Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Are these 27 foods you should never buy again?

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Reader’s Digest published the article 27 foods you should never purchase again. Reasons given include: being a rip-off, being gross, being fake, and being “drastically” unhealthy. Here’s my take on the list:

1. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is apparently over-priced in comparison to other flavourful hard cheeses. Depending on the prices at your grocery store this may be true. As they state, Pecorino Romano makes a nice substitute.

2. Smoked and cured meats are too fatty and are linked to a number of health problems. I certainly don’t think that bacon and sausages should be every day foods. However, I think that there is no problem with consuming them once in a while. Bacon is delicious.

3. “Blueberry” items often don’t contain any actual blueberries. Read the ingredients. Make an informed decision.

4. Multi-grain bread “is junk food masquerading in a healthy disguise.” They suggest checking the label for “whole wheat” as the first ingredient. Sure, the bread section of your grocery store can be difficult to navigate. However, it’s not necessarily a junk food and you should be looking for whole grain on the label, not whole wheat.

5. Reduced fat peanut butter fat is replaced with sugar. I’m on board with this one. Go with natural nut butters that contain nothing other than nuts.

6. Bottled tea is expensive and contains lots of sugar and calories. Good advice; brew your own at home and sweeten minimally.

7. Tomato-based pasta sauces are over priced. Sure, this may be the case but for those who are time-pressed taking an hour to make their own tomato sauce may not be viable. If you have the time, go for it. If you don’t, and you have the money, check the ingredients and don’t feel bad about buying a jar or can of tomato sauce. Add extra veggies for more nutrients.

8. Swordfish are high in mercury. True. Go for smaller fish, lower down the food chain.

9. Energy drinks are “sugar bombs” and have been linked to adverse health effects. No argument from me on this one!

10. Gluten-free baked goods unnecessary if you don’t have a condition that means you can’t have gluten, may be high in calories, and expensive. I agree that this items may be less nutritious than their glutenous counterparts. However, for those on gluten-free diets they can be nice to have. And some of them can be nutritious. As always, read the label.

11. Flavoured non-dairy milks are expensive and unhealthy. Well, yes, you should avoid the sweetened non-dairy milk, but you can buy unsweetened vanilla and chocolate non-dairy milks. For the many people who are lactose intolerant, allergic to cow’s milk, or vegan, nut, grain, and seed milks provide a viable alternative. They can also be a nice change for anyone. As always, read the label to make sure that it’s fortified (so that you’re getting the calcium and vitamin D and other micronutrients that you would get from cow’s milk) and also, be aware that these milks are not a good source of protein.

12. Foods made of WOOD – Cellulose is actually wood shavings. While cellulose is found in plants, it does appear that the cellulose used as a food additive is wood pulp used to add fibre and impart a creamy mouth-feel. I’m not sure if this is anything to get too worked-up about. Cellulose from a tree should be the same as cellulose from a plant. Still, it’s best to minimize your highly processed packaged food consumption so it’s something to bear in mind.

13. White rice is associated with higher diabetes risk. Yes, it’s always best to go with whole grains but having white rice every now and again isn’t going to kill you.

14. ‘Gourmet’ frozen vegetables are easily made on your own. Agreed. Unadulterated frozen veg are a great thing to have on-hand. They’re affordable, nutritious, and keep for months in the freezer. However, when you get into the “gourmet” ones you’re getting added fat and salt and probably other things. Far better (for your health and your bank account) to add your own herbs and spices when you’re cooking.

15. Microwave sandwiches you’re paying for packaging and additives. These things are so far off my radar! Definitely a waste of money. If you don’t have time and ingredients to make your own sandwich for lunch most grocery stores have delis at which you can purchase freshly made sandwiches which they can even grill for you.

16. Premium frozen fruit bars are overpriced; you should make your own. Yes, you can make far better flavours at home if you have time and freezer space and if they’re your sort of thing.

17. Boxed rice ‘entree’ or side-dish mixes may have added flavours but they also have considerable added cost. Yep, best to add your own herbs and spices. Try cooking in broth or coconut milk for extra flavour as well.

18. Energy or protein bars are expensive and full of sugar, fat, and calories. Yes, many of them (and granola bars) are candy bars masquerading as health foods. However, some of the better ones (again, read the label) can be handy snacks or meal replacements to have on-hand in a pinch.

19. Spice mixes may seem like a good way to reduce the number of spices you have to buy but usually contain a lot of salt. Again, check the label. But, I generally agree with this. Best to keep staple spices on-hand and make your own blends and rubs.

20. Powdered iced tea mixes or prepared flavoured iced tea are expensive and full of unhealthy ingredients. Umm… See #6.

21. Bottled water is expensive and environmentally unfriendly. Not to mention, provided your tap water is potable, it’s usually less safe than tap water. As they mention, there are occasions when bottled water may be a necessary purchase. In general, stick with tap.

22. Salad kits are expensive. Those added croutons and chips and whatever else they come with these days aren’t great for you either. Yes, if you can use up all of the ingredients you’d need to make your own salad before they go bad, this is the best option. If you can’t, check out the ready-made salads in the deli dept.

23. Individual servings of anything are expensive; buy a big package and portion out your own. While most of the foods that come in this format tend to be nutritionally void, if you’re going to buy them anyway and you struggle with portion control I do think that they can serve a purpose.

24. Trail mix pre-bagged is expensive, make your own. Any way you slice it, nuts and dried fruit are going to be expensive. Sure, make your own if you want, but also go for mixes in the bulk food section or hit-up a bulk food store. Don’t forget that trail mixes are very calorie dense. Watch your serving sizes!

25. Snack or lunch packs are overpriced and full of salt. Agreed. These are not good choices. Make your own healthy bento-box lunches for your kids instead. Use fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain crackers or flat breads, “real” cheese or meat.

26. Gourmet ice cream is expensive and there’s usually a cheaper brand that’s just as good. True, many store-labels are manufacturer by brand-name labels. Ice cream should be a “sometimes” food anyway though so price might not matter and you might be better off getting a small tub to avoid eating too much in one sitting.

27. Pre-formed meat patties are more expensive than making your own and may have an increased risk of bacterial contamination. Added bonus: when you make your own you can add special spices and chopped onion and jalapeno.

While it does seem that I agree with much of this list. There were a few additional comments I added that I feel are worth consideration.


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Reader’s Digest new fat-melting diet

I was pretty excited when one of the doctors at my temp job gave me the latest copy of Reader’s Digest to trash it. I know that he intended for me to throw it out but I wanted to trash it figuratively first. How could I not, with a headline like this?

The article touts the weight loss of Reader’s Digest staff after being on the diet for three weeks. The article states: “We lost 151 pounds in 3 weeks!” I’m not even going to get into how poorly the staff at the magazine must normally eat if they all saw double-digit weight loss over the course of 21 days. The fact that it’s a 21-day plan is a concern to me. It reeks of the dreaded “D” word. I wouldn’t be surprised if most, if not all, of the staff had regained the weight by the time the issue hit the newsstands. Sorry, but we all know that diets don’t work. If you want to see sustainable results, you need to makes sustainable changes.

Continuing on, there’s information on “13 essential fat releasers”. Supposedly the calories in these foods actually “thwart your body’s desire to hold on to fat, so you lose weight quickly and without hunger.” I’m not going to get into specifics on each of these foods as that would just take up way too much space and time. Suffice to say, there are no magical fat-loss foods. All of the foods mentioned in the article are certainly healthy choices. However, the benefits that the staff saw from them were not due to their magical properties. They were a result of switching from calorie-dense, nutrient-poor eating habits. One staffer is quoted as saying: “I used to inhale four cheeseburgers in two minutes. Now I’m satisfied by a 35-calorie piece of cheese.” Do we really think his 26-pound weight loss was due to special fat-releasers in the foods he ate? I’m fairly confident that his weight loss was due to the fact that he had a lot of extra weight to lose to being with and from switching from a very high calorie diet to healthier, lower calorie foods in smaller portions, not as a result of magical fat-releasers.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but there’s no magic foods you can eat to “release fat”. If you want to lose weight (and keep it off) you’re going to need to do some work.