Skip to main content

Why it’s so hard to eat healthily, even when you cook at home

Think you're eating healthy? Think again.

Unless you’re one of those truly exceptional people who live entirely off the land, growing and harvesting your own fruit and vegetables, tending to your organic farms and animals, chances are you spend a good portion of your time at the grocery store. And while grocery stores carry a plethora of food items that claim to be healthy, unfortunately, in many instances, this just isn’t the case.

Try as we might to feed our bodies the best quality ingredients, packed with nutrition and vitamins, it turns out that about 73 percent of the U.S. food supply is ultra-processed, according to recent research from Northeastern University’s Network Science Institute. This means that about three-quarters of the food available to us through grocery stores is made mainly with added fats, starches, sugars, and hydrogenated fats. Oftentimes, also containing additives like artificial colors and flavors or stabilizers.

Of course, not all food processing is created equal. Certain processes are beneficial for increasing access to a wider public. Canning, freezing, fermentation, and vacuum-sealing are all tremendously helpful in aiding to preserve and spread healthier foods to a larger audience. Unfortunately, though, most of the foods researched scored high marks in ultra-processing, which strips foods – even healthy ones – of many of their natural vitamins and minerals.

Tara Clark/Unsplash

For their research, the team created the publicly accessible TrueFood database, which compared the degree of food processing of thousands of popular items. Each item receives a score that is based on additives and secret ingredients. To find that 73 percent of foods is overly processed was disheartening, to say the least.

Giulia Menichetti, Senior Research Scientist at the Network Science Institute at Northeastern University, and senior author of the papers was stunned by the results, telling Food Tank, “It surprised me how a considerable amount of highly processed food is mistakenly considered healthy because the public narrative still focuses on one nutrient at a time, instead of evaluating food as a whole.”

This is incredibly frustrating for those who are truly trying to do their best for their bodies and eat a healthful diet. It seems between confusing nutrition labels and the enormity of overly processed foods, would-be healthy eaters just can’t win.

The glimmer of hope, though, is that through research like this, the ball can start to roll as far as future change for the better. “According to my preliminary studies, while these concepts still lack precise quantification, they appear to be the leading factor in explaining how current ultra-processed food negatively affects our health. We need to come up with a mathematical definition of ‘whole food’ versus ‘disrupted food.’” Menichetti said.

With more research like this opening the eyes of the public, there is real hope on the horizon for more easily accessible, fully nutritious food options.

Lindsay Parrill
Lindsay is a graduate of California Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu, San Francisco, from where she holds a degree in…
Why the Jungle Bird deserves to be a cocktail you mix up this summer
Put this on your list of summertime go-to drinks
Jungle Bird cocktail

The beauty of the Jungle Bird cocktail is greater than the sum of its parts. It's like a musical chord: When in tune or balanced, it's one sound or note with much depth and complexity. The Jungle Bird is exactly that: A perfect harmony of rum, lime juice, pineapple juice, Demerara syrup, and bitter Campari.

Tiki cocktail expert Jeff "Beachbum" Berry first discovered the recipe. Berry published it in his book Intoxica, citing John J. Poister’s The New American Bartender’s Guide in 1989 as the original source. The cocktail was created in 1978 in the former KL Hilton’s Aviary Bar in Malaysia, and was later brought back into vogue by ex-New York City Giuseppe Gonzalez. Now, the Jungle Bird has established itself as a modern classic that deserves to be drunk for the whole summer.

Read more
How to make your own hot honey at home (so you can add it to your food and drinks)
The possibilities are endless on how you can use hot honey
Hot honey on meat

The combination of "spicy" and "sweet" holds a lauded position in many international cuisines, with chefs and diners celebrating the way these seemingly contradictory flavors complement each other. From General Tso’s chicken to Mexican chocolate, the popularity of spicy-sweet foods shows no signs of dying down, much to the delight of this writer, a self-proclaimed lover of heat.

In recent years, a condiment that perfectly encapsulates the spicy and sweet appeal has carved out a major niche for itself, and its name is "hot honey." Companies like Mike’s Hot Honey and Bushwich Kitchen (Bees Knees Spicy Honey) successfully sell pre-made versions of this treat, but it’s surprisingly easy to make at home, and we’re here to guide you through the process.   
What is hot honey?

Read more
What is Americano coffee? (And why you have WWII to thank for it)
americano coffee

Coffee aficionados love the bold, rich espresso taste of an Americano, but many newer coffee drinkers might find they're not quite sure what this popular beverage is. The Americano coffee offers a classic espresso taste that is not clouded by added sugar or cream. With so many coffee choices to select in our modern era, from handcrafted lattes to flat whites, the Americano remains a classic -- and for good reason. Below, discover how Americano coffee is made and how it came to be one of the most popular coffee drinks today.
What is an Americano coffee?

An Americano coffee is simply delicious, made of two simple ingredients: hot water and espresso. Typically, this drink is served with either 1/2 water and 1/2 espresso or 1/2 or 1/3 espresso to 2/3 water. Although the ratio of water to espresso can vary depending on the coffee shop, the foundations of an Americano coffee remain the same no matter where you order it.

Read more