Whole vs Processed Foods

Background Information for Teachers

Article: Americans Are Addicted to Ultra Processed Food

Article: NOVA. The star shines bright

Podcast episode BBC 4 The Food Programme: UPF WTF?

Podcast episode BBC The Food Chain: Do we need to talk about ‘ultra-processed food?’

Podcast episode BBC The Food Chain: Why are people putting chemicals in our food?


Materials for Students

Video based on a book- Mr. Zee’s Apple Factory by Bettina Elias Siegel



Comparing Whole Foods to Processed Foods 


In this lesson, the students compare whole foods to processed foods. They discuss the packaging, what it has gone through before arriving at the grocery store, and the nutritional values. When comparing the nutritional offerings of each type of food, think about what whole foods provide and what is missing from processed foods. Whole foods are naturally nutrient dense and most processed foods are nutrient sparse/have empty calories. Whole foods, particularly those that are plant-based, are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, water, complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and they are typically low in fat, salt, and sugar. The plant-based whole foods that do contain fat have heart-healthy fats (avocados, nuts, seeds) and the plant-based whole foods that are high in sugar have natural sugars (not added sugars). Whole foods that contain sugars – for example fruit has fructose – also contain dietary fiber and water which slows the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream. For example, the fiber in a whole apple slows the rate that the sugar is absorbed, while the sugar in a glass of apple juice is absorbed into the bloodstream more rapidly and leads to a “sugar rush” because there is no fiber to slow it down. Contrast this with an apple pie and apple jacks cereal both have added sugar and most of the fiber has been removed.

How are these foods similar? different?


Go to the source of whole foods and processed foods



Levels of processing



How many ingredients?