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All You Need To Know About Highly Processed Foods And Its Impact On Kids

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All You Need To Know About Highly Processed Foods And Its Impact On Kids

The term HPF (highly processed foods) has gained attention – often accompanied by alerts concerning foods commonly purchased and consumed. So, what do highly processed foods entail, and are they impacting our children’s health? Nutritional therapist Jane McClenaghan from Vital Nutrition enlightens us, stating, “Highly processed foods (HPFs) undergo numerous processing stages and contain additives and preservatives. These are the types of foods we should restrict in our children’s diets.”

The reports on HPF have caused anxiety for many, especially those in charge of their family’s nutrition. There have been alarming accounts of everyday items like morning cereal, frozen treats, cheese, and even bread. However, don’t fret. Jane advises, “It’s tempting to opt for ready-made foods to save time as a busy parent, but not all convenient choices are equal.

As with most things, the healthiness of certain foods varies. Jane provides guidance on how to approach the foods that concern parents the most – and thankfully, it doesn’t mean starting meal planning from scratch!

Do baked beans fall under the category of highly processed foods? “Yes, but baked beans offer a good fiber source, making them a suitable lunch option for toddlers or busy parents.”

  • Consider dairy choices: “Cheese serves as a significant calcium source for growing kids, but opt for real cheese over processed alternatives like cheese strings. Cheddar or Philadelphia are healthier picks for little ones compared to processed cheese or Dairylea. When selecting your ice cream, check the ingredients and opt for a minimal ingredient list – typically, vanilla is the preferable choice.”
  • Choose your pasta sauce wisely: “Pasta is a staple in most households as it mainly comprises 100% durum wheat. It’s the sauces we add that introduce additional, undesired components. Using passata instead of pasta sauce as the base for your Bolognese is a better alternative.”
  • Is bread classified as an HPF? “A decent loaf of bread only requires flour, salt, and yeast. Many food brands are reducing added ingredients like flour enhancers and preservatives. Opting for wholegrain or seeded bread is preferable to plain white bread. However, if that’s not well-received by your kids, scrutinize the label and choose bread without hidden additives.”
  • Are breakfast cereals a good choice? “Numerous children’s cereals are high in sugar. Provide your little ones with a healthier start by opting for cereals like Weetabix or incorporating oats for porridge or overnight oats, reserving the flashy, heavily processed versions for occasional consumption. Less is more!”

Is it possible to steer clear of highly processed foods?

Revamping your supermarket cart may seem daunting, but Jane suggests starting gradually: “Transitioning may take some time, but an easy start is examining the ingredient list. Can you identify all the listed items as food, or does it sound more like a chemistry experiment? Shorter ingredient lists are favorable.”

Reducing highly processed items benefits not just children but the entire family. Jane highlights, “Making minor dietary adjustments to minimize HPFs will yield significant perks for everyone. It aids in weight management, lowers disease risks, enhances energy levels, mood, and sleep. Embracing slight dietary changes can greatly impact your health and well-being.”

Batch cooking proves useful here. When preparing dishes like curry, stew, or Bolognese from scratch, freeze surplus portions for a HPF-free meal during time-constrained days. Similarly, crafting homemade cookies or cakes – when time permits – helps evade preservatives and added sugars found in store-bought varieties.

Highly processed foods inconspicuously present in your household

Your cupboards or freezer might harbor HPF-laden cans and packets. Jane elucidates that identifying a HPF isn’t always straightforward. “Most individuals associate HPFs with vividly colored, heavily processed foods, but supposedly healthy options may also contain HPFs.”

Common examples of everyday highly processed foods encompass cereal bars, crisps, sweets, processed meats like sausages and ham, and low-fat yogurts.

Traditionally, we’ve been led to believe that avoiding fat is ideal, but low-fat alternatives undergo more processing. Jane advises, “Steer clear of margarines and low-fat spreads – saturated fat is solid at room temperature unless modified. Butter serves as a better choice! Be cautious of soups and sauces containing emulsifiers and stabilizers, as well as vegan meat substitutes – vegan faux meat is undoubtedly a HPF.”

What about infant nutrition?

If you’re nearing the weaning phase with a baby and have typically opted for store-bought baby food, don’t panic – there’s no mandate to banish pouches! Jane provides insight on the preferred choices. “Occasionally, you may require a swift and convenient option. Certain pouches and jars offer decent alternatives. Look out for trustworthy brands like Ella’s Kitchen and Mamia, boasting quality ingredients without any hidden additives.”

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