Americans are constantly on the go. And their diets are suffering because of it, as they're sacrificing nutrition for convenience. Kate Zeratsky, a Mayo Clinic registered dietitian nutritionist, says ultraprocessed foods often become the go-to diet for families on the run. But what is an ultraprocessed food?
Take a walk down any grocery aisle, and you'll likely see plenty of ultraprocessed foods.
"We might think of it as a novelty-type food — something that doesn't resemble how a food might look in nature," says Zeratsky.
Think of food as three simple categories. Unprocessed, whole foods are things like fresh fruits and vegetables, rice, meat, and eggs. Processed food covers a wide gamut and includes cheeses, canned vegetables with added salt, canned fruit with added sugar and meat preserved with salt. And ultraprocessed foods can have added colors, sugars, salts and preservatives that add no nutritional value.
"These foods probably don't represent whole types of foods," says Zeratsky. "They probably have a different appearance, and an example might be a cheese curl."
Others? Snack cakes, chicken nuggets, soda, chips, frozen dinners, the list goes on. Convenient and palatable? Yes. Nutritious? Not so much.
"So in our busy lifestyle, instead of turning to ultraprocessed foods, think of more wholesome canned or frozen foods," says Zeratsky.