Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Grocery store lessons: Vitamin Water

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I never blogged about Vitamin Water before because I assumed that everyone knew that it wasn’t a healthy choice. On the off-chance that I was mistaken I thought that I’d write a quick post to let you know that Vitamin Water is not a healthy choice.

Long before I started studying nutrition I loved Vitamin Water. I discovered it while on a trip to New York with my family. I didn’t read nutrition labels back then. I was young and assumed that the promises made (e.g. energy, immunity, focus) were legitimate. Plus, the stuff was delicious (to my unrefined teenage palette). Anytime someone I knew was headed to the States I would ask them to bring me back a bottle or two. I even contacted the company to try to get them to distribute to Canada. Of course, by the time they finally did, I had figured out that they were just fortified sugar water.

The benefits that the beverage names imply are incongruous with the actual ingredients. Take focus for example, which is suggested for afternoon or late night consumption. What does that name mean to you? To me it suggests that it will help you to focus on a task at hand when you’re mentally and possibly physically drained. But the medicinal ingredients: vitamin A, lutein, vitamin C, vitamin B3, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 are not known to contribute to mental focus. Admittedly, a deficiency in B vitamins (especially B12) may leave you feeling sluggish. Regardless, there aren’t enough of any of the vitamins present to have an effect on your heath, positive or negative. The 32 grams of sugar (about 8 teaspoons!) on the other hand, is certainly not going to do you any good.

Next time you’re tempted by a Vitamin Water try to think of it as expensive Kool Aid. Your body and mind (not to mention your wallet) will be much better off with a glass of water.


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The many faces of sugar

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An article in the New York Times refers to a recent study that showed we consume most of our added sugar in solid foods rather than from sugar sweetened beverages. I’d like to point out that the sugar and calories in beverages tend to come with little or no additional nutrients. This may or may not be the case with foods. The calories in beverages also tend to be less satiating than the calories in foods.

The author suggests looking at where sugar is listed on the ingredient list as ingredients are listed by weight. Yes, this is true but the problem is that sugar is now frequently listed in numerous forms in the ingredient list. You should probably take the time to scroll through the entire ingredient list to see how many different forms of sugar are included. Here’s a link to a list of the many names that sugar takes. It makes grocery shopping more time-consuming and complicated to do read labels thoroughly but it’s worth it for your health. Another trick: try purchasing/growing as many foods without food labels as possible and cooking your own meals so that you can be in as much control of what goes on your plate and in your mouth as possible.


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Does chocolate milk help improve diet quality for children?

I received an email today inviting me to the Dairy Farmers of Canada 2012 Symposium. I decided to check out the link to see what it was all about. No surprise, the website featured a wealth of propaganda. I was especially intrigued by the tab for Scientific Evidence which included such gems as “Healthy Weight” and “Chocolate Milk and Health”. I’m sure that I could find enough stuff on here to fuel a week’s worth of blog posts, maybe more, if I delved into every statement that they made. That might be a little excessive though. I’d like to draw your attention to their section on “chocolate milk, other flavoured milk, health and diet quality”. According to this section drinking chocolate milk improves the health of children because they get more nutrients, particularly calcium, than children who drink no milk or even regular milk. Apparently it’s okay to give kids sugar-sweetened beverages if they include calcium, protein, and vitamin D. Maybe even better than giving them unsweetened milk because they’ll drink more milk if it’s flavoured. Call me old-fashioned but when I was growing up chocolate milk was not on the menu. Ignoring the fact that milk is not necessary for a healthy diet, why do we need to sweeten milk and add other ingredients as emulsifiers in order to get children to drink it? Even if, as the Dairy Farmers allege, these sweetened beverages are not contributing to obesity, I don’t think encouraging the consumption of sweetened beverages by any age group, but especially by children, is appropriate. Their argument is akin to saying that adding flavour and sugar to any food that contains some nutritional value is a good idea if it will get kids to consume more of it. Just because a beverage contains some nutrients doesn’t mean that it’s a healthy choice.


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Nestle Pure Life: A great way to save calories?

As a dietitian I’m always encouraging people to reduce consumption of caloric beverages and increase consumption of water. However, this new commercial from Nestle really rubs me the wrong way! So, by swapping out one sugar laden beverage a day for a bottle of water, while sitting on your ass watching tv, you’ll save 50, 000 kcal over a year. I like the message of drinking more water. I don’t like the message that the dad role modelling drinking water while lounging on the couch watching tv is supposed to be a good example. And I especially don’t like the message that bottled water is the way to go. Sure, if you’re caught on the go without your  reusable water bottle then buying a bottle of water may be the best choice. However, most North American cities have perfectly safe (probably actually safer than most bottled water) and palatable tap water. Tap water is a heck of a lot cheaper than bottled water and far less detrimental to the environment. Drink less pop and juice. Drink more tap water.