bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Chocolate milk, juice, and marketing untruths

 

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After I wrote about how sugar’s not inherently evil on Monday, I’d now like to take exception (again) to the marketing of chocolate milk as a healthy beverage choice.

As I’ve mentioned before, just because there’s nothing wrong with having some sugar in our diets, that doesn’t mean we can’t have too much. Just because sugar’s not bad for you doesn’t mean it’s good either and it certainly doesn’t mean that most of us couldn’t stand to cut back on it a bit.

So… My best friend sent me the above photo (taken from a Dairy Farmers of Canada booklet) last week. It’s a great example of the food industry twisting the facts. Sure, a glass of chocolate milk has the same amount of sugar as a glass of apple juice. That doesn’t lead to the conclusion that chocolate milk is a nutritious choice. Both beverages have 24 grams of sugar per cup. That’s 6 teaspoons of sugar! That’s a lot of sugar in something that’s not going to fill you up. The conclusion should really be that neither chocolate milk nor apple juice is a healthy choice. Both are liquid candy, with a few added nutrients, and should be treated as treats.

I also would like to add my annoyance at the chocolate milk sponsored half marathon I ran on Sunday. The only beverages I could find at the end of the race were chocolate milk, juice, and coffee. Now, if anyone deserves chocolate milk, it’s probably someone who just finished a long run. However, sweetness doesn’t appeal to me after a race and all I wanted was a drink of water. I ended up settling for a cup of black coffee until I got home. As we were exiting the finish area, someone on the sound system was extolling the benefits of chocolate milk as the ultimate post-race rehydrator. Actually, no. If you missed it before, here are my thoughts on that. I get that the race needs sponsors, and I don’t mind there being chocolate milk available. However, I don’t think that it should necessitate the exclusion of water.


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Let’s Clear It Up makes one thing about the beverage industry clear

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One of the joys of blogging is getting unsolicited requests from PR people telling me what to write about. Some of them are pretty random, like the one I got about promoting the new album from a former reality show contestant, the tenuous connection to my blog? That the singer is committed to living a healthy lifestyle. Ha. Some of the requests are interesting and worth writing about (like the Beyond Milk and Cookies project I wrote about a few weeks ago). And then there are the slightly scary ones.

Those would be the ones from groups such as the American Beverage Association. The message I received urged me to “keep the facts in mind” and proceeded to disparage a new study that purportedly found that “postmenopausal women who sip diet soda are more likely to experience heart attacks and stroke“. Unfortunately, the research has yet to be published so I can’t comment on it directly. However, I think it’s pretty telling that the ABA feels sufficiently threaten by the research that they’re emailing bloggers such as myself (who, if they’d done any reading at all would have seen that I’m generally critical of the food industry) asking us to be critical of such research.

The email included a link to the ABA’s “educational” website “Let’s Clear It Up” which states:

Soda is a hot topic. And the conversation is full of opinions and myths, but not enough facts. America’s beverage companies created this site to clear a few things up about the products we make. So read on. Learn. And share the clarity.

The website presents “myths” and “facts” on topics such as artificial sweeteners, marketing, and caffeine, among many others. Unfortunately, it would take me far too long to comment on each “myth” and “fact”. So I’d just like to make a couple of fairly general comments. The first is in regard to marketing. The ABA claims that soft drinks and energy drinks are not marketed to children. Soft drinks not to audiences younger than 12 years of age, and energy drinks not to those in grade school. Are you kidding me?! Energy drinks sponsoring extreme sports isn’t marketing to teens? Putting cute little polar bears in your commercials isn’t targeting children?? I know that the pledge to stop marketing to children was just last year but I don’t think all that much has changed since Yale reported on broken industry marketing promises in 2011. The second is that many of these “facts” are misleading and while not being outright lies are twisted truths. Take hydration for example. Just because the 8-glasses-a-day has been busted and because other sources of fluid can contribute to hydration does not make pop a good choice for hydration. Sigh.

“Let’s Clear It Up” is a desperate attempt by the ABA to convince the public that their unhealthy beverages are healthy. The only thing made clear by the site is that the industry is running scared.


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What is a “superfood”?

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superfood is a marketing term intended to convince you to part with more money for food products. Yes, some of the superfoods are affordable; think kale. But many of them are not; think chia, acai, spirulina, hemp hearts. There is nothing wrong with these so-called superfoods, if you can afford them and like them then munch away. However, I know that many of these things aren’t in my regular grocery budget. What’s a poor girl/guy to do if they want to be healthy but they can’t afford all of these superfoods?

Just because they don’t have the marketing budget behind them doesn’t mean that loads of ordinary vegetables and fruits aren’t “super” in their own right. Carrots are loaded with vitamin A, and are also a good source of potassium, and fibre, as well as containing folate, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals. Apples are a good source of fibre, as well as containing vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and phytosterols. Corn is a good source of protein, fibre, and contains a number of B vitamins, magnesium, and potassium. In fact, any vegetable or fruit is going to provide you with nutrients. The greater the variety you eat, the more nutrients you’ll get. There’s no need to worry if you can’t afford the superfoods all fruits and vegetables are super in their own ways.


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Follow Friday: Fast Food FACTS

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The Yale Rudd Center released their latest Fast Food FACTS (Food Advertising to Children and Teens) score last week. The report examined the marketing of fast food to youth in 2012. While it found some minor improvements (i.e. some healthier sides and beverages available in most restaurants’ kids’ meals) we still have a long way to go in improving fast food advertising (and offerings) to children and teens. Check out their full report here.


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Not so ideal protein

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A couple of twitter peeps recently told me about the Ideal Protein weight loss program. Obviously without signing-up I can’t learn all of the secrets but their website, and my friends revealed a fair bit about the program.

Initially they come across as relatively reasonable; focussing on how to maintain weight loss, not just on how to lose weight. However, when you look at what their program entails I’m not sure how it can emphasis weight maintenance when it’s based on no-low carb and purchase of their products. From what I hear, it’s also quite low-calorie. None of those things amount to sustainability which, as I’ve said many times before, if you want to see sustainable weight loss you have to make sustainable changes. Is cutting all carbs sustainable? Nope. Apparently you only have to do that for the initial phase of the diet. This will allow you to show great progress in the beginning as you lose water weight. Not true weight loss. Okay, what about the low-calorie diet? Sure, some people can happily survive on 1, 100 calories a day, I don’t know any of those people but I’m sure they exist. If you’re one of them, chances are you’re not seeking out a weight loss program anyway. That brings me to the final issue: their products.

Yes, consuming protein can increase satiety and is advisable for weight loss. No, you don’t need special processed foods formulated by Ideal Protein. In my experience the majority of protein bars, chips, whatever, are pretty disgusting. Sure, some are palatable and can work in a pinch but for the most part they’re an unnecessary expense and not usually all that healthy. They tend to be highly processed foods (just check out the “dill pickle zippers”) providing you with little nutrition other than protein. Just because a chip or a candy bar has protein added to it doesn’t mean it’s suddenly a health food. There are plenty of affordable sources of protein available at the grocery store which will also provide you with additional nutrients. Try hummus with veggies or whole grain crackers, a handful of nuts or seeds, roasted chickpeas or edamame, plain greek yoghurt with berries, an apple with peanut butter, hard-boiled eggs, tuna and flatbread, I could go on and on. It is possible to eat real food and lose weight. Don’t succumb to the allure of a company that would have you believe that you need to buy their foods to lose weight.