Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Smart Swaps: Not so smart

8 Comments

SS_smartswaps_logo

Public health is hard. I get it. I was there. It’s hard to come up with ways to improve population health. Nutrition is a particularly difficult area to address. After all, it’s not like smoking where you know that it’s unhealthy and your goal is to convince people to quit (or never start). Nutrition and our relationships with food are complicated. Unfortunately, in most cases, public health campaigns fall flat. I’m afraid that’s going to be the case with the latest Smart Swaps campaign in Britain.

As a few people point out in this news article, money could have been better spent revamping the food system to encourage healthy choices. I’d also like to suggest core curriculum for students so that food skills can be learned young and shared with the entire family.

Beyond the issues raised in the article (i.e. that resources could have been better used elsewhere) I have a bit of an issue with the smart swaps included in the campaign. They seem to be predominantly focussed on calories and weight loss. Yes, there’s swapping sugary cereal to unsweetened cereal, and swapping  sugar sweetened beverages to unsweetened beverages. Not bad swaps. But how about swapping whole milk to low-fat milk, and then swapping that for skimmed milk?  Or swapping butter to lower-fat butter or spreads and cheese to reduced-fat cheese? Yes, that will save you calories but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re making healthier choices. Fat is not the enemy. Too much of anything is the enemy. Too much highly processed convenience food is the enemy. Not cooking (using minimally processed ingredients) is the enemy. These simple swaps are too simplistic to address the growing problem of obesity and malnutrition.

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Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

8 thoughts on “Smart Swaps: Not so smart

  1. I blogged about my recipes which I thought were good ‘smart swap’ ideas because I felt similarly the UK government had missed the point. I don’t think there’s anything all that bad about dairy in a balanced diet and I would rather people are eating something minimally processed than excessively so.

    Likewise I’m not sure the evidence really stacks up in terms of people drinking diet sodas vs sugary ones. I’d rather the option was “don’t buy them and drink water” but you can’t really make a voucher out of that (even if you would save money).

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  2. I’m with you…it’s not all about calories (or no one would ever eat an avocado). Real fats have their place! Just…in moderation.

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  3. So glad you wrote this Di. I feel exactly the same way!

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