How can you spot ultra-processed foods? We tell you!

Verified on 18/06/2023 by Alexane Flament, Editor
Comment repérer les aliments ultra-transformés ? On vous dit tout !

Ultra-processed foods account for more than two out of every three products sold in supermarkets, and are considered harmful to health!

Chicken nuggets, canned soups, chocolate bars, sweet cereals, breaded fish… these ultra-processed foods currently fill 36% of our plates!

Since 2018, the National Nutrition Health Plan (PNNS), which takes care to improve our health by acting on the way we consume, proposes that we reduce our consumption of AUT (ultra-processed foods) by 20%.

Here are a few tips to get you started!

How can we reduce the proportion of these foods in our diet?

Choose products labelled « preservative-free », « additive-free  » and, in the case of cold meats, « nitrite-free« . Between two similar industrial products, choose the least processed!

Look carefully at the list of ingredients, or use an application that deciphers your product labels for you.

Pay close attention to food labels and avoid those containing artificial ingredients, additives or added sugars.

Among your favorite industrial products (cookies, potato chips, nuggets…), ask yourself which would be the easiest to replace with homemade and make it yourself!

As a final piece of advice, 60 millions de consommateurs magazine recommends « choosing plain yoghurt over fruit or flavored yoghurt, uncooked frozen vegetable mixes over cooked stir-fries, and 100% fruit juice or pure juice over fruit drinks containing sugars, flavorings and acidifiers ».

How do you spot ultra-processed foods?

An ultra-processed product has a long list of ingredients: more than 5? It has a 75% chance of being ultra-processed! The number of additives should also be a warning!

The magazine also points out that these foods are made up of « barbaric names : hydrolysate, rehydrated proteins, maltodextrin… ».

If a product known to be very sweet (cake, cereal bar, etc.) is labelled  » low sugar », beware: the product has probably been denatured by replacing the sugar with sweeteners! The same applies to fatty products labelled « low-fat ».

The packaging of an AUT product is often very colorful. What’s more, the product is generally inexpensive. To keep the price low, manufacturers replace expensive ingredients with artificial flavors or flavor enhancers.

A significant impact on health

According to 60 millions de consommateurs, « studies confirming the harmful effects of TUE consumption are multiplying ».

A study of over 100,000 volunteers showed a relationship between eating habits based on TUEs and poor health.

«  The study shows associations with the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, weight gain and obesity, and functional digestive disorders, » explains Mathilde Touvier, head of the nutritional epidemiology research team at Inserm.