This post is sponsored by the North American Meat Institute, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff.
All thoughts and opinions are our own.
Yes, you may be surprised to read that title coming from dietitians. But hear us out! The word “processed” can be quite divisive when it comes to food. While many people associate the word processed with something that is bad for you, most of the food we consume is processed in some form or another. Processed is just another word for prepared, and we have to prepare our food in order to eat it.
While there is a continuum of processed foods from those that are less processed to those that are highly or “ultra” processed, it isn’t to say that all processed foods are bad or that we should never eat them. Food is processed for a number of reasons such as food safety (curing and salting meat) and locking in nutrients (think frozen fruits and vegetables).
There is also the convenience factor when it comes to choosing some processed or prepared foods. While I would love to say I raise all my own food on my tiny ¼ acre of land here in the city, that just isn’t reality. And now that school is back in session and the craziness of fall sports is upon my household, I’m all about convenience some days.
I don’t know about you but afternoons are crazy at my house after my children get home from school, as we hurriedly finish homework before heading out for sports. This usually means eating an early dinner before our sports activities. However, more often than not, we eat dinner after sports as it just works better for our schedules. So, my kids need a good snack before they head out the door.
For snacks, I like to think of them as mini-meals. I try to include at least 3 different food groups (fruit, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy) and/or 2 different macronutrient sources (protein, carbohydrate and fat). And prepared meat – think deli meat like roast beef, ham or turkey or even beef jerky – are convenient snacks that I can pair with some cheese, fruit or even vegetables for a quick snack on the go.
Processed meat or prepared meat is something we can include in our diet from time to time. Just like the food we prepare in our home, processed meat or prepared meat involves things like chopping, cutting, grinding, seasoning and cooking. It is just prepared on a larger scale when it happens in a plant versus in our home. And you can have confidence in the safety of the product as well as what is in the product thanks to regulations and oversight by both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The nutrition label and ingredient statement tell you all you need to know about that food item. In addition, prepared meats are ready-to-eat so it adds a level of safety since they don’t depend upon the consumer to cook them appropriately.
At my house, roast beef and beef jerky are popular choices like these Roast Beef Kebabs or making something like this Beef Jerky Snack Board. Prepared beef makes an excellent choice for my children to get in their protein as well as other key nutrients like iron, zinc and B vitamins. It is convenient to buy, serve and eat on the run.
Kebabs are a fun snack for kids. Just thread on some roast beef, cubes of cheese and a favorite veggie like grape tomatoes for a colorful snack that also meets my mini-meal criteria – 3 food groups (protein, dairy and vegetables).
Another fun idea are snack boards which are also all the rage these days. It reinforces the Division of Responsibility in feeding children, a healthy approach to feeding where parents provide and children decide on what to eat. For our snack board, we chose beef jerky, grapes, pistachios, and apples.
The great thing about using processed meat or prepared meat is that there are a wide variety of choices to meet different dietary needs, tastes, preferences and budgets. It is easy to find what you are looking for in this searchable database . So rather than feeling bad or guilty for choosing a processed meat to feed your family, feel good that it is just one option to include in a healthy diet.