The Top Nine Most Crappy Processed Foods + a Brownie Recipe With Nothing Crappy In It


When I think about processed food, I always think of food that’s sold at gas stations.

Chips, crackers, cookies, muffins, everything except that one lone banana that sits by the register. You know the one. Sometimes it’s an apple.

Processed foods are convenient, they have lots of preservatives, they’re cheap, and you can open the package and pop them straight into your pie hole. No assembly required.

There are certain foods that are more processed than others.

A donut for instance is more processed than a piece of whole wheat bread. But whole wheat bread is more processed than say, a piece of sprouted grain bread. Sprouted grain bread is more processed than brown rice and buckwheat.

Let’s break this down into two simple steps.

Step one is below and you can find step two right here. 


The first step is to identify the foods that would be better off avoided if you’re interested in taking care of your body.

1) Dairy products, especially sweetened dairy products

Watch: Got The Facts on Milk to learn all kinds of things about dairy you didn’t want to know.

In a nutshell: Dairy contains a protein called casein. Casein has been linked with loads of problems including inflammation, autoimmune diseases (think MS, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Alopecia to name a few), acne, allergies, and even eczema.

The average glass of milk contains 60 different anabolic hormones (organic milk or not). The purpose of anabolic hormones is to help calves grow to become very large cows.

Why are we drinking something with hormones in it that are meant to grow a 1500-pound mammal?

There is no evidence that milk and dairy products help protect our bones. It’s actually the opposite.

Turns out that the places in the world that consume the most dairy have the most instances of hip fractures, and the regions that consume the least amount of dairy have the lowest amount of hip fractures.

2) Anything containing Trans Fats

Trans Fats are lab-manufactured fats. To make Trans Fat, hydrogen is pumped into liquid oil to make a hard fat (think margarine and Crisco). This process is known as hydrogenation.

Trans Fats raise “bad” cholesterol and lower “good” cholesterol.

They clog the arteries and are responsible for a slew of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, and dementia to name a few. They are so bad that the entire state of New York banned them in 2006.

But get this.

Even if a food label says “Zero Trans Fat”, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s free of these fake fats.

It just means that there is less than 1/2 a gram per serving in that food.

To find out if an item contains Trans Fat, read the ingredient list. If you see “hydrogenated” or “Partially Hydrogenated” on the list, that’s your clue.

Common items that have Trans Fats are microwave popcorn, traditional supermarket pastries and donuts, frozen pizza, Coffee-Mate coffee creamer, and whipped topping.

3) Processed meats like sausage, hot dogs, jerky, bacon, and lunch meat

It doesn’t get any more processed than these.

Processed meats are filled with color enhancers, glues, and carcinogenic chemicals like Sodium Nitrite.

If processed meats weren’t pumped full of all these chemicals, the meat would appear gray in color and dead-looking. This would make people for sure stop eating them. Sodium Nitrites are responsible for putting back in that reddish “fresh” meat color.

Processed meats have been linked with so many types of cancer and other health problems that a 2007 report from the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) advised people to completely stop buying and eating all processed meat.

4) Donuts

Even vegan donuts, y’all. 🙁

At best, they’re full of processed flour and processed sugar. At worst, they’re also fried and full of Trans Fat. Vegan or not, donuts are nutrient void and are not helpful to your beautiful bod. That doesn’t mean I don’t have one once in a while 🙂

5) Smoked meat, barbecued meat, and conventionally raised meat

The high temperatures of smoked and barbecued meat create highly toxic cancer-causing carcinogenic compounds called Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs).

Conventionally raised meat is full of hormones and chemicals. Even organic meat is full of saturated fat and should be avoided for heart health.

Meat in general is something that we don’t need and that causes more harm than good.

If you’re set on eating it, at least stay away from smoked, barbecued, conventionally raised, and processed meats.

6) All commercially fried foods

First, there’s the Trans Fat issue because most oils used to fry foods is hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. And just because it’s “partially” hydrogenated does not mean it’s “partially” good for you.

Even foods that are fried in non-hydrogenated vegetable oils like Canola or Safflower Oil have their own set of problems. These types of fats (polyunsaturated fats) easily become rancid when exposed to oxygen, producing damaging free radicals in the body.

Canola oil is pretty much guaranteed to be made from Genetically Modified ingredients.

And then there’s the risky substance called Acrylamide, which is formed in certain foods that are heated to high temperatures. The highest levels of Acrylamide are found in french fries and potato chips. 🙁

The World Health Organization stated that the levels of Acrylamide in foods pose a “major concern” and that more research is needed to determine the risk of dietary Acrylamide exposure.

7) Soda

Check this out.

One can of soda has about 10 teaspoons of sugar (usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup), 150 calories, 30 – 55 mg of caffeine, and loads of artificial colors and sulfites.

If it’s a diet soda, it has all of this stuff but the high fructose corn syrup gets swapped out for even more harmful artificial sweeteners like aspartame.

Soda spikes blood sugar, interferes with the body’s ability to absorb calcium, causes dehydration, causes plaque buildup on the teeth, causes weight gain, and offers zero nutrients.

8) Refined white sugar

Excess sugar increases belly fat, damages the heart, has toxic effects on the liver, ages the cells and brain, and is addictive.

Processed sugar is found in a lot more than just dessert-type foods.

Food companies sneak it into lots of packaged foods to make them more satisfying, to cover up other chemical-like tastes, and to take advantage of the addictive quality. Some foods that are surprisingly high in sugar are ketchup, fat-free salad dressings, milk, granola bars, tonic water, packaged sauces and gravies, and even certain types of bread.

Check out some alternative names for sugar:

Concentrated fruit juice, dextrose, maltose, crystalline fructose, evaporated cane juice, invert sugar, malt syrup, cane crystals, and fructose.

All is not lost! When you need to sweeten things up try dried dates, bananas, brown rice syrup, and 100% pure maple syrup.

9) Refined white flour

The grain is crushed and the bran and the germ are removed. It then gets bleached and treated with chlorine.

What’s left is a nutrient-void substance that spikes blood sugar and acts like glue in the intestines, making it hard to digest.

Here are the items to avoid that are made of refined white flour:

White bread, white pasta, white tortillas, most crackers, baked goods, and pizza dough.

That wraps up part one. Part two is just a click away.

If you’re inspired to get away from unhealthy ingredients , check out Plant Fueled Life – our membership with thousands of plant based recipes and hundreds of meal plans.

Rich Cacao Almond Brownies Gluten-Free and Whole Food Plant Based

Author: Molly Patrick


  • 1 banana
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ cup maple syrup or more if you want them a little sweeter 60ml
  • 2 cups canned black beans 340g, Crazy, right? Trust me – they work!, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup cacao powder 40g
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup almonds 75g, chopped
  • ½ cup shredded coconut 25g
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds 12g


  • Preheat oven to 350° (175°C)
  • Place the banana, vanilla and maple syrup in the food processor and process until smooth.
  • Add the black beans, cacao powder and salt and process until totally smooth, about a minute or two.
  • Pour mixture into a mixing bowl and place the almonds and coconut in the food processor (don’t worry about washing the food processor).
  • Process the almonds and coconut until the almonds are chopped up to your liking.
  • Add this to the mixing bowl, along with the chia seeds and stir until everything is incorporated.
  • Line an 8 x 11 (20.3cm x 28cm) pan with parchment paper so that it covers the bottom and sides of the pan (or opt for an equivalent silicone baking pan) and pour in the brownie mixture.
  • Bake for 35 minutes.
Black Bean Brownies_whole Scen_top
black Bean Brownies_top_shot

I know that black beans in brownies sound weird, but just go with it and tell me what you think in the comments below.

Get a weekly dose of inspiration to eat more plants and celebrate imperfection

Our Sweary Saturday Love Letters are written by our ex-boozer, ex-smoker, plant-loving co-founder, Molly Patrick.


  1. Harriet Emily on September 18, 2014 at 8:08 am

    This post is amazing! It has all the information I try to get through to people I know all the time. Thank you for writing it so well and so clearly. Such an inspirational post! I will definitely by sharing it and it will help you spread the word!

    • Molly Patrick on September 19, 2014 at 7:54 am

      Thank you! Such important info to spread around 🙂 Your blog is gorg, by the way 🙂

  2. Heather @ Housewife Glamour on September 19, 2014 at 10:20 am

    Thanks for the great info! It’s hard to steer clear of everything harmful to us out there, especially if we are in a hurry, but at least it’s good to know! And seriously… where DOES that one banana come from? 😉

    • Molly Patrick on September 19, 2014 at 10:27 am

      @heatherhousewifeglamour:disqus Agreed. If someone is going to drink diet soda then they should at least know the crappiness of it. And yes, that one banana!…it’s a mystery.

  3. Alison on February 2, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    I think I just got my ass handed to me…but in a good way. I only wish that one banana wasn’t always so ridiculously expensive!

  4. Karen on February 14, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    Hi Molly,

    I’m wondering if this recipe can be prepared in a Vitamix, or if it should be done in a food processor?

    We’re new to WFPB in the past month or so. Thanks for sharing so much great information! Love your style!

    • Molly Patrick on February 15, 2016 at 8:48 am

      Hi Karen –
      I have not tried this in a Vitamix but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.
      Keep me posted!

  5. Lisa Luckinbill on August 19, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    Omg, I’m seeing this for the first time. I. Can’t wait to try the brownies! But your story about the restaurant had me rolling on the floor. I waited tables for 20 years…. I know the crazy you speak of. I just read the story about your dad after making the potato salad a dozen times. Usually when someone posts the recipe I scroll down fast to save it. But now I’m really enjoying reading your blog stories that accompany the recipes. You should write a book, It can’t be anymore of a headache than opening a restaurant. ????

  6. Demaris on August 23, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    5 stars
    OMG! I’m laughing out loud about the snotty North Berkeley people! I live in the East Bay and totally know about them ????

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on August 24, 2017 at 8:54 am

      Hi Demaris, thanks for reading the blog! Karen – Team Dirty Girl

  7. Cec on September 19, 2017 at 5:54 am

    I like how you write and get to the point without you gloves but without hurting either 🙂
    Plus you’re one among few (none??) to publish recipes including cups and grams so as a French lady living around Amsterdam I am soooo thankful for this!!!

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on September 19, 2017 at 2:09 pm

      Hi Cec, Thanks for the love, we appreciate it! Making our recipes as accessible as possible is important to us and we’re glad that makes your life a bit easier.

      Team Dirty Girl

      • Cec on September 20, 2017 at 7:17 am

        5 stars
        The brownies were a KILLER! We all enjoyed, and way more than the other recipes black bean based I tried 🙂
        Just so hard to not eat the dough before baking..

        • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on September 26, 2017 at 8:18 am

          So awesome!

  8. Dori on October 15, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    Can these be made without the almonds or maybe with sunflower seeds? My daughter’s class is nut free and I’m trying to find healthy snackies for her that are nut free. Thanks!

  9. Joanne on October 21, 2017 at 9:40 am

    I was wondering the same thing as Dori! I’m wanting to make these for my Littles to take to school…will they work without the almonds or with a nut-free sub?

  10. Debra on October 29, 2017 at 8:36 am

    Read this aloud to my meat eating hub & he listened! I won’t expect changes but maybe it helps him get my changes. I just retired unexpectantly early & cant afford the meal plan but I do get a free recipe here & there & enjoy the FB group! Thanx!

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on October 30, 2017 at 6:05 am

      Hi Debra,

      Modeling lifestyle change is the best way to show it can be done and that there are good things that come from it. Glad you are in the group and trying out our weekly free recipes!

      Team Dirty Girl

  11. Darlene on November 12, 2017 at 9:58 am

    I want to make the brownies, but I need a good sub for the bananas as my mother is allergic… dates or applesauce?

    • Meghann Milton on November 13, 2017 at 10:49 am

      Hi Darlene,

      Molly recommends subbing 4 dates (remove pits and soak them first to soften) and 1/4 – 1/2 cup applesauce.


      Team Dirty Girl

      • Darlene on November 14, 2017 at 8:02 pm

        Thank you!!! This is happening!! 🙂 🙂

  12. Gwen on April 26, 2018 at 5:17 pm

    5 stars
    These brownies are fantastic! How do stop yourself from eating the whole pan?!?

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on April 27, 2018 at 6:02 am

      Woohoo Gwen, thanks for letting us know you loved the recipe! The only way I’ve found to control my love of black bean brownies is to freeze them cut into portion sizes. Thaw overnight in the fridge and enjoy that one treat the next day. We’re going to make an adjustment to this recipe as it’s an oldie that we’ve yet to notice calls for a tiny bit of oil on the pan. The completely oil free option would be to use parchment paper to line the pan or opt for a silicone pan. ~Karen

  13. Kat on January 13, 2019 at 6:39 am

    Would almonds be a good substitute for coconut in this brownie recipe? Thank you!

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on January 14, 2019 at 7:03 am

      Hi Kat, If you left the coconut out, the recipe should still be fine. If you wanted to up the almonds, you could do that too. ~Karen

  14. Karen on February 9, 2019 at 6:27 pm

    If I wanted to make these in an 8×8 pan would I need to make adjustments to the recipe or just to the cooking time? Thanks,karen

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on February 9, 2019 at 9:42 pm

      Hi Karen, these will totally work in an 8 x 8 pan. They’ll just be thicker. You just might need to keep them in the oven a few minutes longer. ~Karen

      • Karen on February 10, 2019 at 7:43 am

        Great,thank you!

  15. Tori on February 13, 2019 at 9:03 am

    5 stars
    I just stumbled (happily) across this site, and this is the first Dirty recipe I’ve made. More will follow shortly, I have no doubt. Just a note to say that I found these great on their own, but with a swipe of natural peanut butter on top like frosting? Amaaaazzzziiing. It’s a lot like the chemical-laden candy aisle PB/choc mashups but with zero regret. My 7-year-old even digs them. Oh, and I’ve also been storing the brownies in the fridge to coax out maximum sweetness, because, for science-y reasons, everything tastes sweeter when it’s cold.

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on February 13, 2019 at 9:20 am

      Um, that sounds amazing. Totally doing this next time I make these brownies. The fridge effect might explain why my husband loves his fruit cold. Thanks for checking us out, Tori! Feel free to check us out on FB or IG, we have an awesome community! ~Karen

  16. Marta Lynch on August 25, 2019 at 11:22 am

    Is it possible to leave out the coconut (taste preference)?

  17. Mike on April 30, 2020 at 3:13 am

    Hi Karen

    Is the batter supposed to be very dry or am I missing something? Normally, when I make a cake the batter pours out of the bowl but in this case I’ve had to scrape it out with a knife and use a fair bit of effort to persuade it so smooth out in the tin.

    • Mike on April 30, 2020 at 3:14 am

      Sorry, I meant Molly, of course, no idea where Karen came from.

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on May 1, 2020 at 7:57 am

      Hi Mike! Molly says this is definitely a thick batter – not your typical pourable batter. Let us know what you think! ~Karen (after all! ?)

      • Mike on May 2, 2020 at 1:06 am

        3 stars
        Thanks, Karen. They turned out OK but not as moist as I like and I’m not really a fan of coconut. I wish I could find the recipe I used to use, I’d modified that to my taste over time — mainly by cutting down on the sugar — unfortunately though I’ve lost it somewhere.

        • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on May 2, 2020 at 7:53 am

          Thanks for sharing, Mike. There is a good amount of coconut in this recipe for sure. I hope you find a good brownie recipe similar to the one you’ve lost even if this isn’t it. ~Karen

  18. Christine on May 7, 2020 at 1:53 pm

    I had two really small bananas. So I used them both. I ran out of chia seeds – didn’t even know it until all of the other ingredients were measured. (Hope chia wasn’t essential!) Anyway, the batter tasted amazing. The pan’s now in the oven.

    How oh how will these brownies make it three days until Mother’s Day?! My plan was to serve them alongside some fresh strawberries for dessert. Here’s hoping I can stick them in the back of the fridge and pretend like they’re not there!!

    Thank you for a great and easy recipe!

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl - Steph on May 7, 2020 at 3:29 pm

      High five and you’re very welcome! If they don’t make it, that’s a great excuse to make another batch! 😉

  19. Cecilia on November 3, 2020 at 6:21 am

    Hello! Can I substitute the black beans with red kidney beans?

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on November 3, 2020 at 7:05 am

      Hey Cecilia – red kidney beans should work just fine as a swap here. Let us know how they turn out if you try them. ~Karen

  20. Debbie on April 13, 2021 at 10:43 pm

    Wow, what a great article! Now I need to find and read the next one.

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