take your food into your own hands. American Heart Association advocates have written more than 29,000 letters to the food companies and restaurants that provide processed foods, asking that healthier options be made available. You can too! Join our growing community, take action, get helpful tips and Break Up with Salt today by visiting

[1 ]  Martínez Steele E, Baraldi LG, Louzada MLDC, et al. Ultra-processed foods and added sugars in the US diet: evidence from a nationally representative cross-sectional study BMJ Open 2016;6:e009892. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009892.  “we found that ultra-processed foods contribute almost 60% of calories”

[2] IPSOS internal AHA consumer research, slide 73-77

[3] IPSOS internal AHA consumer research, slide 24

[4] Benjamin et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics - 2017 Update. Circulation. 2016: I35: 00-00.

[5] Current source: Mente et al; Future source: Harnack et al. Circulation. May 2017

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