The comment followed research by the foundation into the nation’s understanding of the term ultra-processed and what types of food would fall under this category.
A survey conducted by YouGov found that, compared to 2021, more people had heard of the term ‘ultra-processed food’ (46% vs 30%) and were trying to reduce these foods in their diet (33% vs 25%).
The term ultra-processed foods is usually based on a food classification method called NOVA, which defines them as food made by industrial processing that often contain additives such as colours, flavours, emulsifiers or preservatives.
In the same category
While the category includes food often labelled as less healthy options, healthier choices such as wholemeal bread, baked beans, tomato-based pasta sauces and fruit yogurts are also usually classified as ultra-processed.
Bridget Benelam, a BNF spokesperson, explained: “For many of us when we get home after a busy day, foods like baked beans, wholemeal toast, fish fingers or ready-made pasta sauces are an affordable way to get a balanced meal on the table quickly. These may be classed as ultra-processed but can still be part of a healthy diet.”
The top five foods identified as ultra-processed in the survey were ready meals (50%), vegetarian meat alternatives (41%), shop bought burgers (32%), packaged breakfast cereals with added sugar (32%, and shop bought sausages (30%).
However, fewer people classified baked beans (9%), low-fat fruit yogurts (10%), ice cream (14%), and sliced bread (19%) as ultra-processed.
Despite signs of consumers trying to reduce their intake of ultra-processed foods, nearly half (49%) agreed that a balanced diet can include some processed foods and admitted they can be convenient to save time preparing food (49%).
Benelam continued: “It’s great if you can cook from scratch when you have time, but I know for me, as a working parent it’s often not an option. We need to make healthy eating easier and more affordable, not more difficult and expensive. Choosing healthier processed foods is one way that can help people fit healthy eating into their lives.”