I love high fructose corn syrup.

Not because it’s so tasty (mmm), but because it’s an incredibly clear marker of an inferior, ultra-processed food.

That’s why I also love health claims.  And foods made with Real Fruit.  They make grocery shopping fast and efficient for me.  Read Slackers Rule and Why Nobody Needs Nutrition Labels.

  • From a nutrition perspective, there’s mounting evidence that ultra-processed foods are never as good as they seem.  Read Manufacturing Magic.
  • From a habits perspective, there’s also mounting evidence that ultra-processed foods are never as good as they seem.

So that’s the takeaway: processed foods are never as good as they seem.

Almost all processed products are intrinsically unhealthy.

But evaluating individual products isn’t the way to go.  As a recent report pointed out: No one ever got sick from eating one burger (unless it was tainted), one bag of chips or one can of Coke.  It’s the overall diet that matters.

Consider the following:

  • Manufacturers garnish their foods with accents (such as seeds, coloring, or nutrients like protein) to give their products a wholesome appearance.  But these nice touches really are nutritional nothings.  Instead, ultra-processed foods are made principally from fats, sugars, salt, refined flours and starches.  Yum.
  • Eating foods loaded with sugar, sodium and fat makes us: 1) effortlessly consume way too many calories and 2) crave more of these foods as our body becomes addicted to them.
  • Ultra-processed foods aren’t usually served with salad, a side of spinach, or any other fresh, and healthy food.  (That piece of lettuce on your burger doesn’t really count.)  When people eat one manufactured marvel, they’re usually eating another modern miracle at the same time too.  (You know what they say…Birds of a feather, flock together!)

Maybe that explains why the top 5 most commonly consumed foods in America are:

  1. Regular sugared soft drinks
  2. Cakes and pastries
  3. Burgers
  4. Pizza
  5. Potato Chips

If you want your kids to eat veggies you have to balance their diet in favor of fresh, natural foods…even if you think Goldfish crackers really aren’t that bad. 

Read The Snacking Minefield and Goldfish vs. Bunnies.

It’s the proportion of meals, dishes, foods, drinks and snacks within the diet that come from the processed food aisle that you have to consider.

Here’s how to find real food at the supermarket.  

This flow chart is both funny and informative. I thank Summer Tomato for creating it.

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~


Additional Sources: Monteiro. C. “The big issue is ultra-processing.” [Commentary] World Nutrition, November 2010; 1(6): 237-269. Accessed online February, 2011.  http://www.wphna.org/wn_commentary_ultraprocessing_nov2010.asp