Thursday, May 5, 2011

Body, Meet Food.

I have recently started helping a friend of mine on her road to good health.  She told me she's never really thought about what she's put into her body before, and that the suggestions I was making were extremely eye-opening for her.  If the box said the food inside was healthy, she assumed that must be the case.  I believe that this is the norm for most people. 

Advertising is tricky.  Sneaky.  Underhanded.  The whole purpose of advertising is to get you to buy the product.  And while there are laws to keep things honest-ish, there are a million ways to get around them.  One of the things my friend asked about were Fiber One bars.  Let's take a look at the label:

On this label, I see no fewer than 5 different listings for sugar (sugar, honey, fructose, high maltose corn syrup, malt extract), and not a whole lot of ingredients that impress me as being worth the calories and sugar this bar provides.  However, because it is so high in fiber (a Health Food!), and because fiber is slapped on the label and featured prominently in the product's name, it's assumed that this is a healthy choice, when, in fact, it's pretty much a candy bar with fiber in it.  You're really much better off getting your fiber from naturally occurring foods like fruits, veggies, and sprouted grains.
Some sneaky advertising words to watch out for:  

-"All Natural"  (There is no legal basis for the label "All Natural."  All this means is that at some point, something in the food started out as something coming from nature.  Know what's natural?  Arsenic.  Think about it.)

-"Made With Whole Grains"  (Yeah.  So?  Read the rest of the ingredients.)

-"Lower in sugar"  (Than what?  If there's added sugar, don't get it.)

-"Low fat"  (Most of the time, low fat means high simple/processed carbs.  Don't fall for it.  Besides, low fat is not necessarily what we're going for here.  Fat isn't generally the problem, as long as you're eating healthy fats.  Processed carbs and sugars are the problem.)

As a general rule for label-reading, you want to see as few ingredients as possible, and they should all be ingredients that you recognize.  If you don't recognize the ingredients, look them up, and then decide if this is something you want to put in your mouth.  

Ingredients:  Apple.  This is good.
Ingredients: Sugar, whole grain corn flour, wheat flour, whole grain oat flour, oat fiber, soluble corn fiber, contains 2% or less of salt, milled corn, dried apples, apple juice concentrate, cornstarch, cinnamon, modified corn starch, yellow 6, baking soda, turmeric color, blue 1, natural and artificial flavor, red 40, BHT for freshness.

Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamin C (sodium ascorbate and ascorbic acid), niacinamide, reduced iron, zinc oxide, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B1 (thiamin hydrochloride), vitamin A palmitate, folic acid, vitamin D, vitamin B12.
We also talked about juice.  Juice is not a health food.  It's all the sugars from the fruit squeezed into a glass without any of the good stuff.  Think about how many oranges it takes to make a glass of orange juice.  Why not just eat an orange and get the fiber and other benefits eating the whole fruit provides?  If juice is a must for you, get yourself an excellent blender like a VitaMix or similar, and throw your whole fruit in there.  You'll still get to drink your juice, but it'll be in the form of a whole food.  Keep in mind that fruit is great for you, but it is still sugar, so don't go crazy with it.  

So don't get fooled by deceptive advertising.  Choose your food wisely.  Think about what you're eating.  Keep it close to nature.  As Michael Pollan wisely states:

1. Eat food.
2. Not too much.
3. Mostly plants.

Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!


  1. Great post Melanie! So very true and I wish television and health magazines would stop saying this stuff is healthy when it's so far from it!

  2. Thanks, Lauren! It's crazy, isn't it?

  3. Most people know foods that are clearly good or clearly bad, but there's a wide range of phony "health" food they still get tripped up on. As trainers, it's good we can help with this.

  4. I can remember back when I was in college I took a "package design" class for part of my art degree.....the word subliminal was always instilled into our brains! The tricks that are done in the world of advertising are amazing. It's really sad that "everything" revolves around the almighty dollar!

  5. Yeah, it's an unfortunate truth. You can buy out the certifying agencies, you can buy out the government, and you can make people believe exactly what you want them to believe, all in the name of money. Sad.