What's wrong with this picture?
Let me give you a hint: It's completely incorrect.
Here's how this misinformation is spread. First, the statistics SOUND impressive. That is, until you ask yourself this question: Where does that 80% "food" come from, then? Outer space? Do we have a secret import treaty with Mars?
That food on the supermarket shelves exists today because we now have pasteurization, safe canning practices, and we've discovered certain food preservatives that aren't harmful to our health but keep some foods fresh for a longer period of time.
The food on the supermarket shelves is a substitute for taking home the basic essentials and making it ourselves. We no longer have to buy the flour and other ingredients to make the bread, unless we want to. So instead of shelves of flour, we have shelves of bread. That bread isn't a threat to our health and it isn't something that recently sprung into being. It's the result of the food manufacturers giving us what we want: Time saving alternatives.
Now yes, of course there are some things that may not be healthy alternatives: Artificial sweeteners, for example. But there we also have disinformation. I still hear people talking about how artificial sweeteners turn to formaldehyde in your blood. That's patently ridiculous, of course. If it were true, people would die instantaneously after their first can of Diet Coke. But the rumor itself won't die, no matter how many scientific papers are written to counteract it. However, artificial sweeteners may be associated with cancer and neurological damage, so I will agree that they're best avoided. Stevia seems to be a healthy alternative to sugar. For now, at least.
The real question to ask, though, is: Why is there a trend to shun processed foods?
Well fear usually produces a desire for solutions. And the people who are promoting THIS particular meme are The Farmacy and thankyourbody.com. When you go to thankyourbody.com, you see it's a private site, intent on building a name for themselves and disseminating dubious nutritional information. In their FAQ they write "Thank Your Body, LLC is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com." In other words, they are looking to earn money through advertising, and they also sell various products. The Farmacy is more up-front and sells all types of goodies geared toward the health-conscious who want to avoid 'processed' grocery store foods and other hobgoblins.
Now there is no doubt that some processed foods really aren't good for you because we tend to overindulge. High fat / high sugar / high salt foods aren't healthy for anyone and if they're easier and cheaper to indulge in because we no longer have to make them ourselves...well, it's obvious that the consumer who lacks self control will overeat them if given the opportunity. But don't get someone's lack of self-control mixed up with the product itself. It's OK to eat a little ice cream: It's NOT OK to eat a gallon in one sitting. Over-consumption isn't the manufacturer's fault. They supply, we demand.
Great-Grandma didn't have the advantages we do. GG also didn't understand germs, hygiene, and many other things that we take for granted. And don't fool yourself: GG didn't pop into the store to grab some sausage. She made it herself in a grueling process after her husband slaughtered the hog...and her sausage was no healthier than Jimmy Dean's. In fact, it was probably a heart-attack-on-a-plate.
Of course fresh fruits, whole grains, veggies, and quality protein is best for you. But don't walk in trembling fear down the supermarket aisles. That bag of Doritos isn't waiting to snatch your little children away from you and donuts aren't luring your husband down the highway to hell.
If you want to take a precious piece of old-fashioned wisdom away with you, try this instead: "Moderation in all things."