Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

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What is a “superfood”?


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


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.


Not so ideal protein


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.


Chocolate for charity


I was disappointed to see the above tweet from Food Banks Canada. Following the link I found a contest on Oh Henry’s Facebook page (which tried to access all of my contacts and my timeline… no thank you!). The contest is to win “an NHL experience, plus weekly prizes”. For every entry received, Oh Henry will donate 50 cents to the food bank.

I’m sure many of you are thinking “that’s great! More money for food banks is fantastic!” There’s a part of me that thinks that as well. But there’s another part of me that is turned-off by the use of a charitable donation to garner positive publicity. It also doesn’t sit well with me that it’s a chocolate bar manufacturer donating to the food bank. Yes, they’re donating money, not chocolate bars, but it’s a bit of a slippery slope. It’s akin to the candy stores donating money to the childrens’ hospitals or the pop company donating money to fund diabetes research; a step away from the dietetic organization accepting funding from the food industry.

Do you really think that Oh Henry’s goal is to eradicate hunger? Call me a cynic, but I’m thinking that however much they end up donating to the food bank is going to be considerably less than any marketing campaign would cost them, plus it provides them with the opportunity to seem like a charitable organization. Let’s not forget that they are candy bar manufacturers. They are not Doctors Without Borders. They are not providing us with a nutritious (albeit an arguably tasty source of calories) food. They are putting their brand at the forefront of peoples’ minds. They are associating themselves with alleviating food insecurity. They are allowing people to feel like they are doing a good deed by entering a hockey contest.

I propose that instead of (or at least in addition to) entering Oh Henry’s contest that everyone donate at least 50 cents directly to the food bank or, next time you’re grocery shopping, pick-up an additional non-perishable item and donate it to the food bank.


Grocery store lessons: Sexcereal


I don’t know if this really counts as a “grocery store” lesson as I have yet to see this product in a grocery store. Regardless, this Sexcereal has to be seen to be believed. When I first heard about it (thanks to my friend and fellow dietitian Mark McGill), I thought it was simply cereal that had been formulated for men and women based on their nutritional needs. Seems reasonable, as they are somewhat different. However, looking at the ingredient lists of the respective cereals I see that this is not the case. The men’s cereal contains: bee pollen, black sesame, wheat germ, camu camu, maca, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, goji berries, cacao nibs, and oats. The women’s cereal contains: maca, cranberries, cacao nibs, sunflower, chia seeds, almonds, flax seeds, oat bran, ginger, and oats. Very similar formulations which are going to provide very similar nutrients.

This cereal, not only claims to be specifically formulated for men and women to meet their nutritional needs. It also claims to serve to improve sexual health. While some of the ingredients are purported to improve hormones and libido, even if they actually do so it’s unlikely that the small quantity of each of these in one serving (3 tablespoons) would have much, if any effect.

I also have trouble taking a company seriously when they have errors on their website. Yeah, I know, sometimes I have typos on my blog. But… I’m the sole contributor and I’m not selling anything here. If I were, I would have multiple edits and professionals ensuring that everything was perfected. Check the ingredient page to see for yourself.

How exactly this cereal is “not a granola” is a little lost on me. I’ve never heard the oat ratio before (70% oats or more makes a food product a granola apparently). And how does having less oats make sexcereal more of a “whole” food. It doesn’t.

There’s nothing wrong with sexcereal. It seems to be a perfectly healthy food. It’s the marketing that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.