Processed foods have a well-deserved bad rap. So when people see that our foods come in packages, they sometimes assume Step One Foods are just another group of processed food items. But there’s much more to it than whether or not a food comes in a box.
Technically, almost ALL of the foods we eat (raw food excepted) are processed, since cooking is a process. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s definition of processed food is even broader, and includes everything that alters a food from its natural state — including washing and cutting.
It might be better to think of foods on a spectrum of processing. The foods to avoid are at the far end of that processing spectrum and include most of the foods in the “snack” aisle of the grocery store (Cheetos, snack cakes, etc.) and many foods in the freezer section (microwaveable burritos, frozen pizza, etc.) These foods are not only packaged, they’re also full of nutritionally vapid additives (think colors and preservatives) and highly deconstructed ingredients (think white flour). Many of these food items come with long ingredient lists, with multiple ingredients serving the same function (sugar, dextrose, dehydrated cane juice, honey, maltodextrin…you get the idea).
Step One Foods are at the other end of the spectrum, about as close to unprocessed as you can get -- especially for food that comes in a package. We use whole food ingredients almost exclusively, and we don’t play games by “splitting” or “combining” ingredients on our labels. We don’t use preservatives, dyes, or unhealthy binders. The closest we get to “processing” is taking whole food ingredients and mixing them to create an oatmeal or sprinkle, or pressing them together make a bar.
Step One products are the only convenience foods I know of where every ingredient was chosen specifically based upon its documented ability to improve health. And I think this officially puts us in our own category of “packaged, not processed” foods. (That’s in addition to another category we call our own: food-as-evidence-backed-medicine.)
Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients in our pancake mix: Ground whole oats, oat bran, carrot powder, aluminum-free baking powder, chia seeds, bananas, arrowroot flour, walnuts, dried cranberries (cranberries, apple juice concentrate, sunflower oil), almonds, raisins, flax seed, dried egg white, plant sterols, pea fiber, vanilla, cinnamon, Saskatoon berries. All recognizable, primarily whole ingredients, most of which promote heart health and help lower cholesterol. Baking powder and arrowroot flour are included and necessary so you can take all those other wonderful ingredients and actually create a pancake. Carrot powder is simply dehydrated carrots.
Compare that to Bisquick Heart Smart pancake mix: Enriched bleached flour (wheat flour, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), canola oil, leavening (baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate), dextrose, sugar, tricalcium phosphate, salt, DATEM, corn starch. How many of those ingredients did you have to look up? (I had to look up DATEM; turns out, it’s an emulsifier.) And I can’t point to a single ingredient in that pancake mix that lowers cholesterol or has been shown to actually improve heart health. Honestly, I’m at a loss as to why these pancakes are even able to call themselves “Heart Smart”.
Here’s how our bars compare to others -- more evidence that we’re in a category of our own.
So whatever you might call us -- packaged, not processed, minimally processed, or heart-healthy – we will just continue doing what we set out to do when I started Step One Foods: Helping you achieve your best health by using food, not just drugs.