Americans eat more packaged food than nearly all other populations and consume 31 percent more packaged food than fresh, according to a “New York Times” article published in April 2010. Although the term “processed food,” which refers to foods that have been altered from their original form during manufacturing, often carries a negative connotation, they do provide benefits. To best determine which processed foods suit your needs and preferences, seek guidance from a qualified health-care professional. Processed foods provide useful options if you have difficulty fitting routine market trips and cooking time into your schedule. Canned beans and lentils, for example, simply require heating and, if desired, added seasoning. Preparing dried beans can take anywhere from one to more than eight hours, according to MayoClinic.com. And, while instant rice takes minutes to prepare, long-grain rice takes more than an hour. Although nutritious processed foods are ideal, even less-healthy options, such as deli meats, baked chips and flour tortillas, are healthier than skipping meals or dining habitually on fast food.