bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Sexism and snacks

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Of course I couldn’t resist reading the article Nutrition Bars Are Sexist? Oh, Okay when it came through on my Google nutrition news alert. The author writes rather condescendingly about a blog post: The Stereotype-Driven Business of Selling Nutrition Bars to Women

In the original blog post Stephie Grob Plante writes, more than fairly in my opinion, about the marketing of “nutrition” bars to women. These bars include Luna, thinkThin, and Eat Like a Woman. I’ve only seen the former in Canada. However, based on the packaging and the marketing terms I’m in wholehearted agreement with Plante’s assessment of these nutrition bars appealing to the expectation that women desire to be thin and to lose weight. You can see the same thing in the advertisements for Special K and, let’s be honest, pretty much every product that is targeting women. The notion is that women need portion-controlled grab-and-go bars to avoid uncontrollable over eating and subsequent weight gain.

On the other hand, you see energy and protein bars targeting men and athletes. These products focus on packing as many calories and as much protein as possible into a single bar. As Plante points out, the marketing suggests that men are more inclined to forget to eat and need something that they can grab and scarf down.

The responding article, written by Katherine Timpf states that Plante seems to have forgotten that “marketing is about stereotyping”. Oh, okay. Because marketing is rooted in sexist stereotypes that makes it logical that nutrition bars employ said stereotypes to market their products to women. Just because sexism is insidious doesn’t make it okay.

Timpf asserts:

The advertisements are targeted at women who want to lose weight because the bars are intended to appeal to women who want to lose weight. How could this possibly be considered controversial?

Um… It can be considered controversial because the stereotypes employed to market these bars to women are offensive. To tell me, as a woman, that I should eat a bar because it will make me thin is presumptuous. It also goes beyond the implication that I chose my foods to stay or become skinny. It implies that thin is ideal. That I will be more successful in life, and more desirable to men, if only I eat their specially formulated snack bar. Good grief.

Timpf also states that somehow this is an issue to take-up with God(??!!!) because he created men and women differently and therefore, we have different nutrient needs. Yes, okay, on average, men need more calories than women. However, nutrient needs vary more among individuals than between sexes. And one little bar is not going to have a huge impact on your nutrient consumption for the day anyhow.

There is one good point made by Timpf at the very end of her article. That’s the fact that most of these “nutrition” bars aren’t particularly nutritious to begin with and they’re full of highly processed suspect ingredients.

Obviously, making your own snacks is ideal. However, we’re all busy and sometimes a snack bar does come in handy. There are plenty of decent options available that don’t employ sexist marketing messages. You don’t have to support the continued use of sexist marketing tactics. Choose snack bars that focus on the ingredients, nutrition, and flavour rather than telling you that you need to lose weight.


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Paper bag popcorn

A friend recently shared this link with me to an article on how to make your own microwave popcorn (she also shared that it works).

Lots of people are concerned about some of the ingredients in microwave popcorn (particularly some of the ingredients in the bag itself). This allows you to choose your source for corn kernels, use a plain old paper bag, and season your popcorn as you wish.

Topping suggestions:

  • nutritional yeast
  • parmesan cheese and cayenne pepper
  • sugar and cinnamon
  • salt and pepper
  • a little melted chocolate drizzled over-top
  • pretty much any herb and spice combo you desire


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Portion-controlled snack problem

There seem to be an increasing number of portion controlled low-calorie foods available. In theory, I like the idea of portion control. We all know that you’re likely to eat more chips if you’re eating from a large bag than if you serve yourself a small bowl and put the bag away before you start eating. For those who continue to hear the bag calling to them from the cupboard, mini-bags can be a great solution (as long as you don’t allow yourself more than one bag in a sitting).

My problem with the majority of these products is that they’re not going to provide you with any sense of satiety. Take these new Special K Fruit Crisps for example. At only 100 calories per two crisps they seem like a great idea. But what nutrition do those calories come with? Fibre? Nope, none. Protein? One measly gram (keep in mind a serving of protein is 6-7 grams). There’s only 80 mg of sodium and just under two teaspoons of sugar. When you think about it though, that’s a fair amount for the tiny bit of food and calories you’re eating. Wouldn’t you rather have something more satisfying? Even if you have to have a few more calories to do it, it may be worthwhile. And I do only mean a few. Have a piece of fruit and a few nuts or a piece of cheese (there are lots of convenient individually packaged options available now) and a couple of whole grain crackers. Sure, being able to toss something in your bag, desk, or car is handy but try to choose something that’s going to give you some nutrition and keep you feeling full for a while. Don’t waste your money on empty calories, you’d probably be better off eating the money (more fibre at least from the bills).


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Frozen bananas

One of my favourite summer snacks is a frozen banana. Just take a ripe banana, peel it, and wrap it in aluminum foil. Pop it in the freezer. Once frozen, remove when desired, peel back the foil and eat. If you want to get a little fancier (and a little less healthy) slice a banana and top each slice with melted chocolate. Try mixing peanut butter in with the chocolate or sprinkling coconut on top. Place in freezer on a plate right before supper. After your main course, remove from the freezer and enjoy for dessert.


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Homemade Chips!

I was visiting with my best friend and her foodie hubby in Toronto this past week when she shared with me this amazing homemade potato chip recipe that her husband’s been making on occasion. It was so simple that I just had to try it for myself. Here are the delicious results:

The original recipe used a regular white potato but I decided to be slightly more adventurous and used sweet potato seasoned with freshly ground black pepper and a little bit of sea salt. I think it would work well with a range of vegetables… parsnip, zucchini, beet, turnip. I really want to try it with apple next!

The recipe:

Thinly slice your vegetable (or fruit of choice). I used a mandolin slicer on the second thinnest setting. Then toss with 1-2 tsp of olive oil. Put a piece of paper towel on a large plate and place a single layer of the sliced vegetable on the paper towel. Place in the microwave and set for 6 minutes. Keep an eye on your chips as they will turn from perfect crispness to brown and burnt in a matter of seconds! Mine were perfect at about 4:10 but I imagine that results will vary depending on your selected vegetable, your microwave, and how thinly you’ve sliced your chips. Remove from microwave (careful as the plate will be hot) and allow to cool for about 30 seconds. Carefully peel chips from the paper towel. Repeat with remaining sliced vegetables. Season to taste with herbs, spices, and/or a little bit of salt. A quick and healthier alternative to store-bought, deep-fried chips.

UPDATE:

Don’t bother trying the apple chips. They just get all floppy.