Fifty years ago, the first processed foods appeared on the market. Today ultra-processed industrial foods represent more than 80% of our current supermarket supply and nearly 20% of our food intake (1). Naturally, the arrival of these products has dramatically changed the way we eat and as a result, our health has been impacted. Indeed, their connection to overweight and obese people is undeniable but it has also been linked to cancer. The battle is now on to eradicate processed foods and processed meals and replace them with a raw, healthy, balanced, seasonal and homemade diets to keep our body healthy. Here are some tips for eating better.
What are processed / ultra-processed products?
The food industry has developed manufacturing techniques that can completely denature staple foods. We can now split food to isolate certain components. Then, they add selected components of different foods and recombine them by adding salt, fat, simple sugars and many additives. The role of these additives is to artificially restore taste, colour and texture lost during fractionation and to extend shelf life. In the end, the original foods no longer exist, which is why we are talking about processed, ultra-processed products or even “fake foods”.
How to recognise foods or ultra-processed foods
The best way to detect ultra-processed foods is to know how to decipher food packaging. Everything is there. Do not be fooled by the beautiful colourful, slogans and other nutritional claims that highlight nutritional benefits which can be totally misleading.
Example: a cereal bar low in sugars can be very rich in fat and vice versa. The quality of a food is only identifiable by reading its list of ingredients and its nutritional values. Here are some criteria that will help you detect a food or processed dish:
- A long list of ingredients (over 5)
- One of the first three ingredients being sugar, salt or fat.
- The presence of scientific words or combinations of letters and numbers in the list of ingredients. In general they refer to potentially dangerous additives (e.g. E171)
- Food that is so refined it is impossible to recognise the original food, such as chocolate bars, sodas, nuggets, surimi …
Here are some tips to reduce your consumption of ultra-processed foods:
1. Learn to read the labels.
As said above, this is the most fundamental rule. Foods to avoid are those with a long list of ingredients and foods with ingredients you do not know or understand. Quite simply, as a rule of thumb, chose products without additives. After reading our article on this subject, if you want to deepen your knowledge, do not hesitate to subscribe to some nutritional coaching, our qualified dieticians will answer all your questions and will be on hand to help you with your studies.
2. Go slowly but surely.
If you are a fan of processed foods (prepared dishes, processed meats, biscuits, sweets etc …). Go gradually, eating habits do not change overnight. If you want the change to be sustainable, start by replacing one processed food with a natural raw material, then a second, and so on. You can start by completing your meal with a fresh fruit. If you do not cook, then it may be time to start…. start with simple and quick recipes, sandwiches, wraps, mashed potatoes, baked meat. There must be something that are you tempted by. So get started!
3. Replace refined grains with wholegrain cereals
Cereals in their whole form (rice, pasta, wheat, etc.) are better for your health. In addition to diminishing the risk of diabetes, cholesterol and colon cancer, whole grain cereals contain fibre that help improve the health of the intestinal flora and gives you greater satiety. They also help to improve weight management. Whole grains are your slimming ally.
4. Make your own prepared meals
To limit your quantity of Junk Food (hamburgers, panini, crisps, sodas and lots of fast food) or prepared dishes, make your own. There’s no need to make 50 different meals. It’s quite simple, when you’re cooking, just add enough extra ingredients to your recipes so you’ll have one or two portions left over for the next day. A little tupperware and it’s all done, you’ll just need to warm it up!
5. Choose water over sodas and other juices
Water is the only essential drink. Soft drinks and other sugary drinks only bring you sugar. If you do not like water, there are plenty of tips for flavouring it: add slices of fruit / vegetables, add a little liquorice liqueur, dilute a fruit juice with water etc … If you are thirsty, it is because your body lacks water, not fast sugars. So stay hydrated and drink lots of water or herbal teas!
With these five tips you have something to get started with! As soon as you begin, you will see immediate beneficial effects. Increasing the consumption of natural foods is increasing the intake of essential nutrients for the proper functioning of the body. And for that, your body will thank you.