Americans are eating more ultra-processed foods than ever. That’s not a good thing, considering the link between highly processed foods and chronic disease, obesity, and cancer.
- Highly processed foods account for two-thirds of the calories consumed by American youths aged 2-19. (NIH)
- Ultra-processed foods account for 57 percent of total calories consumed by American adults. (AJCN)
We have a new poster that addresses this issue head on: Nutrient-Dense vs. Ultra-Processed Food poster. This beautiful poster uses photographs of real food to encourage people to eat more whole foods and minimally processed foods that are nutrient-dense instead of ultra-processed foods.
You can include the idea of nutrient-dense versus ultra-processed foods when you teach about most nutrition education topics. For example:
- MyPlate: Emphasize less processed foods for each food group.
- Supermarket tours and shopping tips: Explain where in the grocery store you’re most likely to find less processed foods and which aisles are danger zones for ultra-processed foods.
- Healthy beverages: We automatically think of sugary sodas, but diet soda is also ultra-processed.
- Plant-based eating: Point out that some plant-based foods are highly processed.
- Medical nutrition therapy: Help your clients find alternatives to any ultra-processed foods they regularly eat.
Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD