Unfortunately Ultra Processed Foods (UPFs) are everywhere. In the supermarkets, on the high street, motorway services, train stations, airports, school dining rooms; it's not exactly easy to eat a fresh, UPF-free diet! And UPFs are addictive, so eliminating them from your diet is easier said than done. However, it is possible to reduce how much you buy and eat! Scroll down for my to 10 tips and tricks to reduce your intake of Ultra Processed Foods...
But first, what are Ultra Processed Foods? You have probably heard of processed food. But what is ultra-processed food and why is it the hot topic in the media at the moment?
Ultra-processed food is food that has been modified, or recreated. Manufactured to be convenient and cheap, with a long shelf life and often ready-to-eat, it's food that you would not be able to make in your own kitchen. These foods are designed to be addictive, so you often just can't get enough of them (see my blog on the Pringle affect...) and they typically contain emulsifiers, artificial sweeteners, colourings, flavours and preservatives. Scarily, they may also contain substances from the packaging they are sold in.
They are about as far away from unprocessed or minimally processed foods as you can get. In fact, I would class them as more a 'formulation' than real food. Although they are often made from substances that have been derived from real food, for instance corn, or rapeseed.
What is heartbreaking however, it that there is now much evidence showing that our reliance on UPF’s is causing huge damage to the nation’s health, indeed the world’s health, the economy and the environment.
Top 10 Tips To Cut Down Your Intake Of Ultra-Processed Foods:
1. Look out for the main culprits...
- Mass-produced bread
- Pre-packaged ready meals
- High-sugar breakfast cereals
- Sausages and reconstituted meat
- Buns, cakes, and biscuits
- Crisps and prepackaged snacks (but not all!)
- Sauces and dressings
- Flavoured crisps (eg green Pringles!)
- Soft drinks and sugary fruit juices
2. Read the labels on packaged foods and learn how to recognise the UPF foods...
...although offering this advice makes my blood boil. We should be able to absolutely trust the food we buy, not spend hours in the supermarket checking labels!
Tell-tale signs are:
- Long list of unfamiliar ingredients such as hydrolised proteins, soya protein isolate and invert sugar syrup, sodium benzonate, nitrates, sulphites.
- Long shelf-life
- Red food labels – UPFs typically contain high amounts of fat, sugar and salt, although this is not always the case
3. Get cooking, get your children cooking, and if you are already a cook, encourage and help all your friends to get cooking!
...our #Cook5withKatePercy campaign aims to do just this. Can you cook 5 healthy meals? If so, can you help 5 young people to cook 5 as well. The power of 5 means it's achievable and scalable.
4. Try to choose foods in their original state...
Fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables, fresh meat, fresh fish, natural yoghurts and unflavoured, unsweetened milks. Lots of recipes on this website to get you started...
5. Snack on wholefoods such as fruit and nuts (Go Bites are a great option! #justsaying)...
try dates, dried apricots, figs, nuts, nut butters, seeds and dark chocolate. Alternatively, you can't beat apple and cheese, or a pear with a handful or walnuts. Try these top 10 snacks.
Also, Kate Percy's Go Bites contain between 4 and 7 natural ingredients - all based on dried fruits, nuts and oats.
6. Avoid eating fast food - keep it for emergencies or treats
...having said this, there's fast food and fast food! If you're lucky enough to live in a city, places like Leon offer some delicious, healthy, non-UPF options.
7. Drink water and most importantly avoid drinks containing artificial sweeteners...
...this one is the hardest for me, I do love a nice cold diet coke!
8. Support ‘food for good’ companies...
...at Kate Percy’s we aim to not only offer healthy food options but also the knowledge and education for you to put good eating into practice. We’re about to crowdfund and once this has been completed, we will be setting up a charity to support children’s food education (eg. For every child to learn to cook 5 recipes) which will be supported by 10% of our profits from our food products
9. Support the activism behind bringing big food to account...
10. Try these swaps...
- Swap sweetened breakfast cereals for homemade porridge or granola, or a savoury breakfast 3-4 times a week – savoury pancakes are delicious!
- Dump the flavoured yoghurts; buy natural yoghurt and add your own fruit, honey, nuts and seeds (pretend you’re in Greece!)
- Sugary or sweetened drinks for carbonated water – if you find this hard, dilute with a little fresh fruit juice, add a squeeze of lemon juice or a slice of cucumber and a sprig of mint, always with lots of ice!)
- Buy good bread from the bakers rather than packaged sliced bread (even the wholemeal stuff)
- Upgrade your goodie cupboard - dump the biscuits, make your own flapjacks and cookies, buy nuts, seeds, dried fruit, dark chocolate
- Make your own burgers with fresh beef steak or try these tuna ones
- Swap flavoured crisps for nuts, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
Having said all of the above, I urge you not to get too anxious about UPFs...
Try to sit down to fresh food, cooked from scratch as much as you can. The odd meal deal, pasta sauce, bowl of cocopops, pizza or magnum ice cream won’t cause too much harm (although once you’ve read Dr. Chris’s book and discovered the ingredient in a Kellogs Nutrigrain bar are glucose syrup, glycerol, citric acid, invert sugar syrup, palm oil, methylcellulose - a similar molecule to one which made rodents guts bleed in microbiome studies - you may change your mind!)