How To Reduce Ultra Processed Foods

how to reduce ultra processed foods

In our modern food landscape, Ultra Processed Foods have become ubiquitous. These are foods that are highly processed and often contain additives, preservatives, and artificial ingredients. Examples of Ultra Processed Foods include sugary drinks, packaged snacks, and ready-to-eat meals. These foods are designed for convenience but come with a cost to our health. If you want to learn how to reduce ultra processed foods from your diet than read on!

What are ultra processed foods?

Ultra Processed Foods are typically made with ingredients such as refined sugars, hydrogenated oils, artificial flavorings, and preservatives. These ingredients are added to prolong shelf life, enhance taste, and create addictive flavors and textures. However, the consumption of Ultra Processed Foods has been linked to a range of health issues, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even certain cancers. Numerous studies have shown a clear correlation between high consumption of Ultra Processed Foods and an increased risk of these chronic conditions. Many people also choose to identify ultra processed foods by their taste/texture and ability to identify the ingredients in their original state, for example, Pringles, a much loved British snack are made with relatively few ingredients however they no longer resemble their potato based ingredients in any way and are designed to melt in the mouth making them particularly morish, promoting over indulgence.

What are the health risks of eating ultra processed foods?

The detrimental effects of Ultra Processed Foods on health are well-documented in scientific literature. For example, a study published in the British Medical Journal found that a higher intake of Ultra Processed Foods was associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. Similarly, research published in the journal Nutrients linked Ultra Processed Food consumption to weight gain and metabolic syndrome. These findings underscore the importance of reducing Ultra Processed Foods in the diet to mitigate these health risks.

Why should you reduce ultra processed foods?

Choosing Ultra Processed Food-free foods, on the other hand, offers numerous health benefits. Whole, minimally processed foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins are rich in essential nutrients, fibre, and antioxidants. These foods nourish the body, support healthy digestion, and provide sustained energy levels. Additionally, a diet focused on Ultra Processed Food-free foods can help maintain a healthy weight, reduce inflammation, and improve overall well-being.

Tips for reducing ultra processed foods:

  1. Start Small: Making gradual changes to your diet can be more sustainable than trying to overhaul it all at once. Begin by replacing one processed snack with a piece of fresh fruit or a handful of nuts. Similarly, aim to cook one homemade meal per week instead of relying on pre-packaged options. By starting small, you’ll give yourself the opportunity to adjust to new habits without feeling overwhelmed.
  2. Read Labels: Learning to decipher food labels is essential for identifying Ultra Processed Foods and avoiding them. Pay close attention to the ingredients list and look out for additives, preservatives, and artificial ingredients. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, so foods with healthier ingredients listed first are typically better choices. You can learn more about understanding food labels in my guide to reading food labels
  3. Education: Education is the key to all aspects of life and by educating yourself on the exact ingredients to avoid, you will make your ultra processed foods free shopping trips much smoother. You can learn more about which ingredients to avoid in my guide to ultra processed food ingredients, available 3rd February 2025.
  4. Cook at Home: Taking control of your meals by cooking from scratch allows you to monitor exactly what goes into your food. Start with simple recipes that use whole ingredients, such as a sweet potato nourish bowl or a hearty chicken & mushroom soup. As you become more comfortable in the kitchen, experiment with new ingredients and cooking techniques to expand your repertoire.
  5. Plan Ahead: Planning your meals and snacks in advance can help you avoid the temptation of reaching for Ultra Processed Foods when hunger strikes. Set aside time each week to plan your meals, create a shopping list, and prep ingredients ahead of time. Stock your kitchen with a variety of whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, so that you always have healthy options available.
  6. Focus on Whole Foods: Whole foods are nutrient-dense and provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fibre that are lacking in Ultra Processed Foods. Aim to fill your plate with a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables, whole grains like brown rice and quinoa, and lean proteins such as chicken, fish, and tofu. Incorporating a diverse range of whole foods into your diet ensures that you’re getting a wide array of nutrients to support your overall health.
  7. Stay Hydrated: Hydration is key to overall health and can help curb cravings for sugary drinks and snacks. Opt for water as your primary beverage throughout the day, and flavour it with fresh herbs or fruit slices for added interest. Herbal teas are another excellent option, providing hydration along with potential health benefits from herbs like chamomile or peppermint. Limit your intake of sugary sodas and fruit juices, which can contribute to excess calorie consumption and may contain added sugars and artificial ingredients. Learn more on the importance of staying hydrated.
  8. Seek Support: Transitioning to a Ultra Processed Food-free diet can be challenging, so don’t hesitate to reach out for support. Surround yourself with friends, family, or online communities who share your health goals and can offer encouragement along the way. Additionally, consider seeking guidance from a healthcare professional or nutritionist who can provide personalized advice and support tailored to your individual needs and preferences.

Why don’t you join our fast growing facebook group Ultra Processed Food Free Recipes to join a group of nearly 60,000 individuals all seeking to cut out UPFs from their diet?

What other diets focus on ultra processed food free foods?

Popular diets such as the Mediterranean diet, Whole30, and Paleo diet often emphasize whole, minimally processed foods while limiting or excluding Ultra Processed Foods. While these diets can be effective for some individuals, it’s essential to choose an approach that aligns with your personal preferences and lifestyle.

Discovering how to reduce ultra processed foods is a pivotal step towards enhancing your overall health and well-being. By consciously selecting Ultra Processed Food-free alternatives and embracing whole, minimally processed options, you can provide your body with the essential nutrients it requires to thrive while simultaneously diminishing the risk of chronic diseases. Through implementing gradual, sustainable changes to your dietary habits, you can cultivate a healthier lifestyle that promotes longevity and vitality for years to come.

Want to learn more about UPF’s?

Check out Chris Van Tullekens best selling book “Ultra-Processed People” I thoroughly recommend it! As an Amazon associate I may earn commission from purchases at no extra cost to the buyer.

“Ultra Processed People” on Amazon.co.uk

ultra processed people

2 Comments

  1. Jewel Elizabeth says:

    Really great tips! I definitely hate processed foods and this will help me keep junk out of the cabinets!

  2. I don’t eat much processed foods, I find it as empty of taste as a vacant lot.

    The courguette lasagna rollup looks intriguing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *