I don't care if it's made with whole grains, Certified Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified, if it comes in a box, bag or can, contains multiple ingredients and requires minimal preparation before eating, it's likely processed food.
Certainly some foods (say, Baconnaise) slide higher up on the nutritional disaster scale than others (organic chocolate), but in general we would all feel better and weigh a lot less, if we shopped the perimeter of the store. That's not news. What is interesting though is how Americans are spending considerably more on these foods than ever before.
Check out this great infographic from NPR Planet Money's Graphing America series:
According to the Department of Labor, processed foods and sweets account for 23 percent of all grocery spending. That percentage was closer to 11 percent in 1982.
The increase in spending on these types of foods is taking its toll. Compared with shoppers 30 years ago, American adults today are more than twice as likely to be obese. Our children and adolescents are three times as likely to be overweight and cases of pediatric type2 diabetes—relatively unheard of in the '80s—continue to increase.
Unless we get a handle on the childhood obesity epidemic, for the first time in more than two centuries, the current generation of children in America may have shorter life expectancies than their parents. I’m not saying that our proclivity for eating processed food is entirely to blame, but it's certainly a contributing factor coupled with high-calorie school lunches and less exercise.
To encourage congress to allocate money for nutrition education and healthier domestically grown crops, food advocates including Marion Nestle and Michael Pollan are urging people to sign a letter supporting Sen. Gillibrand's (D-NY) healthy food amendment. You can also support the cause, here.