Can Processed Food Be Healthy?

Burger King makes a low-cal French fry. Processed food wants to compete on the health front. Can it?  Fake meat. Super soy. We’ll look.

Kraft macaroni and cheese, Stove Stop stuffing mix, and Velveeta are seen at a Ralphs Fresh Fare supermarket in Los Angeles Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011. (AP)

Kraft macaroni and cheese, Stove Stop stuffing mix, and Velveeta are seen at a Ralphs Fresh Fare supermarket in Los Angeles Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011. (AP)

We all know the mantra of healthy eating these days.  Lots of vegetables and fruit on the plate.  Not much meat.  Organic if you can.  And local is lovely.  We like to picture that armful of dinner ingredients fresh from the farmers market.

But what about all the people who don’t get close to that.  And maybe can’t afford it.  There’s a new buzz around processed food that’s being made and pitched as healthy.  Burger King’s low-cal fries.  Fake meat.  Seaweed chips.  Factory-engineered health goop.

This hour, On Point:  could processed food be re-engineered to save our health?  Or is that dreaming?

– Tom Ashbrook


Caitlin Roper, senior editor at Wired. She conceived of and oversaw Wired’s food issue. (@caitlinroper)

Ethan Brown, founder and chief executive officer of Beyond Meat.

Michael Moss, investigative reporter for the New York Times. Author of “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.” (@mossmichaelc)

David Freedman, writes about medicine, obesity, technology, and business for The Atlantic and the Scientific American. He wrote “How Junk Food Can End Obesity” for The Atlantic in June. (@dhfreedman)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Atlantic: How Junk Food Can End Obesity — “If the most-influential voices in our food culture today get their way, we will achieve a genuine food revolution. Too bad it would be one tailored to the dubious health fantasies of a small, elite minority. And too bad it would largely exclude the obese masses, who would continue to sicken and die early. Despite the best efforts of a small army of wholesome-food heroes, there is no reasonable scenario under which these foods could become cheap and plentiful enough to serve as the core diet for most of the obese population—even in the unlikely case that your typical junk-food eater would be willing and able to break lifelong habits to embrace kale and yellow beets.”

Wired: Tastes Like Chicken — “The production floor at Beyond Meat’s Columbia, Missouri, factory runs some major industrial equipment. Here, large-format mixers the size of Subarus fold together a blend of soy and pea protein isolates, fiber, and a few other ingredients—including a little titanium dioxide to lighten the gray of the soy into something more like pale saffron.”

USA Today: Burger King concocts lower-calorie ‘Satisfries’ — “In a move destined to shake up the fast-food industry, Burger King Tuesday will unveil a simple but startling french fry innovation: french fries with 30% less fat and 20% fewer calories than BK’s current fries. (And 40% less fat and 30% fewer calories than McDonald’s fries.)”

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