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Health • Tuesday, April 30, 2024 • 4 min

Navigating ultra-processed food and children's nutrition

By Zinzino

In today's fast-paced world, the nutritional landscape is markedly different from what it once was. With the rise of convenient, ready-made foods, maintaining a healthy, sustainable modern diet has become an overwhelming task as time-pressed parents struggle to feed their kids essential nutrients.

Whole foods: the cornerstone of childhood nutrition

The foundation of any child's diet should be whole foods – fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins that deliver a bounty of vitamins and minerals. These are building blocks that fuel growth, development, and learning. However, the reality is that even the most well-intentioned diet can fall short. A narrative review by The National Library of Medicine reveals that up to 50% of food purchased in stores falls into the ultra-processed category, often deceptively marketed as healthy choices such as youghurts, granola bars and cereals.

The gap in nutrition

Busy schedules, children’s specific food preferences, and the sheer abundance of these foods mean that parents today might end up struggling to fill their kids’ nutritional needs. Here's where insights on how to detect industry created foods paired with careful supplementation can bridge the nutritional gap, ensuring that our children get what they need to reach their full potential.

Read the labels

It's important to read labels carefully when grocery shopping. Ultra-processed foods are industrial creations. Edible products made from manufactured ingredients that have been extracted from foods, processed and reassembled with artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, sweeteners and emulsifiers to create shelf-stable, tasty and convenient meals. As a result, these foods are usually high in calories, sugars, unhealthy fats, and salt, while low in essential nutrients and dietary fiber.

Warning signs

The long list of ingredients is usually a give-away when trying to deciphere whether the canned, boxed or bagged food is ultra-processed. Are most of the ingredients hard to recognize or pronounce too? Then you can safely assume that the food has undergone extensive processing. Here are some red flags to look out for in the grocery store isle.

  • Artificial colors, flavors, emulsifiers, and preservatives not found in a home kitchen.
  • High levels of added sugars, unhealthy fats (like trans fats or highly refined oils), and salt. These will enhance flavor and prolong shelf life.
  • Packaging that boasts long shelf lives, such as canned, boxed, or bagged foods with a 'ready-to-eat' or 'instant' appeal.
  • Claims that the food is "fortified" or "enriched" means that nutrients have been added back in after processsing which is a red flag for being highly processed. 

Foods that may seem healthy but aren't

  • Flavored yogurts are often perceived as healthy, but many low-fat youghurts are often ultra-processed
  • Granola bars are marketed as healthy snacks, but many are loaded with added sugars, oils, and preservatives.
  • Instant oatmeal packets and breakfast cereals. Flavored varieties often contain added sugars and artificial flavors.
  • Diet or "low-fat" foods can be high in sugars and artificial additives to compensate for reduced fat content.
  • Low-fat or energy-boosting “health” beverages are often high in sugars, and may contain preservatives and artificial ingredients.

Peace of mind

All good intentions aside, ultra-processed foods are hard to avoid altogether. There’s clearly a gap between what kids want to eat, what they need to eat, and what they actually do eat. Supplementing your children’s diet with multivitamins is a logical step to safeguard their nutritional needs, but you need to be cautious. Make sure to choose a multi-immune supplement that is specially formulated for growing children. They are not small adults, and their needs of vitamins and minerals are different than adults’. Read the ingredients list on the back and check whether the tablet has any added sugar and or dosage instructions. Multify, our latest release, is a chewable multivitamin in a kid-friendly, tutti frutti flavor with 16 essential nutrients specifically selected to support children’s immune system, overall growth and bone development. Go to to read more about how to create healthy habits early in life and explore their scientifically proven range of supplements for the entire family.