Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


Nutella, no longer part of a nutritious breakfast

Even though I never blogged about it at the time, my annoyance with Nutella and its marketing were the catalyst for this blog I did write a post about it later. I received an insert in a magazine featuring a dietitian extolling the virtues of Nutella as part of a healthy breakfast in conjunction with Breakfast for Learning programs. It seemed unethical to me that a dietitian would be promoting such a nutritionally bereft food as part of a child’s breakfast. People have been fooled into thinking that this food (which, while admittedly delicious) is healthy when it essentially turns a piece of toast into a chocolate bar.

My favourite disturbing Nutella story was told to me by one of my best friends. She was standing in line at the grocery store and the woman in front of her was buying a jar of Nutella. This Nutella purchaser and the cashier started discussing how yummy and healthy Nutella is. My friend couldn’t stand idly by and was compelled to interject that Nutella is delicious but it is not actually a healthy food choice and that it’s full of sugar. The women looked at the label and saw that sugar was the first ingredient. This is both a lesson in our susceptibility to marketing and the importance of label reading.

Last week parents won a class action lawsuit against Nutella. Usually I think that these sorts of lawsuits are a little ridiculous but in this case I think that it sets a great precedent. This win sends a message to the food industry that it is not okay to make false claims about the food you’re selling. It’s not saying that Nutella should be banned, it’s just saying that Nutella should stop pretending to be a health food when it’s really a treat.


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Happy (early) Oatmeal Cookie Day!

Okay, it’s not until tomorrow, but how could I resist national oatmeal cookie day?! Coincidentally, it’s also national raisin day so you might want to toss some raisins into those cookies.

You might be wondering what I, a dietitian, am doing promoting national oatmeal cookie day. For one, us dietitians are not actually the food police, contrary to popular belief. We also enjoy cookies and so far as cookies go, oatmeal can be one of the healthier options. Oats are a good source of fibre, 2.1 grams per 20 gram serving. They also have a fair amount of protein (3.38 grams).

If you want to make your favourite oatmeal cookies healthier, try making some substitutions. Replace each egg with one tablespoon of ground flax combined with three tablespoons of warm water. Replace butter with a combination of apple sauce or mashed banana and vegetable oil. You can even try sneaking in some pureed lentils to replace some of the fat! I know it sounds kind of gross but if you’ve ever tried this it actually works, no one would guess the secret ingredient. Just don’t go eating half the batch because they’re “healthy”.


Peeling Garlic

It’s funny the little things you pick-up along the way, add to your cooking repertoire, and promptly forget that you didn’t always do things that way. Peeling garlic is one of those things. I used to painstakingly work away at a bulb of garlic with my fingernails. Then, years ago, I learned the easy way to peel a bulb of garlic. Using a large sharp knife, cut off the ends. Then, with the bulb on it’s side, place the side of the knife on the top side of the bulb and firmly press down. You should then be able to easily remove the peel in one piece. If my description doesn’t make sense, you can check out this video (her technique is slightly different than mine).

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Follow Friday: Food Secure Canada

I haven’t really been talking much about food security lately but it’s often on my mind. It’s shameful that there are people in Canada who cannot afford even a basic nutritious diet. Everyone should have access to affordable healthy food. Food Secure Canada¬†is our national voice for the food security movement in Canada. Their website contains links to food security related publications through the Bits and Bytes link. There’s also a calendar for upcoming events and opportunities to get involved. They’ve also absorbed the People’s Food Policy Project and their report¬†Resetting the Table is available on the website as well. If you don’t know much about food security issues in Canada this website is a good place to begin. And even if you’re already well-informed there’s always more the learn.

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Sea Salt vs Table Salt: The battle wages on

I know that I’ve ranted about the confusion surrounding sea salt before but I think it bears repeating.

Chatelaine magazine has all these little tips at the bottom of each page and in a recent issue one read: “Season with sea salt – it has way less sodium than table salt.” No wonder people are confused! There are advertisments for french fries stating that they’re seasoned with sea salt, implying that makes them healthier than other fries (of course, there are other health concerns with excessive fry consumption besides the sodium content). Then messages like the one in Chatelaine are appearing in the media.

To be clear, there is very little difference between the sodium content of table salt and the sodium content of sea salt. Table salt contains 593 mg of sodium in 1/4 teaspoon. Sea salt contains 510 mg of sodium in 1/4 teaspoon. Yes, it appears that there is slightly more sodium in the table salt. However, for the package of sea salt I was looking at 1/4 teaspoon was equivalent to 1.3 grams while the 1/4 teaspoon of table salt was equivalent to 1.5 grams. That means, gram for gram, table salt contains 395.33 mg and sea salt contains 392.31 mg. So, does table salt contain way more sodium than sea salt? Nope. They’re pretty similar. Keeping in mind that this is relying on labels and the Canadian Nutrient Data File, neither of which are renowned for accuracy. I think if you were going to make any sort of claim about sea salt and sodium, the correct scientific wording would be: sea salt may contain an itsy bitsy teeny weeny little bit less sodium than table salt.