Processed Foods

Here’s some definitive research about negative impacts of “processed foods.”  It’s aimed at helping ensure healthier kids, but I think the principles readily apply to what all of us eat.  Typically, when deciding on what to eat for my next meal, I think about my mood and about what flavors are hitting me “right” at the moment.  Perhaps I can first limit my “mental menu” to what’s healthy.  Comments afterwards.


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Kids eating more processed foods are

less physically fit, have poorer heart health


Jocelyn Solis-Moreira

Study Finds

June 20, 2022


FAIRFIELD, Conn. — It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that having a Pop-Tart for breakfast is not the best thing for your health. However, new research suggests children eating lots of ultra-processed foods also see drops in their physical fitness.

Previous research has linked ultra-processed foods to a higher risk of heart disease in adults. The current study adds to these findings by showing one of the first connections between eating these types of foods and lower physical fitness among kids.  Jacqueline Vernarelli, PhD, associate professor and director for the Master of Public Health program at Sacred Heart University, said in a media release


“Healthy dietary and exercise behaviors

are established at a very young age.

Our findings point to the need to edu-

cate families about cost-effective ways

to reduce ultraprocessed food intake

to help decrease the risk for cardiovas-

cular health problems in adulthood.”


The team used data from 1,500 children between three and 15 as part of the 2012 National Youth Fitness Survey to look at the link between physical fitness and ultra-processed foods at multiple stages of childhood. Ultra-processed foods included packaged snacks, breakfast cereals, candies, soda, sweetened juices and yogurts, canned soups, and prepared foods like pizza, hotdogs, and burgers, as well as chicken nuggets.


More junk food leads to worsening heart health

Children five years and younger eating highly processed foods had low locomotor scores, meaning they did not move as swiftly from one point to another — like kids with higher scores. Those with the lowest scores also ate an extra 273 calories of ultra-processed foods, on average.

In older children, the team measured their cardiovascular fitness to give insight into their physical health. They found that teens and preteens who could do regular aerobic exercises ate less than 226 calories from ultra-processed foods than those in poor cardiovascular shape.  Vernarelli explains …


“Though highly processed convenience

foods are easy to throw into a school

bag, our research shows the importance

of preparing healthy snacks and meals.

Think of it like saving for retirement:

You’re making decisions now that

will influence your child’s future.”


The team’s next step is to look at how children eat according to their age. For example, do children or teens tend to eat more highly processed foods during breakfast, lunch, or dinner? Understanding these nuances could help nutritionists and public health policy makers create successful interventions encouraging healthy eating habits.

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What I recall from my teenage days was the ice cream parlors, and the myriad of treats they provided at very reasonable prices.  If you recall the old TV series, “Happy Days,” they truly were!  Nothing could beat a banana split with three scoops of your favorite ice creams, some of your favorite toppings, and nuts or jimmies sprinkled on top.

I guess it’s a matter of immediate gratification outweighing long-term benefits.  I never thought about what my heart health might be in “old age” – whenever that was, and if I lived that long.  Adding D’s comments …


“It is not easy in today’s world to get away from processed foods.  It is extremely easy at the grocery store to find foods that are ready in 20 to 30 minutes.  And yet, at what cost to one’s body? 

“We know it is healthier to make things from scratch – meaning beginning with whole foods that are then combined with other whole foods to make a meal.  But that takes time, which is, in most people’s lives, a very precious commodity.  There are ways to plan for longer-term solutions to eating at home.  And yet most people enjoy going out, or at the very least, takeout.  

“There is no easy solution, except to commit to a certain amount of whole foods per week.  If you are eating mostly prepared foods, from other sources besides your kitchen, try at least to commit to one day a week, then two days a week, then three days a week of making meals from scratch.  Another alternative is via companies, e.g. Blue Apron, Purple Carrot, or Splendid Spoon, that package all the items you need to cook a meal from scratch … which they deliver to you to combine and cook.”


Perhaps that thinking – about immediate gratification versus longer-term health – might be a relevant question in our thinking about how we might change to “Sustainable Living.”  All the data about solar power for home and car proves that using the sun instead of fossil fuels is healthier for Earth and for our personal quality-of-life experience.  It’s also less expensive – even in the short run.  Yet, most of us are reluctant to change.  And a “heart attack” for planet Earth would be disastrous for all of us.

(However – I confess that I still recall those sundaes with fondness!)

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