Do we really know what we are eating?

Do you know what is in your food? Poor diet is now the number one cause of early death around the world and has even been cited as a contributing factor in as many as 1 in 5 deaths. Now, I’m sure most of us like to think that we know how to eat a healthy diet; less fat and sugar and 5 portions of fruit and veg, it’s simple right? But latest research has shown that it may not be really the ‘stuff’ we are eating, but the way that ‘stuff’ has been made that is key. According to research, it is the consumption of Ultra Processed Foods (UPFs) that is driving the epidemic of diet related disease, and not any single nutrient (such as salt, sugar or fat) as widely believed.

The NOVA system of food classification puts food in 4 groups depending on their level of processing:

  1. Unprocessed: whole foods like fruit and vegetables, grains, beans, meat and fish.
  2. Processed ingredients: Things we can obtain through minimal processing used to preserve, cook with and season. Things like butter, salt, sugar, vegetable oils
  3. Processed foods: Food or dishes made from combining groups 1 and 2 and necessary processing procedures. Things like canned fruit, brined/salted meat, home-baked bread, pasta
  4. Ultra-Processed Foods: Formulations of edible synthetic ingredients made from industrial processes and chemical modifications. Contains very little intact group 1 foods. Things like microwave meals, carbonated drinks, pre-formed ham, chicken nuggets, mass produced bread products.

It may seem obvious that eating ready meals and chicken nuggets everyday is not going to be great for your health, but UPFs shockingly make up 67% of the average child’s diet in the UK. That is because a lot of these are marketed as healthy options. Things like low fat spreads, fruit yoghurts, breakfast cereals, granola bars, wholegrain packaged bread are also UPFs. So whilst you may believe you are choosing a better option, that may not necessarily be the case.

At Orchard Trees this month, we have been learning all about food, where it comes from, the nutrients we need and how we keep healthy. We have also evaluated our menus and cut UPFs right down; from making flatbreads and hummus for snacks to using real butter and natural yoghurts. We have even got our own sourdough starter (affectionately named Mabel!) from Lindsay’s mother dough at home and had a go making our first batch of sourdough bread. We truly believe health and food are intertwined and are committed to giving our children the best (and tastiest!) start in life.

Now I know that it is not feasible for everyone to completely cut out UPFs and start baking their own bread everyday, just being aware of what ingredients are actually in your food and knowing how these are made and interact with your body is a good place to start. Our bodies have been perfectly evolved over millennia to get what it needs from food and we should trust nature to provide us with what we need.

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