Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fruit Snacks????

Someone recently said to me “if it is fruit shaped, has a fruity taste, and the label says fruit, it must be fruit” Now I know that this person was deliberately trying to raise my blood pressure, and I gave her a pretty hard time about it (sorry Mom).  What’s interesting to me is that what my mom said as a half-joke, is really the way many consumers think. And why shouldn’t they? The FDA allows such labeling as “made with real fruit” and “fruit snacks” for products that simply have some boiled down, concentrated juice-syrup in the ingredient list. Furthermore, these items are sold in the “snack” section of most supermarkets adding credence to the “snack” part of the label. It’s misleading!! Fruit snacks are nothing more than candy made to look like a “healthy” snack for kids (adding Dora the Explorer to the mix doesn’t help). 
I’m picking on “fruit snacks”, but the same logic applies to many other foods. Fortified “waters” for instance; the ingredient list on these is not significantly different from diet sodas, water, “natural flavors”, “natural colors”, and aspartame. Sure there are some minor differences in caffeine, vitamins, herbal infusions……but really they’re the same. Yet they are not sold near the sodas are they? They are in the isle with sport drinks and bottled water.
This kind of misleading labeling goes on throughout the grocery store. Check out this article for an excellent illustration of misleading labeling Ninie Ways Nutrition Labels Mislead. You’re better off choosing foods that don’t have labels (from the produce section). For other items, keep it simple. There should be only one ingredient on a milk label. There should be less than 5 ingredients in things like pasta and bread (except for the extensive and stupid list of vitamins and minerals added to “enriched flour”).
Your healthier diet starts with you distrusting claims made on food labels. The ingredient list is the most important thing on any label, after that, calories, sugar, sodium, and fat.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Will Anyone Miss the Food Guide Pyramid? Probably Not

The Food Guide Pyramid has FINALLY been decommissioned! I can remember as a student having anxiety about trying to teach about the pyramid. Which is ridiculous, the whole point of the Pyramid was to educate consumers about making healthy food choices. You shouldn’t need a professional to explain it.  
A very good Dietitian taught me during my internship to use a plate model, and I found that it was easy for me to teach, and easy for patients to learn. The best part of a plate model is that you don’t need any fancy graphics. If you have a paper and pencil, you can draw one in about 15 seconds. It’s also easy to modify for special diets like diets for celiac disease, diabetes, heart disease, food allergies, and weight loss.
The new My Plate program pictures a plate divided into sections with half the plate full of fruits and vegetables. A small amount of dairy, protein, and grains complete the plate. Check out these articles for more on the My Plate program. USDA press release, and
I am extremely happy that the USDA has seen the light and found a simpler way to educate the public about healthy nutrition. It gives me hope. Maybe honest, simple, straight forward food labels will be next…..
A girl can dream;)