Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Grocery store lessons: Big Slice apples

Oh hai. Did you miss me? Well, I missed you! Sorry for the hiatus. We were moving and I was starting a new job (eeee!!!) and we had no internets. But, now it’s the weekend (no, sorry, it’s Monday, sit back down) as I write this and it’s a beautiful day for blogging on the balcony with a Beau’s. I’d like to thank my friend Hannah for the blogspiration, making it easy for me to jump right back into it.

Have you seen this Big Slice product? I hadn’t, but Hannah wanted me to confirm her suspicions that it was essentially health washing (and certainly price jacking) of apple pie filling.

Let’s do a little comparison shall we?

Here’s the nutrition info for the Big Slice cinnamon french toast flavour:

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And here’s the nutrition info for a standard serving of apple pie filling:

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Naturally one would have to be by weight and the other by volume but let’s assume they’re similar serving sizes. They both clock in at 80 calories, contain pretty much the same amounts of carbs (20 g in the pie filling versus 21 in the “snack”) which consist of mostly sugar (16 g in the pie filling and 17 g in the “snack” – that’s roughly four teaspoons of sugar in that little pouch!). They also both contain essentially no other nutrients although the “snack” does contain a whole whack of vitamin C (because it’s used as a preservative). The ingredients are strikingly similar as well; don’t be fooled by the “snack” listing “apple and/or white grape juice concentrate” that’s just sugar by another name.

So, now that we know that these apple “slices” are basically over-packaged, over-priced apple pie filling, just for fun, let’s look at how they compare to an actual apple. One medium apple is approximately 180 grams (more than twice as much as the apple “snack”) but only contains about 95 calories. It does contain more sugar than the apple “snack” (about 1/2 teaspoon more) but none of that is added sugar and for more than twice the serving size it’s a much better choice. It also has a bit more than twice the fibre of the apple “snack” making it a good source of fibre rather than a middling one. It’s convenient, coming with it’s own protective packaging (aka skin) and affordable (generally about 80 cents at the store), and environmentally friendly (the core is biodegradable). All told, a much better choice than the Big Slice apple snacks.

Don’t buy the hype. Big Slice apples are not a “healthy snack”. If you want to send your child to school with a processed apple coated in sickly sweet sauce then consider portioning out a can of apple pie filling into Tupperware containers. You might not be saving your child from cavities and poor eating habits but at least you’d be doing your bank account and the environment a favour.


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Grocery store lessons: Honey Bunches of Oats Greek Yogurt Honey Crunch

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I’ve noticed a proliferation of Greek yoghurt “product” on grocery store shelves recently. Capitalizing on the popularity of Greek yoghurt, the food industry is now making “Greek yoghurt” cereals and granola bars. But do these products provide you with the same benefits (i.e. protein and probiotics) as eating actual Greek yogurt does?

One of these products is Honey Bunches of Oats Greek Yogurt Honey Crunch. Essentially, this is a flake-type cereal with a smidgen of yoghurt flavouring. “Greek yogurt powder” is the 20th ingredient; not exactly prominent. It’s also important to note that it’s a powder. Even if this “yogurt” still contained any live probiotics (which is highly unlikely) the miniscule amount included in this product is not enough to provide you with any of the health benefits you would obtain from eating actual Greek yoghurt. The same goes for protein. There is only four grams of protein in a 3/4 cup serving of this cereal. In comparison to plain Greek yoghurt which can have as much as 18 grams of protein per serving, and even flavoured Greek yoghurt which generally has 8 grams of protein, this is not a whole lot of protein. To put this in perspective, Shredded Wheat (which consists solely of wheat) contains six grams of protein per serving.

Aside from the yoghurt factor, looking at the overall nutrition profile of the cereal, it’s still not a great choice. The second ingredient is sugar. Keeping aware that sugar is also included in other forms and ingredients further down the ingredient list, it may actually be the most abundant ingredient in this cereal. Honey Bunches of Oats Greek Yogurt Honey Crunch boasts that it’s a “source of fibre”. Um… 3 grams of fibre in a cereal is nothing to boast about.

My advice: don’t fall for these Greek yoghurt products. If you want to obtain the nutritional benefits of Greek yoghurt, eat actual Greek yoghurt.


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Grocery store lessons: Fibre & Omega-3 Granola Bar

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I recently noticed a proliferation of omega-3 fortified food products (Kraft Dinner, granola, and these Fibre & Omega-3 Granola Bars from Quaker). Commercial granola bars are one product that tend to offend my dietetic sensibilities at the best of times. Most of them are candy bars masquerading as health food. These bars are no exception.

The nutrition claim on the front of the package touting “400 mg of omega-3” is extremely misleading. The ingredient list:

GRANOLA (WHOLE GRAIN ROLLED OATS [WITH OAT BRAN], BROWN SUGAR, ROLLED WHOLE WHEAT, HONEY, SUNFLOWER OIL, MODIFIED MILK INGREDIENTS), SEMISWEET CHOCOLATE CHUNKS (SUGAR, CHOCOLATE LIQUOR, COCOA BUTTER, SOY LECITHIN, VANILLA), CORN SYRUP, CRISP RICE (RICE FLOUR, SUGAR, SALT, MALTED BARLEY EXTRACT), INULIN, ROLLED OATS, INVERT SUGAR, MILLED FLAXSEED, BROWN SUGAR, GLYCERIN, SUGAR, SUNFLOWER OIL, BRAN STRANDS (WHEAT BRAN, OAT HULL FIBRE, EVAPORATED CANE JUICE, OAT BRAN, MALTED BARLEY EXTRACT, SEA SALT, SODIUM BICARBONATE, COLOUR), HYDROGENATED PALM KERNEL AND PALM OILS, ROLLED WHOLE WHEAT, WATER, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOURS, SOYBEAN OIL, WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, MOLASSES, BUTTERMILK, SALT, SOY LECITHIN, MILK FAT, SODIUM BICARBONATE, CARAMEL COLOUR, SORBITAN MONOSTEARATE, POLYSORBATE 60, BHT (PRESERVATIVE), SKIM MILK POWDER.

reveals that the source of omega-3 is milled flaxseed. Given the highly limited ability of your body to convert the ALA omega-3 in flaxseed to the essential DHA and EPA, this equates to less than 1% of your recommended daily DHA and about 1% of your EPA. Not exactly a good source of these nutrients.

In addition, to the misleading front-of package advertising, do you really want to eat (or give your kids to eat) a snack that contains such a lengthy list of ingredients and includes 10 sugars in that list?

You’ll also note the claim that the bars provide 5 g of fibre. That’s actually not bad for a snack. However, if you refer to the list of ingredients, some portion of that fibre come from inulin, which may not provide the same benefits as other sources of fibre.

Remember, nutrition claims on the front of packages are actually advertising.


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Grocery store lessons: Kraft Dinner Smart

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You probably heard about the Kraft Dinner made with cauliflower last year. Well, I was perusing the store for new “healthy” foods to blog about last week and I noticed there’s also a “flax omega-3” version of this “Smart” Kraft Dinner. Looking at the side panel of the box, it shows that there is 0.3 g of omega-3 per serving. As that comes from flax, that’s (at best) about 1% of of your recommended daily DHA and about 1.4% of your recommended daily EPA. Not exactly staggering.

The box also brags that it doesn’t contain any artificial colours, flavours, or preservatives. The box shows “natural flavours” whatever those are. Natural does not necessarily denote health or safety. It also shows “annatto” for colour. I looked it up and apparently it’s a plant used for “diabetes, diarrhea, fevers, fluid retention, heart burn, malaria, hepatitis, and bowl cleansing (1). Side effects as a medication are unknown but supposedly as a food ingredient it’s safe.

Don’t be fooled: Kraft Dinner is still not a healthy choice. Adding a healthy food to an unhealthy food does not miraculously make it healthy. Sticking a little bit of flax into Kraft Dinner does not make it a super food.