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Eat Local to Cut Ultra-Processed Foods From Your Diet

Apr 4, 2024 | Nutrition & Health, Recipes | 0 comments

By Jade Greene

You have probably read in the news recently about ultra-processed foods and how harmful they can be to your health. What are they and how do you avoid them? One easy way to help cut these convenient and ubiquitous items from your diet is to eat local and shop at farmers markets. 

What are Ultra-Processed Foods?

Ultra-processed foods (UPF) are tricky to define. Generally, they are a food product that has been derived from heavily processed ingredients. Let’s use an example of corn to aid in understanding them:


these items usually have just one item on their ingredient list and include fresh/frozen fruit, vegetables, seafood, meats, flour, and pasta (example – ear of corn or frozen corn kernels)


these items are extracted directly from unprocessed foods, like avocado or olive oils, sugar, corn starch, pasta. Processed foods have short ingredient lists with mostly items found in a home kitchen, salt is the main preservative (example – corn starch, canned corn with salt). 


these items include final products that have a long list of ingredients, enhanced flavorings, dyes, artificial sweeteners, and additives (example – food containing high fructose corn syrup, flavored Doritos corn chips)

UPF are grocery store-bought items like: soda, candy, fruit-flavored yogurts, chips, granola/protein bars, breakfast cereal, plant-based meat products, packaged baked goods, and some frozen meals. USDA Organic, “natural” foods, and conventional products can be UPF. UPF are not just found at the grocery store, many fast food restaurants have them on the menu as well. 

How do you know if your food has UPF? 

The best way to tell if a food has UPF is to read the ingredients label. UPF contain ingredients that are not found in a home kitchen and rely on heavily industrial processing, such as emulsifiers, artificial flavors, sweeteners, extracts, rapeseed or palm oil, dyes. High fat, sugar, or calories can be another tell-tale sign.

Some exceptions are added vitamins/minerals ingredients that may read like UPF but are not, like Thiamin (Vit B1), Pantothenic acid (Vit B5), Biotin (Vit B7), Cobalamin (Vit B12). 

The ingredients for Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Cereal Bar (Blueberry)

What are the health impacts of UPF?

Research into UPF is ongoing but a recent analysis released in February found UPF linked to 32 harmful effects to health, including greater risk of heart disease-related deaths, type 2 diabetes, obesity, wheezing, anxiety, depression, and sleep problems.

UPF take the place of unprocessed foods in a person’s diet, displacing fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that come from whole foods. 

How can I reduce or avoid UPF?

First off, try not to be hard on yourself or judgmental of others. These foods are intensely marketed and everywhere, they are hard to avoid and very convenient. Take a deep breath. Next, look around your pantry and see what UPF items you typically buy. Be creative and think if there is a recipe you could make yourself (eg, instead of buying granola bars, make them) or purchase from a local vendor. 

Shopping at your local farmers market is a great way to purchase wholesome ingredients and snacks, baked goods, and meals that do not contain UPF. BCFA is the parent organization of the Doylestown and Wrightstown Farmers Market – our market managers vet all our incredible vendors who source local ingredients whenever feasible and never use UPF. Our vendors offer breads, treats, prepared meals, dips, sauces, cheeses, meats, honey, coffee, beer, kombucha, cider, oils, vinegars, produce. You name it, our market vendors have it!

Some UPF eliminating recipes:

We have gathered a list of easy (and tried and true!)  recipes that can help reduce some commonly purchased UPF:

Snacks: Granola Bars, Sourdough discard crackers, Fruit Roll-ups, Kale Chips, Onion dip, Stove-top popcorn, Roasted Chickpeas

More snack Ideas: Apples with peanut butter, veggies in dip, nuts, muffins, hummus  

Desserts: Peanut butter cookies, Maple blueberry oatmeal cookies

Meals: Tomato sauce, Sheet-Pan, Broccoli Waffles

Meal ideas: Sushi bowls, burrito bowls, quiche, one pot instant pot meals

Baked goods: Sandwich Bread, Banana muffins

More recipe resources: budgetbytes.com, mininalistbaker.com, Bucks Foodshed recipes, Hetty McKinnon, Melissa Clark, Ali Sage

What are some of your favorite homemade, UPF busting recipes? Email us (admin@bucksfoodshed.org) and we will add them to the list above!

Finding the time and knowledge to cut out UPF can be challenging but it is a worthwhile goal to improve your overall health. Shopping at the farmers market is a great and convenient start! 




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