Frozen pizza. Microwave dinners. Snacks with more unpronounceable chemicals than known food in the ingredients list.
It's unfortunately not just the menu of a poor college student.
Children and teens in the U.S. now get most of their calories from “ultra-processed foods,” according to a study published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers studied the diets of nearly 34,000 adolescents nationwide, finding such foods made up 67% of their intake in 2018 – up from 61% in 1999.
“Some whole grain breads and dairy foods are ultra-processed, and they're healthier than other ultra-processed foods,” Fang Fang Zhang, senior author of the study and nutrition and cancer epidemiologist at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston, told CNN. “But many ultra-processed foods are less healthy, with more sugar and salt, and less fiber, than unprocessed and minimally processed foods, and the increase in their consumption by children and teenagers is concerning.”
The study says the largest increase – 2.2% to 11.2% – in ultra-processed calories came from foods such as takeout and ready-to-eat meals. Consumption of packaged sweets and desserts rose from 10.6% to 12.9%, researchers said.
The good news is calories from sweet drinks such as soda fell from 10.8% to 5.3%.