I wanted to clear up something that has bothered me for a while. Large food producers seem to have done a very good job at creating and perpetuating a public perception of certain types of foods as being “healthy”. The manufacturer’s success in promoting packages of sugar and fat with product labels that allude to health is a big win for the packaged food manufacturers and a loss for consumers. These products will have labels such as ‘low in sugar!’, ‘all natural!’, ‘high in Vitamin C!’ and a certain type of design, imaging, and font on the front that will try to deceive consumers into believing that this a nutritious, healthy snack that they’re spending their money on. The prevalence of this practice is something that plays a part in our nation’s rising obesity epidemic.
1. Fruit Snacks
Make no doubt about it- This is a bag of candy. plain and simple. Parents, especially, take note. These are simply balls of high fructose corn syrup, with artificial flavorings, synthetic vitamin fortification, and a drop of fruit juice to allow the company to legally say that these are ‘made with real fruit’.
The package is designed in such a way, with the fruit all over the front, as to make an implication that this is a health food and is an attempt to mislead the consumer. Something I find to be especially disconcerting is their claims about the product having the following “healthy ” attributes: “100% of the daily value of Vitamin C, 25% of the daily value of Vitamin A and E, fat free, gluten free, no preservatives, and made with real fruit.” I could literally take a bag of sugar, crush up a multivitamin into the mix, and add a drop of fruit juice and make all these exact same claims.
This is a particularly daunting one, in terms of how it came to be known as one of the quintessential health foods. It’s basically a bag of crushed up cookies. These granola products are plastered with claims of being “all natural” and often come in “natural” looking packaging that conjures up thoughts of being a all-natural, wholesome food straight from mother nature without any processing. However, they have about the same macronutrient, and micronutrient breakdown as cookies. They are extraordinarily high in calories and sugar content while providing minimal nutritional value and completely lacking in protein and quality fat sources.
Here is what half a cup of typical granola contains:
15 grams of fat
3 grams of saturated fat
32 grams of carbohydrate
12 grams of sugar
5 grams of fiber
As opposed to three medium sized cookies:
13.5 grams of fat
6 grams of saturated fat
28 grams of carbohydrate
16 grams of sugar
2 grams of fiber
3. Clif Bars (or other similar ‘sports bar’ products)
This product is a Snicker’s bar, except with each ingredient switched out for an organic, more ‘natural’, and therefore innocent sounding ingredient. The macronutrients still come out to be the same as a Snicker’s bar. For example, the first ingredient is brown rice syrup. This is just sugar, but they derive it differently in order to have a more natural sounding name on the ingredient list.
Don’t get me wrong, if you’re truly a marathon runner or participate in other extremely long endurance sports then this product is a fine snack to keep your energy up during your workouts… but a Snicker’s bar would also have the same effect in giving you a rush of glucose. Although to be fair, in that circumstance, this would make a good alternative to the Snicker’s bar. However, I’d wager to guess that the majority of people consuming these products are not running marathons.
The problem is, again, that due to the packaging and the perception of health that their marketing team works so hard to perpetuate, the uninformed consumer is again left mislead.
|Nutritional Facts (grams)||CLIF BAR||SNICKERS|
Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch CLIF BAR ingredients:
Organic Brown Rice Syrup, ClifPro® (Soy Rice Crisps [Soy Protein Isolate, Rice Flour,Barley Malt Extract], Organic Soy Flour, Organic Roasted Soybeans), Organic Rolled Oats, Organic Toasted Oats (Organic Oats, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice), Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Organic Peanut Butter (Organic Peanuts, Salt), Chocolate Chips (Evaporated Cane Juice, Unsweetened Chocolate, Cocoa Butter, Soy Lecithin, Natural Flavors), Peanut Flour, Peanuts, ClifCrunch® (Organic Oat Fiber, Apple Fiber, Inulin [Chicory Extract], Psyllium, Organic Milled Flaxseed), Organic Date Paste, Natural Flavors, Sea Salt.
SNICKERS bar ingredients:
Milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, lactose, skim milk, milkfat, soy lecithin, artifiical flavor), peanuts, corn syrup, sugar, skim milk, butter, milkfat, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, lactose, salt, egg whites, artificial flavor.
4. Fruit Juice
This may be a slightly more controversial one, but fruit juice is a product that we are typically taught as kids that this is a healthy alternative to soda. However, fruit juice that you buy at the store is usually not pure fruit juice. It, more often than not, has added sugar or high fructose corn syrup, along with other nasty things.
In the end, the fruit juice usually sold at most supermarkets, even the fresh squeezed, usually has as much, if not more, sugar than Pepsi. The spike in blood sugar that consumption of fruit juice causes still contributes equally to diabetes and creates the same increased risk of obesity that traditional soda does. Parents take note here again, and think twice before giving your child a box of fruit juice as a healthy drink. I will say, though, that the fruit juice does win in one category when compared to soda. It does contain the vitamins that come from the fruit (assuming the product in question actually contains all or mostly fruit juice, which many do not). However, I would say that the negatives far outweigh this small positive. I would recommend glass of water and a multivitamin any day of the week over a cup of fruit juice. Or even better yet, just drink a glass of water and eat an actual piece of fruit. Your body will thank you!