Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Follow Friday: @rooted_project

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I’ve been neglecting follow Friday posts. I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about how most of what I blog about is tearing things apart. Granted, they all deserve our derision… That being said, after ranting a few times about how there’s so much in-fighting in dietetics I thought that maybe in an effort to counterbalance some of that, that I would start devoting my Follow Friday posts to promoting blogs, websites, and initiatives of my fellow RDs.

Since The Rooted Project held their first public event this past week I thought they’d be a great project to start this new positive series off.

The Rooted Project is the brainchild of British dietitians Rosie Saunt and Helen West. Both of whom I’ve mentioned on my blog before. Their aim is to bring evidence-based nutrition to the masses through public panels and events. If you’re in London I recommend keeping an eye on what they have in the works. If you’re not, like me, I recommend following them on twitter.


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Coke gives the green light to traffic light nutrition labelling

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Apparently Coke is going to adopt the “traffic light” front -of-package labelling in the UK. For those who are unfamiliar, this labelling scheme uses red, yellow, and green lights to help customers make healthy choices quickly.

I can’t help but wonder how Coke is going to have anything besides red on their beverages. If they’re able to, it’s a testament to the fact that you can’t always trust labels. After all, the absence of unhealthy ingredients (as in the instance of diet pop) doesn’t mean it’s healthy as there’s still an absence of healthy ingredients.

 

Shameless request for your support: The Coast is currently doing their Best of Halifax Awards Poll and I’d love your vote for best blogger! Just go here to register your vote and get a chance to win a $1, 000 shopping spree at Mic Mac Mall!


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Another salt study

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This headline made me cringe: Bread and cereal highest contributors to children’s salt intake: Study.
One, because we’ve known this for years, and it doesn’t just apply to children. In Western nations most people obtain the majority of their sodium from bread products.

Two, as the director of the Federation of Bakers points out toward the end of the article, it’s not because bread contains high amounts of salt, per se, it’s because people consume large quantities of bread products. Despite the focus of the article (and apparently the researchers) on pushing the food industry to lower amounts of salt in bread, it’s unlikely that this is the best response. For one thing, the industry is likely to replace the salt with something else that will turn out to be worse for us. For another, we should be focusing on encouraging people to consume a variety of foods, particularly those that are minimally processed, rather than emphasizing reformulating current packaged foods. Different bread is not the answer, less bread is.


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New front-of-package labelling gets the green light in the UK

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The UK is rolling out a new voluntary front-of-packaging food labelling over the next 18 months. While I like some aspects of it I’m not so keen on others. Honestly, I’m not sure that any nutrition labelling is going to fully satisfy me. I want to know all of the nutrients but I don’t want to be overwhelmed with information. I also want to know information beyond nutrients such as: GMO, organic, vegan, local…

Let’s start with what I like about the new labels. I like that they use colour coding. Much like the stop-light system they’ve used in the past: red means a high amount of an undesirable nutrient (more on this to follow), orange means borderline high, and green means “healthy”. I like that they’ve focused on only a few nutrients so as to keep things simple: calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar, and salt (oddly not sodium, although I presume that this is what they actually mean). Are these the nutrients I would choose. I don’t know. Probably not. I would like to see some positive nutrient featured. How about telling us the fibre up-front? Or unsaturated fats? Also, call me crazy but haven’t we already come to the conclusion that saturated fats aren’t necessarily unhealthy? Personally, I tend to pay very little attention to the fat content these days. If there’s trans-fat I’m out, but pretty much anything else is fair game provided the food is a good source of other nutrients and the total calorie content is reasonable. I also think that we would be much better off focusing on ingredients rather than nutrient panels. It’s easy for food manufacturers to remove “bad” things and add “good” things to manipulate their highly-processed food into appearing healthy on the basis of the nutrition facts panel. Oops… I was supposed to be focusing on what I like about the packaging. Back to it… I like that the numbers are large and that both grams and percent daily value are noted.

Now, what I don’t like. I don’t like how it’s arranged. The way that the number of servings is noted after the 30 g serving quantity make it appear as if you get 16 servings from 30 g, rather than each serving being 30 g. I also find the note about the 100 g and typical servings at the bottom confusing. Maybe it’s just me. But, maybe not. I think that front-of-packaging labelling needs to be extremely clear. I also don’t like the quantities that the ratings are based on. For one thing, the percentages are meant to be universal but the recommendations for women are based on 2, 000 calories a day, 2, 500 for men. Are the percentages based on men or women or an average of both? This is one reason I hate percent daily values. I also think that those calorie counts are quite high for most people. Obviously everyone’s different but based on predominantly sedentary lifestyles I think that they should probably lower these amounts (if they insist on using the %DV). I also question the recommended amounts used for things like sodium. Food packaging labels (and these are no exception) always use 2, 400 mg even though the recommended maximum is 2, 300 mg for a healthy adult. I also wonder how they came to the conclusion that 5.1 g of sugar (at 6%) is high. Yes, ideally, we would all be consuming cereals without any sugar but 5 grams is only slightly over a teaspoon and the rule-of-thumb I’ve always told people in regards to cereals is to stick to single digits. Considering that accepted nutrient guidelines for sugar have yet to be developed I’m not sure that it’s advisable to include this information of the front-of-package labelling. Another issue is that the labelling is voluntary, making it difficult to easily compare foods.

Kudos to the UK for getting this started. Hopefully, after the voluntary roll-out has occurred, the labelling will be improved and will be made mandatory for all packaged foods and then the rest of the world will follow suit.