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Diet Spring Cleaning

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Ultra-Processed Foods Can Add Excess Sugar and Pounds

On a spring cleaning roll? Don’t stop with just household dust and grime. A 2016 study published in BMJ Open finds the foods in your daily diet could use a good cleanup too! 

Researchers looked at the diets of 9,317 Americans ages one year and older and classified the foods that they ate into four categories: unprocessed (such as fruits and vegetables), processed culinary ingredients (such as plant oils), processed foods (such as cheese), and ultra-processed foods. Ultra-processed foods were foods that require formulation beyond what you would typically make in your own kitchen, like packaged breads, cookies and snacks made with added colors, sweeteners, or preservatives. 

On average, participants ate 2,069.5 calories per day (remember, that average included young toddlers and children who eat less than adults) of which 57.9% were calories from ultra-processed foods. Added sugars provided an average 292.2 calories daily, of which 90% were from ultra-processed foods. Fruit, including freshly squeezed juice, provided just 5.2% of average daily calories (97.5 calories), while vegetables came in at just 0.7%--a measly 13.5 calories per day. 

Added sugars in the diet are harmful to health and contribute to increased risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Slash added sugars by cutting back on ultra-processed foods, and replace those items with more healthful, minimally processed or unprocessed foods such as fruits and vegetables. Remember, natural sugar from whole fruit doesn’t come with the same risks as added sugar. Plus, plant foods tend to be lower in calories and packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. 

Bland? Boring? Not at all! Check out how tasty a no-added-sugar day can be with this delicious menu! 

Breakfast: Low-fat plain Greek yogurt topped with sliced banana, berries and chopped nuts 

Lunch: Spring mix salad with salmon and your favorite vegetables, dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar 

Snack: Carrots and celery with homemade guacamole or hummus 

Dinner: Barley Risotto with Mushrooms—this creamy comfort dish pairs well with roasted broccoli and lemon 

Dessert: No-added-sugar dessert? You bet! Turn frozen bananas into one-ingredient “ice cream” with Yonanas® (for those without a Yonanas machine, simply pulse frozen banana slices in a food processor). Top with fresh berries or diced pineapple for a naturally sweet sundae. 

Published May 1, 2016

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