In July, Flourish with Food introduced the notion that not all plant-based foods are created equal. Although both the Mediterranean and MIND eating patterns emphasize frequent inclusion (quantity) of plant-based foods, quality matters.

The way to look at quality is to assess the degree of processing. Except for most fresh produce, almost all foods in today’s markets are processed to some degree for convenience, shelf stability, safety, and/or palatability.

Why does the degree of processing matter? Over the past decade, curious researchers have found an association between the intake of ultra-processed foods (UPF) and type 2 diabetes, low mood, high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity.

Refer to July’s Flourish with Food’s to learn about the NOVA food processing classification system. 

The month’s feature was inspired by an eye-catching, appetite-stimulating Safeway display promoting Melissa’s (a fresh produce brand) bite-size/mini potatoes.  The colorful patriotic themed display included individual stacks of each red potatoes, white potatoes, and blue potatoes. A yummy-sounding recipe - Red, White and Blue Potato Salad - was posted. (Poster refers to the Safeway display.)

Tip: Branded fresh produce can cost more.  However, less expensive non-branded colorful bite-size potatoes can certainly be used in this recipe.

This recipe is a good example of a side dish using unprocessed/minimally processed ingredients. In comparison, a ready-to-serve supermarket deli potato salad bought by the pound or pre-packaged is likely an ultra-processed choice.  Check out the ingredients in Kroger’s Southern Style Potato Salad.

A self-reflection: There are times when purchasing ready-to-serve foods work in a time pinch.

However, are they the norm or the exception in your kitchen?

About Mary Lynne Hixson, MA, RD:

Mary Lynne, a registered dietitian, helps others enhance their health through the advocacy of nutrient-rich food choices and safe food-handling practices. Her expertise also includes counseling patients who have Type 2 diabetes and advising those who are in medically managed weight loss programs. After her 35+ year career, she retired and became involved with the launch of Harvest of Hope Pantry in 2012 as a Board of Directors member. Mary Lynne is a weekly volunteer with Cultivate’s Carry-Out Caravan program, shopping and delivering groceries to seniors in the Boulder area, and also a frequent volunteer with Harvest of Hope.