Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

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Sexism and snacks


Of course I couldn’t resist reading the article Nutrition Bars Are Sexist? Oh, Okay when it came through on my Google nutrition news alert. The author writes rather condescendingly about a blog post: The Stereotype-Driven Business of Selling Nutrition Bars to Women

In the original blog post Stephie Grob Plante writes, more than fairly in my opinion, about the marketing of “nutrition” bars to women. These bars include Luna, thinkThin, and Eat Like a Woman. I’ve only seen the former in Canada. However, based on the packaging and the marketing terms I’m in wholehearted agreement with Plante’s assessment of these nutrition bars appealing to the expectation that women desire to be thin and to lose weight. You can see the same thing in the advertisements for Special K and, let’s be honest, pretty much every product that is targeting women. The notion is that women need portion-controlled grab-and-go bars to avoid uncontrollable over eating and subsequent weight gain.

On the other hand, you see energy and protein bars targeting men and athletes. These products focus on packing as many calories and as much protein as possible into a single bar. As Plante points out, the marketing suggests that men are more inclined to forget to eat and need something that they can grab and scarf down.

The responding article, written by Katherine Timpf states that Plante seems to have forgotten that “marketing is about stereotyping”. Oh, okay. Because marketing is rooted in sexist stereotypes that makes it logical that nutrition bars employ said stereotypes to market their products to women. Just because sexism is insidious doesn’t make it okay.

Timpf asserts:

The advertisements are targeted at women who want to lose weight because the bars are intended to appeal to women who want to lose weight. How could this possibly be considered controversial?

Um… It can be considered controversial because the stereotypes employed to market these bars to women are offensive. To tell me, as a woman, that I should eat a bar because it will make me thin is presumptuous. It also goes beyond the implication that I chose my foods to stay or become skinny. It implies that thin is ideal. That I will be more successful in life, and more desirable to men, if only I eat their specially formulated snack bar. Good grief.

Timpf also states that somehow this is an issue to take-up with God(??!!!) because he created men and women differently and therefore, we have different nutrient needs. Yes, okay, on average, men need more calories than women. However, nutrient needs vary more among individuals than between sexes. And one little bar is not going to have a huge impact on your nutrient consumption for the day anyhow.

There is one good point made by Timpf at the very end of her article. That’s the fact that most of these “nutrition” bars aren’t particularly nutritious to begin with and they’re full of highly processed suspect ingredients.

Obviously, making your own snacks is ideal. However, we’re all busy and sometimes a snack bar does come in handy. There are plenty of decent options available that don’t employ sexist marketing messages. You don’t have to support the continued use of sexist marketing tactics. Choose snack bars that focus on the ingredients, nutrition, and flavour rather than telling you that you need to lose weight.

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Nutritious Food For All!

After taking yesterday off in a show of support for the SOPA/PIPA protest I’m glad to be back!

For some reason this letter to the editor made it into one of the daily digests of nutrition articles I receive. Although I am not entirely sure what his point was I still felt compelled to comment on a few of the statements he made. He mentions that many seniors are able to eat healthy diets on meagre pensions. This is not, in fact true. Many seniors living on pensions or government benefits are struggling with food security. In Ontario we do an annual costing of a “nutritious food basket” which we then use to determine if particular families and individuals are able to afford a basic nutritious diet. These results consistently show that seniors are one of the populations that may be unable to afford a basic diet. In addition, as dietitians we often hear about seniors surviving on a diet of “tea and toast.”
The author seems to be implying that because seniors can afford a nutritious diet with a limited income that those living on disability pensions or other forms of social assistance must be mismanaging their funds if they are unable to afford a basic nutritious diet. He also mentions that there are people working multiple jobs who are still living in poverty. This is an unfortunate perception that I hear all too often, that there’s a “deserving” poor and an “undeserving” poor. People should not be categorised into deserving and undeserving. No one wants to live in poverty. Everyone deserves the right to a basic nutritious diet. Unfortunately, there are many people in Canada (nearly 10% of the population) who, for various reasons, are unable to afford a basic nutritious diet. Letters like this only serve to further perpetuate negative stereotypes.