Unlocking the Secrets: How to Spot Ultra-Processed Foods

To improve your dietary habits this year, shift your focus away from tracking calories and carbs, and instead pay attention to the level of processing your food undergoes before reaching your plate.

Many people unknowingly consume a substantial amount of ultra-processed foods. Items like protein bars, granola bars, low-fat yogurts, and breakfast cereals may appear healthy but often fall into the ultra-processed category. These foods are concocted with industrial ingredients designed to hit a specific "bliss point," triggering cravings and overconsumption. Unfortunately, these products contribute significantly to daily caloric intake and are linked to various diet-related health issues.

Nicole Avena, a visiting professor of health psychology at Princeton University, underscores the importance of understanding what you eat. To break free from the allure of ultra-processed foods, start by scrutinizing food labels in your fridge, pantry, and the grocery aisle. Here's a simple guide to help you identify nine red flags indicating a food is likely ultra-processed:

Thickeners, stabilizers, or emulsifiers:
Watch out for additives like soy lecithin, guar gum, and carrageenan, commonly found in ultra-processed foods to improve texture and shelf life.

Added sugars and sweeteners:
Avoid foods with corn syrup, cane sugar, or malt syrup; consider adding your own sugar or honey for sweetness.

Ingredients ending in ‘-ose’:
Identify added sugars in disguise, such as sucrose, maltose, or fructose.

Artificial or ‘fake’ sugars:
Look for sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, or saccharin, often used to mask off-putting tastes from preservatives.

Health claims:
Be cautious of products with flashy nutritional claims, as many supposedly nutritious foods may contain hidden sweeteners and additives.

Low-sugar promises:
Products labeled as low in added sugar may compensate with artificial sweeteners.

Remember, not all processed foods are harmful. Consider food processing as a spectrum, ranging from minimally processed to ultra-processed.

Netra's products are nutritious, healthy and minimally processed only to ensure that the quality and integrity is retained. They are vacuum-packed, extending their shelf life up to one year. And they are made using all natural ingredients, no preservatives, no artificial flavours or colours. So when you cook Netra's Instant Indian, you can enjoy fresh and tasty "home-cooked" meals.

Back to blog