Microwave dinners, frozen pizza, ready-to-eat pasta, cookies and chips—packaged food is present in almost every American household. As a nation, we consume 31 percent more packaged food than fresh food, which is more than any other country’s percentage, a statistic we shouldn’t necessarily be proud of. Nothing that comes out of a box can be real food, because it’s infused with loads of preservatives and sodium. And we’re not the only ones who think so; First Lady Michelle Obama agrees.

Recently, she told Cooking Light magazine that she has banned boxed mac and cheese from the White House. She claimed that although her daughters Sacha and Malia love it, they had to understand that cheese dust is not food. As long as they cooked it with real milk and cheese, there was no problem with it. After all, real food is good food.

If you still need another reason to give up on boxed food, we give you four:

1. Too Much Sodium: A healthy person should not consume more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. Anything more than that could cause a spike in one’s blood pressure. Almost all of the excess sodium in the American diet comes from packaged and processed food. So if you care about your family’s health (and your own), avoid boxed soups, frozen meals, soda, chips and processed snacks.

2. Excess Sugar: Sugary drinks and confectioneries contain too much sugar along with an added dose of high fructose corn syrup. This increases your risk for high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and tooth decay too. Craving sweet? Indulge in something natural, like dates, raisin and berries.

3. Added Trans-Fat: Most packaged food also contains trans-fat in order to prolong its shelf-life. However, trans-fat has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, heart attack and cholesterol problems, and should be avoided at all times. To find out if your food has trans-fat, examine the nutrition label for hydrogenated oil.

4. Harmful Additives: Boxed food is loaded with additives that improve its flavor, texture, and its shelf-life. What are these additives, you ask? Chemicals like aspartame, artificial colors and flavors, monosodium glutamate, olestra, sodium nitrate, sulfites, cyclamate, saccharin, caffeine, BHA, BHT and acesulfame-potassium. Although they have been cleared by the US FDA, you can’t argue that these are not natural. Plus, many of them have been associated with grave health risks. Any ingredient on your food label that includes things that you would not use in your own kitchen, is an additive. Simple solution? Avoid consuming such foods, and cook something fresh in your kitchen, instead.

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After pursuing her Masters in Journalism, Vanessa got her first big job as a health writer and since then, she has never switched paths. She has always been intrigued by the wonders of a holistic lifestyle, and believes it was destiny that led her to writing for the wellness industry. In her natural state, you can find her tucked under a blanket watching an Indie film, or reading obsessively. At Z Living, she writes about food trends and other daily life expeditions.