Ultra-processed foods have been linked to a host of health issues, including cancer and diabetes.
Part of their appeal is that they're convenient, which can make cutting down tough.
Nutritionist Rob Hobson shared three simple ways he's reduced UPFs in his diet as a busy person.
From foods you might expect, like candy and frozen pizza, to those that we consider healthy choices, such as packaged whole-grain bread, ultra-processed foods are everywhere.
In recent years, UPFs have made headlines as research has linked eating a diet high in them with health problems, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Studies have also linked them to overeating and weight gain, as they tend to be made to be ultrapalatable.
When UK-based nutritionist Rob Hobson learned about the health risks associated with UPFs, he made it his mission to avoid them as much as possible. He details how to do this in his new book "Unprocess Your Life."
"You don't need to start getting paranoid about what you're eating. It's just looking at what you're eating and trying to make better food choices," Hobson told Business Insider.
He defines UPFs as foods made from five or more ingredients, often ones that you wouldn't find in a domestic kitchen. They also tend to be convenient and cheap, he said. While there are ample reasons to cut down on UPFs, this can make it difficult, particularly if you're strapped for time.
Hobson shared three simple ways to reduce UPFs in your diet, even if you're busy.
Plan ahead to avoid reaching for UPFs when you're in a rush
No matter how busy you are, if you're serious about making changes to your diet, you have to put aside a bit of time to plan ahead, Hobson said, or you'll just end up eating whatever's easiest.
He recommended planning what you're going to make ahead of time and ordering your groceries online rather than popping into the grocery store when you're already hungry after work. That way, once you get home, you'll already have the ingredients you need to quickly put together a meal low in UPFs.
Hobson finds it helpful to slot in some time on the weekend to batch-cook a couple of dishes and freeze them. This saves him time in the long run because it means when he's busy, he always has quick access to healthy meals that are minimally processed.
Compare product labels
Many nutrient-dense foods are technically considered ultra-processed, such as certain types of brown bread and fruit yogurt, because they contain additives designed to extend their shelf life. But products can differ a lot, and some will contain more ingredients than others, Hobson said.
So, if you're relying on store-bought food items rather than home-cooked ones due to your busy schedule, you should look at the nutritional label on the packaging.
"It might just be that you have to pick between two different ultra-processed foods. So try and pick the one that you feel is the best of the two," he said.
For Hobson, the goal is to reduce how many UPFs are in his diet rather than avoiding them altogether.
Choose recipes that are quick and easy
It's crucial to be realistic when attempting to cut down on UPFs and think about making changes that fit into your lifestyle, Hobson said. Home-cooking is a good way to cut down on UPFs as you can monitor what ingredients you use.
If you're really busy, for example, don't go for complicated dishes that are going to take a lot of time to make. "Do your research and find stuff that's really quick and easy to prepare," he said.
He advised focusing your energy on the times when you might be most likely to reach for UPFs — such as the moment you get home from work or if you've got to feed the kids before running out to an event —and finding solutions.
This could be a good time to defrost something you've batch-cooked from the freezer, he said.
Equally, if there are certain processed foods you can't live without, such as packaged bread or store-bought hummus, that's fine. Try and reduce your consumption elsewhere, he said.
Read the original article on Business Insider