Kids and teens in the U.S. get the majority of their calories from ultra-processed foods like frozen pizza, microwavable meals, chips and cookies, a new study has found.
Two-thirds — or 67% — of calories consumed by children and adolescents in 2018 came from ultra-processed foods, a jump from 61% in 1999, according to a peer-reviewed study published in the medical journal JAMA. The research, which analyzed the diets of 33,795 youths ages 2 to 19 across the U.S., noted the “overall poorer nutrient profile” of the ultra-processed foods.
“This is particularly worrisome for children and adolescents because they are at a critical life stage to form dietary habits that can persist into adulthood,” says Fang Fang Zhang, the study’s senior author and a nutrition and cancer epidemiologist at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and policy. “A diet high in ultra-processed foods may negatively influence children’s dietary quality and contribute to adverse health outcomes in the long term.”