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ARS Home » Plains Area » Grand Forks, North Dakota » Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center » Healthy Body Weight Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #409105

Research Project: Dietary and Physical Activity Guidance for Weight Loss and Maintenance

Location: Healthy Body Weight Research

Title: Building healthy dietary patterns with ultra-processed foods

item Hess, Julie

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/16/2023
Publication Date: 5/16/2023
Citation: Hess, J.M. 2023. Building healthy dietary patterns with ultra-processed foods. IFANS Food Classification Workshop, Washington, D.C.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The purpose of this presentation was to present methods and results of a study conducted to see whether it is possible to develop a healthy dietary pattern that includes mostly “ultra-processed” foods and to have this work considered in a proceedings publication on understanding food classification systems. Ultra-processed foods and their impact on health is one of the topics that the 2025-2030 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) Scientific Advisory Committee will be exploring. However, there is not a clear definition for what an “ultra-processed food” is. A system called “NOVA” (not an acronym) is widely used to categorize foods by their level of processing on a scale from 1 to 4, where “1” means a food is unprocessed/minimally processed and “4” indicates an “ultra-processed” food. Yet several nutrient-dense foods like sweetened yogurt and whole grain breads are considered “ultra-processed” on the NOVA scale. We were able to create a 7-day menu that aligns with the DGA, includes 91% of its energy (kcal) from “ultra-processed” foods, has a high diet quality score (86 out of 100), and provides adequate amounts of most nutrients. Healthy diets can include most of their energy from ultra-processed foods according to NOVA.