5 'health' foods that you probably don't realize are ultra-processed, according to a dietitian

5 'health' foods that you probably don't realize are ultra-processed, according to a dietitian
  • Some foods marketed as "healthy" are actually ultra-processed.

  • But they can still be eaten in moderation, a dietitian said.

  • Taylor Grasso told Insider her tips for including them in a balanced diet.

Many foods marketed as "healthy" are actually ultra-processed, but a dietitian told Insider they can still be part of a balanced diet.

Foods including protein bars, vegetarian and vegan sausages, salad kits, and trail mix often carry supposed health promises on their packaging — such as being high in protein or low in fat — but can contain ultra-processed ingredients, some of which are linked to weight gain and an increased risks of disease such cancer, dementia, as well as early death.

Ultra-processed foods are in group four of what is known as the NOVA scale, which classifies foods based on how processed they are. Group four foods are the most processed, meaning they tend to include preservatives and flavor enhancers, and tend not to look like the ingredients they were made from.

However, it's important to remember that experts say there are no wholly "good" or "bad" foods. Instead, as dietitian Taylor Grasso previously told Insider, the "poison is in the dose." That means that although it's not necessary to completely cut out ultra-processed foods to be healthy, they should be limited in favor of whole foods that carry more nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, and fewer unnecessary ingredients.

Grasso told Insider how to include "health" foods that are ultra-processed in a balanced diet.

Protein bars

Grasso said that protein bars are "a great, convenient option if you need to get something in quickly that has protein."

She recommended sticking to one bar a day, and said the best protein bars are ones with minimal ingredients, and that include 2 to 4 grams of fiber, 15 to 20g of protein, and contain 250 calories or fewer.

Veggie sausages

Vegetarian sausages can be a great alternative to regular meat sausages for vegetarians, but often they are far more processed and contain much more sodium in order to make them taste better and improve their shelf life.

Grasso said that low-sodium turkey or chicken sausages can be much better options for those who eat meat, because they are high in protein, have limited ingredients, and are lower in sodium and saturated fat than some veggie sausages.

But, she said, "it really comes down to ingredients and dietary preferences."

Salad kits

Salads can be a great, tasty way to get your veggies in, and salad kits are an easy way to make them. But be sure to choose kits that don't include lots of additives in their dressings and toppings.

Grasso said she opts for the ones that contain vegetables other than just lettuce, such as kale, brussels, broccoli, to increase the nutrient density.

Grasso recommended only using half or two-thirds of the packet of processed dressing or, if you have time, making your own using heart-protective olive oil, lemon juice, herbs, and spices.

Plant-based milks

Plant-based milks often contain emulsifiers and additives to stop separation, which are not necessarily unhealthy but make these milks more processed in comparison to cow's.

Grasso said that cow's milk is often higher in protein than plant based milks, and has a "great nutrient profile" since it contains vitamin D and calcium.

She said that soy milk has the closest nutrient profile to cow's milk, while most nut milks are very low in calories and protein, so soy is the best to incorporate into a balanced diet.

Trail mix

Grasso said that "trail mix can be a great option for a caloric-dense snack." She recommended making your own trail mix, with unsweetened dried fruit and unsalted nuts to avoid excess sodium or added sugar that can be found in processed versions.

But if you don't have time to make your own, checking the nutrition label and opting for store-bought trail mixes with less added sugar and salt is best, she said.

Read the original article on Insider