Ultra Processed Foods: What They Are And How To Avoid Them

Ultra Processed Foods: What They Are And How To Avoid Them

Evidence has linked ultra processed food consumption with obesity and a range of health risks. So what are actually are they? And how can you avoid them?


As a nation we eat far too much ultra processed food. Data from the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey (2008–2014) found that ultra processed foods (UPFs) account for 56.8% of total energy intake and 64.7% of total free sugars in the UK diet.

More recent research from Imperial College highlighted that ultra processed foods make up a considerably high proportion of children’s diets. More than 60% of calories on average came from UPFs. The higher the proportion of UPFs they consume, the greater the risk of becoming overweight or obese.

Research has not only linked UPF consumption to higher risks of obesity, but also high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and some cancers. Simply put: the less we eat, the better.


Some UPFs are easier to spot than others. Learning how to identify them is key if you’re keen to minimise you’re intake.

In terms of food processing, there are four established categories. They go from unprocessed to ultra processed. For more information on this, here are the NOVA groups for food processing.

How to spot a UPF, the three criteria:

1. It comes in a packet.

2. Contains more than five ingredients.

3. Contains at least one item characteristic of the NOVA ultra processed food group. Either food substances never or rarely used in kitchens (such as high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated or interesterified oils, and hydrolysed proteins), or classes of additives designed to make the final product palatable or more appealing (such as flavours, flavour enhancers, colours, emulsifiers, emulsifying salts, sweeteners, thickeners, and anti-foaming, bulking, carbonating, foaming, gelling and glazing agents).


Certain foods are more easily recognisable as ultra processed than others. Here are a few examples you might find surprising. You can click the links to view the list of ingredients in the products.

Hovis Wholemeal Sliced Bread

Eat Natural bars

Activia Yoghurt

Belvita Breakfast Biscuits

Proper Chips Lentil Chips (same goes for Popchips and Hummus Chips)

Why have I chosen these brands to highlight? Because these foods are positioned as healthy. Words like ‘wholemeal’, ‘natural’ and ‘lentil’ can lead us to believe they’re good for us. That’s before we get onto the imagery and other clever marketing terms used. There are plenty more obvious examples.


Awareness is key. Once you’re aware of the the defining characteristics of UPFs, it won’t take you long to identify them in the supermarket. Here are a few more ways to avoid UPFs:

Choose single ingredient foods as much as possible.

Cook from scratch where you can.

Read labels – look at the ingredients lists to know what you’re consuming.

Make swaps. For example, plain, natural, organic yoghurt is a much better option than processed low fat yoghurts.


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Sarah has worked with hundreds of clients over the past decade to help them live in a healthy body that they feel confident in.
Sarah spent a large part of her teens and 20’s as a professional dancer battling with orthorexia and an unhealthy relationship with food and her body. This created a desire to understand the human body more so she could finally cut through the confusion and end the cycle of yoyo dieting. This fuelled her passion to help other women do the same.


Sarah May specialises in supporting women who are struggling to lose weight due to underlying health issues. She’s helped many women manage their weight during and after the menopause, as well as clients with thyroid disease and immune system dysfunction. Sarah May loves food and sharing healthy recipes with her clients. Her aim is to ensure that clients don’t feel deprived and instead, achieve their weight loss and health goals in a positive and sustainable way.


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Ailsa is one of our most experienced practitioners. She specialises in helping clients to lose weight, develop a healthy relationship with food and finally feel comfortable in their skin. Ailsa’s mission is for everyone she works with to enjoy the journey and that working with a nutritionist should not be a punishment, but your access to a new possibility.


Ailsa is not only an experienced weight loss nutritionist, she is also a skilled coach. She helps our clients overcome emotional eating, destructive habits and self-sabotaging behaviours that have prevented successful weight loss in the past. Ailsa has spent years in clinic working with clients who have experienced yo-yo dieting and have discovered that long term weight loss is not just about eating less until you can stand it no longer.


Working with Ailsa you will be comprehensively supported, not only in improving your nutrition and lifestyle, but also your eating habits and your relationship with food. When you work on all these elements together, the results can be truly astonishing.


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Test Nikki is our Practice Manager, managing our team of practitioners and heading up the day-to-day running of the business. Nikki is involved in the strategic development of our practice, coming from a strong business background in town planning. A Florida girl, Nikki relocated to the UK in 2014 with her husband and two children.



Nikki is our Practice Manager, managing our team of practitioners and heading up the day-to-day running of th clinic.


Nikki is involved in the strategic development of our practice, coming from a strong business background in town planning.


A Florida girl, Nikki relocated to the UK in 2014 with her husband and two children.


Stéphanie is a skilled nutritional therapist and functional medicine practitioner with additional training in eating disorders, disordered eating and obesity. She believes that working towards both physiological and mental health is key in achieving optimum wellbeing.


Stéphanie’s personal experience of emotional eating and the ongoing struggle to find the right support led her to combine the science of nutrition with behavioural coaching to motivate and empower her clients. She specialises in helping people who struggle with their weight and their relationship with food. She helps them develop a healthier and more peaceful relationship with food and their bodies.


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Inna is passionate about supporting women on their journey to improved health and wellbeing. She believes that the solution to effective weight loss does not lie in ever more restrictive diets, but a more sophisticated approach that optimises health and vitality, as well as promoting effective weight loss.


Working with Inna you will benefit from her in-depth knowledge of female health and hormones. She will support you in developing a healthy diet, lifestyle and mindset that ensures you reach your ideal weight and maintain it in the years to come.


Inna is passionate about food with a wide repertoire of delicious healthy recipes and meal ideas to ensure your weight loss journey is as enjoyable as possible!


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Ania is a firm believer that improving your health and losing weight should be a positive, empowering journey, not one centred around deprivation.


After being diagnosed with two autoimmune conditions in her twenties, Ania spent several years educating herself on the power of food and nutrition. She put it all into practise and changed her diet and lifestyle, reversing her endometriosis and thyroid disease. After experiencing such a significant improvement in her health, Ania had a big desire to help others. She embarked on a four year journey to study nutrition, graduating from the Institute for Optimum Nutrition with distinction.


Ania specialises in autoimmunity and works with clients who have underlying health issues preventing successful weight loss. Her expertise enables her to successfully support our clients with conditions such as hypothyroidsm (underactive thyroid), PCOS and diabetes. 


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