In the UK we consume more processed foods than any other European country. Up to 50% of the average Brit’s diet is now made up of ‘ultra-processed’ foods. These foods are made in a factory with industrial ingredients and additives invented by food technologists. They include salty snacks and sugary cereals, industrially-made bread and desserts, ready-meals and reconstituted meats alongside sweetened soft drinks. They bear little resemblance to fresh food prepared at home.
The problem with ‘ultra-processed’ foods is that they are often high in calories, low in nutrients and over stimulate our taste buds. They are addictive and easy to over-consume. This is why they are being linked to the rise in chronic diseases including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
We know that these foods are hard to stop eating, remember the Pringles advert ‘once you pop, you just can’t stop!’ How many times have you pigged out on ice cream, chocolate or crisps and literally not been able to stop until it’s all gone? I’ve done this more times then I’d like to admit!
Our body’s will thank us if we reduce the amount of ultra-processed foods in our diet. To try to do this, firstly, recognise them – if a ‘food’ has a huge label, with a long list of ingredients that you can’t even pronounce, don’t eat it!
Secondly, don’t buy them. I know it sounds simple but it is so much easier to leave these foods on the supermarket shelves than to resist eating them when they’re in your kitchen cupboard. If a food is in your house, or possession, either you, someone you love or someone you marginally tolerate will eventually eat it!
Next step, replace them. If you fill yourself up on fresh, nutrient dense, low calorie, unprocessed, home prepared food, you simply won’t have as much of an appetite for the processed foods. These ‘whole’ foods won’t have labels and will come in their natural form, they will have grown in the ground, swam in the sea, or walked on land.
Lastly, ask yourself, what would be a little bit better? Instead of a super sugary cereal, try a granola with nuts or pieces of actual fruit, or porridge, sweetened to taste with honey. Perhaps you could swap your industrially made cake with a home made one?
It’s unrealistic to assume you will never ever eat processed food again, but these food products shouldn’t be making up 50% of your diet if you want to achieve your best level of health. Remember – the food industry does not care about your health, they care about making profits and selling their products. Don’t fall victim to their clever advertising.