The Pantry Raid: How to Identify Ultra-Processed Food

Processed FoodsToday in our Road to Real Food Project (sign up here), we are taking the first step forward. In corporate-speak, we are baselining. Let’s find out where we are starting from before we try to set any goals.

I’d like you to look through all of the food in your house: in the pantry, refrigerator, freezer, and snack drawers.

  1. We’re going to separate out all foods that have High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), Artificial Colors, Artificial Flavors, and Artificial Sweeteners.

    • High Fructose Corn Syrup. It should look just like that on the label.
    • Artificial Colors may be labeled FD&C Red 40, Yellow 5 or 6, Blue 1 or 2, Caramel Color
    • Artificial Flavors usually state just that: Artificial Flavors. Also, Vanillin (an artificial vanilla flavor)
    • Artificial Sweeteners. There are several and I don’t recommend any. Keep your eye out especially for Saccharin, Aspartame, and packages that state “Sugar Free”. This includes all of the little yellow, red, and blue packets of sugar substitutes.
    • Don’t forget to look at smaller things like salad dressings and syrups. And the beverages, oh the beverages!
  2. Put all of the processed food you have separated together, and really take a look. In fact, take a photo and send it to me or post it on our Facebook page!

  3. Think about your reaction to your pile. Is it more or less than you expected? Did any of the items surprise you?

Please note: This will not find you all of the processed food in your house…just some of the “worst of the worst”. It’s meant to be an easy way at identifying some items and get you reading food labels. We will cover more detail soon!

Looking forward to your comments and questions!

Photo credit: mroach, Flickr

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