In Pursuit of Minimally Processed Foods


I thought I understood what it meant to “Eat Real Foods”. I’m a cheerleader for made from scratch foods, full of seasonal produce, whole grains, low fat dairy and lean protein. Then came the Ultra Processed Food critique with specific classifications of foods based on processing. 

After years of neglecting processing of foods in the studies, evidence emerges showing an association between ultra processed foods and many non communicable diseases. The NOVA classification system, in a report from the United Nations, breaks down food into 4 classifications of processing:

  1. Unprocessed and minimally processed foods, include fruits, seeds, milk, leaves, roots, eggs, whole beans and grains and meat. This allows for processes that include drying, crushing, grinding, roasting, boiling, non-alcoholic fermentation, pasteurization, freezing, placing in containers and vacuum packaging.
  2. Processed culinary ingredients, include oils, butter, lard, salt, sugar. In isolation these are unbalanced, but rarely are eaten alone. Use these with Group I but not overuse.
  3. Processed foods, include canned vegetables, fruit and fish, fresh bread and cheese, processed meats to include bacon, ham and pastrami.
  4. Ultra-Processed foods include packaged snack, margarines and spreads, baby formula, ice cream, sweetened cereals, soft drinks, mass produced bread, energy drinks, fruited yogurt, stick meat and foods made with colors, flavors, thickeners, gels, emulsifiers and other sugars like fructose, fruit juice concentrates, maltodextrin, lactose and dextrose. 

Aim for mostly Group I, some Group 2, a little Group 3 and few Group 4 Foods.

While I’m not entirely clear on where some of the foods in my menu plan fall, I understand the concept. Here’s my version of a recipe I made with mostly Group 1 and 2 ingredients. Had it been last fall, my canned pumpkin (Group 3) would have been a seasonal fresh squash or pumpkin (Group 1). There are no Group 4 (Ultra-processed foods) in this recipe.

Whole Grain Barley, Wheat & Pumpkin Bread

(10 Servings) 

Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and lemon zest.

1 cup barley flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour 

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon orange zest


Add apricots to dry ingredients, stirring to coat pieces with flour.

1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped


In bowl of electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar for 3 minutes.

2 eggs

7 tablespoon brown sugar


Add oil, applesauce and pumpkin to mixer bowl. Slowly mix to combine.

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup applesauce, unsweetened (homemade)

1 cup pumpkin puree


Add dry ingredients to bowl, mixing only until combined.


Line a 8 1/2 X 4 inch loaf pan with parchment paper. Grease with olive oil spray. Bake in 325 F oven for 30 minutes. Rotate pan, cover with foil and bake 15 more minutes.


Cool in pan on cooling rack 1 hour. Invert pan and remove parchment paper.

This recipe is my take on Roxana Julllarpat’s Barley Pumpkin Bread in her new book Mother Grains.  

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