Is It "Greener" To Eat processed Foods?

Take the case of mashed potatoes…and an American of Irish descent, we eat potatoes every night. I just tried my local market’s brand of instant mashed potatoes-they are surprisingly good. So, comparing the two situations…to make my own, I have to buy potatoes, peel them, boil them, etc.-all of which use energy (and generates Greenhouse gases). Whereas, with instant, I just mix with hot water and let stand.
So, is it better to eat foods that are preprocessed?

In the preprocessed kind, all the work you mentioned is done by someone else, and the final product is transported to you. So I would say no.

Maybe I’m missing something here, but I’d guess that in terms of energy consumption, mashing your own potatoes is much greener. Because the company that makes the instant mashed potatoes also has to peel and boil the potatoes, just in bigger quantities. And they also have to dehydrate or whatever to get the instant potatoes to put in the box. And there’s extra energy used in transporting the potatoes to that factory, and in packaging the instant potatoes. You do presumably use energy from the power grid to boil your potatoes, but the energy to peel them just comes from you, not from a greenhouse gas source.

Nutritionally, you are better off as well as you control the sodium and fat levels, not to mention the option of leaving the skins on, which is my preference. Additionally, you could use the steam from the potatoes to cook your veggies so you are getting the benefit of all that heat twice.
In most cases, I believe preparing your own food will almost always be greener from an energy and a health perspective.

The green aspect of processed food I see is removing a lot of the weight from the original product - so, dehydrated foods and juice from concentrate. The savings on fuel to get that stuff to your grocery store might outweigh the energy used to dehydrate or distill what it used to be. I don’t know.

The big conglomerate might also realize some energy savings because of economies of scale - boiling 5 tons of potatoes at once is probably more efficient than boiling them 3 pounds at a time in 3300 different houses. But then there’s the extra packaging, the probably automated peeling that both wastes potato and releases more greenhouse gases than a human peeling them. So, again, I don’t know what’s more efficient.

Eating “locally grown” non-processed food certainly out-greens distantly grown food of either stripe.

Humans release greenhouse gases too. CO2 is CO2.

I suspect the OP knows this but is wondering if economies of scale make it more efficient to have all of that done by the “someone else.”

We’re part of the carbon cycle. Dead trees from the carboniferous era that have been hidden for millions of years were, up until very recently, not. That’s the difference.

Our bodies don’t increase the net CO2 in the atmosphere, they just shift it around. Releasing carbon that hasn’t been in the atmosphere since dinosaurs were around does increase net CO2. That’s why fossil fuels are a problem and trees, human breath and compost piles aren’t.