3 questions to ask yourself if you want to cut down on ultra-processed foods, according to a dietitian

  • Ultra-processed foods are linked to health problems such as cancer, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
  • About 73% of the US food supply is ultra-processed, making it difficult to reduce intake.
  • A dietitian shared questions that will help make realistic changes easier.

Ultra-processed foods have become a hot topic as people worry about how the products they rely on daily can affect their health.

About 73 percent of the U.S. food supply is ultra-processed, according to a 2024 research paper from the Network Science Institute at Northern University, which has not been peer-reviewed. And more than 60% of the calories in the average American’s diet come from UPFs, according to a 2019 study.

Ultra-processed foods are usually made with ingredients you wouldn’t find in a normal kitchen and are manufactured using industrial techniques. Classic examples include candy, chicken nuggets, and soft drinks. But packaged whole grain bread and fruit yogurt can also fall into this category.

The ubiquity of UPFs can make trimming feel overwhelming.

To help, Linia Patel, registered dietitian, spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association and public health researcher based at the University of Milan, shared three questions to ask yourself if you want to cut back on UPFs, including how many you’re eating.

As growing research suggests that eating a diet high in UPF can lead to potential health problems such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and certain types of cancer, experts recommend that people try to minimize their intake without setting by eliminating them completely.

“I think we’re getting too bogged down with the term ultra-processed food, we just need to make it a little simpler,” Patel told Business Insider.

Think about overall dietary patterns rather than the one-off indulgences we all indulge in, she said, adding: “70, 80% I eat whole foods, but 20% I honestly don’t care what I eat and take whatever I want and fast.”

1) How much of your diet is ultra-processed?

Official agencies like the FDA provide basic nutritional guidelines, and seeing how your diet compares is a good place to start, Patel said.

For example, we should eat at least 28 grams of fiber and no more than 50 g of added sugar per day.

Many UPFs are low in fiber and high in sugar, fat and salt because they are so palatable, meaning they contain the perfect combination of ingredients to make them irresistible and more palatable.

It’s also very important to look at food labels, Patel said, so you really know what you’re eating.

UPFs come in all shapes and sizes, and some are definitely more nutrient-dense than others, he said. Even the same product made by a different manufacturer could contain more additives than another.

American cheeseburger

Ultra-processed foods make up 73% of the US food supply.

Aleksandr Zubkov/Getty Images

2) Are you snacking smart?

If you’re a big snacker, it’s worth taking a closer look at what you eat, as items like crisps and biscuits tend to be ultra-processed.

“What we’re really bad at in the UK and the US is eating on the go, and that means those on-the-go moments are where we look for ultra-processed food,” Patel said.

But he sees this as an opportunity to reduce UPF consumption by “snacking smarter.” “It could be an apple with a handful of nuts. That’s something easy and portable that will be nutritious and balanced,” she said.

If you really need your chocolate fix, you can eat a piece of fruit and then have some chocolate, which will likely mean you eat less of the processed snack overall, she said.

3) How well do you know each other?

There’s also a behavioral change involved here, the same as any new habit, Patel said. So it’s helpful to understand what works for you.

Some people like to dive right in and may find that going turkey is a great approach. But for others, it may be better to make small, incremental changes, he said.

“Start with something you think is doable and manageable, and then build from there,” he said. You may find that most of your UPFs come from snacks, so start there. Then, over time, target breakfast and later lunch.

#questions #cut #ultraprocessed #foods #dietitian
Image Source : www.businessinsider.com

Leave a Comment