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Ultraprocessed Foods Hurt Nutrition in Kids

It’s not a number to kid around with: 67%. That’s the troubling percentage of daily calories that come from ultraprocessed foods in American youths ages 2 to 19. This is according to a recent analysis of data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey published in JAMA.

Energy consumed from ultraprocessed foods—such as sugary sodas, candy, cookies and hot dogs—rose from 61.4% in 1999 to 67% in 2018. The percentage of total calories consumed from minimally processed or unprocessed foods fell from 28.8% to 23.5% during the same period.

Many health experts believe these heavily processed “foods” could be at the root of America’s soaring obesity and chronic disease rates. Low-nutrition convenience food today in children could be contributing to unhealthier adults tomorrow.

See also: More Evidence That Ultraprocessed Foods Lead to Obesity and Diabetes

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Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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