Ultra-processed is not just another name for junk—although foods like soft drinks, confectionery and chips are ultra-processed. There are many packaged foods we’d normally consider healthy that are ultra-processed.
1 Breakfast cereals
Many cereals and breakfast drinks marketed as healthy are ultra-processed. They can contain maltodextrins, processed proteins and fibers, and colors. Oats, on the other hand, contain just one ingredient: oats!
2 Protein and muesli bars and balls
Despite the healthy hype, many of these are ultra-processed, containing processed fibers and proteins, invert sugars (sugars modified through an industrial process) and non-caloric sweeteners.
3 Plant-based ‘milks’
Many dairy alternatives contain emulsifiers, vegetable gums and flavors. Not all brands are ultra-processed so check the ingredients list. Some soy milks only contain water, soybeans, oil and salt.
Some packaged breads contain emulsifiers, modified starches (starches altered through industrial methods) and vegetable gums—they’re usually the plastic wrapped, sliced and cheaper breads. Fresh bakery breads, on the other hand, are rarely ultra-processed.
Flavored yogurts often contain additives like thickeners, non-caloric sweeteners or flavors. Choose plain yogurts instead.
Supermarkets are dominated by ultra-processed foods, so it can be difficult to avoid them entirely. And sometimes choices are limited by availability, allergies or dietary intolerance.
We can all make positive changes to our diet by choosing less processed foods. But governments can also legislate to make minimally processed foods more available and affordable, while discouraging the purchase and consumption of ultra-processed foods.
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