New research commissioned by the Heart and Stroke Foundation reveals that half our daily calories in Canada come from ultra-processed foods, and that children are the biggest consumers.

The most affected group is ages 9 to 13, who get 57 per cent of their daily calories from energy dense but nutritionally poor foods.

The research, conducted at the Universite de Montreal studied the rate of increased consumption of ultra-processed food from 2004 to 2015.

It went up 48 per cent.

“Part of the reason there's been an increase in the consumption of ultra-processed foods is that the food and beverage industry has manufactured food that is very attractive to consumers,” explained Manuel Arango, director of health policy for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. “They're high in sodium, saturated fat and sugars and they're very tasty. We live in an age of convenience when it's very easy to consume these types of foods.”

The study found the worst culprits are pre-prepared, ready to eat foods like pizza, hamburgers, frozen foods and sweetened drinks.

“Families can't be perfect. We're not all eating raw foods and preparing everything from scratch all the time, but there are degrees and small degrees to which you can improve your family’s nutrition,” said dietician Janice Cohen.

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, unhealthy diets are now the leading risk factor for death in Canada.