What are ultra processed foods?

UPF? Or Ultra processed foods. I have too much for for one post so lets start with statistics. Currently in the UK:

🍬1 in 5 children age 11 are leaving school with obesity
🍕 Over 60% of the calories consumed by children (and over 65%) for teenagers comes from processed and ultra-processed foods
🍔 1 in 5 adults gets 80% of their energy from processed food
🍟4 days ago MacDonalds announced thousands of new jobs.

I have found these statistics a little hard to swallow, bit just a few weeks ago, I watched a couple in a beer garden enjoy a Meze platter of calamari, falafels, hummus, artichokes, Italian meats and olives. Their toddlers in neighbouring high chairs were also presented with their lunch. Out from a carrier bag came a smogasbord of plastic tubs with some plain cooked pasta tubes, topped off with a packet of Wotsit crisps. 🙀When the toddles continued to grizzle, which was clearly irking the parents, out came bags of sweets and sugary drinks. These did not look like an uneducated couple. But it puzzles me that we still consider children some kind of different biological creation that can somehow survive on a different nutrient set than adults.
I am not meaning to sound preachy or wishing to patronise and know children can be tricky when it comes to food ( I have had my own trials, tribulations and outright mutiny too, but it seems like it is just too easy to give in and take the easier path.

More concerning, according to research undertaken by Dr Chis van Tulleken is that our brains start to rewire to heighten the response to pleasure and reward in a similar way to the brains of those with alcohol or drug addiction. These foods are designed to be addictive.

Whenever I work with children, I always ask the following question. Do you have a pet?
Often I strike gold and he the correct answer which is a yes. I then ask if they give their dog Coco pops to eat and Coca Cola or Sprite to drink. They usually laugh and tell me that it would make their dog sick. 🐶 It‘s a rhetoric question really, but one that makes us think.

At a talk I gave last week most people told me the didn’t eat many UPFs, so I just wanted to show how sneakily these imposters can creep into our cupboards and fridges presenting themselves as real food. They are very cunning.

Here is the definition!
-Processed foods are those that have had minimal processing, such as milk, cheese, tinned beans etc. This processing may increase the shelf life and these foods are mostly not bad for us. Drying, milling, homogenising canning are all examples of processing of food.

Ultra processed foods are food products that have been assembled in a factory. They usually come with a longer ingredients list. As a rule of thumb if there is an ingredient you cannot confidently pronounce – it will be an UPF. They come in cardboard and plastic packaging and make glorified claims such as low-fat to lure themselves into our baskets.

They include breakfast cereals, bread-yes BREAD!, biscuits, cakes, snacks, crisps, ready meals, frozen pizza, salad dressings etc.

When you look at it this way, it’s easier to see how we can over consume these foods. Cereal first thing, a sandwich, fruit yoghurt and crisps at lunch and a frozen pizza in the evening. And suddenly it doesn’t sound quite so bad, does it?

Do I think the sugar tax is a good idea? Honestly, and don’t crucify me for saying this, but NO! I don’t think it has worked.

Yes we consume less sugar per capita, BUT here’s the thing- it hasn’t made the fizzy drinks, sweets or squash suddenly superfoods just because they are sugar-free as they are still a concoction of food additives and sugar substitutes and are still UPFs. The issue Is that we still consider these foods as ‚foods’ and this is where we are going wrong!

What we need is a more back basics approach. Do we really need a whole aisle dedicated to children’s rocket-fuel cereals that boast a few synthetic vitamins as if they were suddenly a health food right up there with blueberries.

It government has not understood has not yet ‚got‘ the problem and is now on the warpath for fat. Watch out avocado‘s you might get need a health warning! .

Dominique Ludwig, Nutritionist MSc

 

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