A Good Story

When it comes to marketing and selling products, the food companies have never let the facts get in the way of a good story. A lot of the information we find on the front of food packaging is not so much information, as it is a somewhat misleading and deceptive sales pitch.

For example, the reduced-fat peanut butter we find on our supermarket shelves has less fat when we compare it to the regular product, but it is by no means a low-fat product. It’s still a high-fat, high-salt, high-calorie product that should be avoided. It’s still complete crap. Complete crap with slightly less fat than it’s full-fat brother. So instead of having 52 grams of fat per 100 grams, the new reduced-fat option has about 43 grams of fat per 100 grams (and a little extra sugar). Amazingly, some people will actually eat twice as much of the reduced-fat version because it’s healthier. Not.

Oh well.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Even foods which are genuinely healthy can lead to an unhealthy you and me if we consume too much of them. If we eat only healthy fresh, whole foods but consistently consume twice what our body needs (in terms of our energy requirements), we’ll get fat. If we’re fat, we’re at greater health risk. Simple. Obviously, what types of food we eat is an issue, but for many of us, how much we eat is the biggest issue. Not only are we the sit-down generation but we are also the over-eating generation. We have an incredible ‘skill’ for putting food in our mouth that our body doesn’t need. Our want over-rides our need and the net result is… obesity.

Here’s a few common food options that trip plenty of people up:

1. Seeds and Nuts. Yep, healthy. Except of course when you’re eating a bucket of cashews before lunch. Nuts are a quality natural food, but they are also very high in fat (good fat) and calories. When it comes to eating nuts, weigh or count what you’re putting in your mouth. Freestyle (unconscious) eating of nuts ain’t a great strategy when it comes to creating and maintaining your best body. Unless of course, you wanna weigh four hundred pounds soon. Most nuts are more than fifty percent fat.

2. Fruit Juice. Not all juice is juice. Some fruit juices are in fact fruit ‘drinks’ with as little as five percent fruit juice in them. Read those labels carefully. When you do find the real deal, consume it in moderation. Lots of calories and lots of sugar mean that we don’t want to be using fruit juice as our sole means of hydration. They have this thing now called water. Apparently it’s great. Interestingly, a glass of fruit juice has about the same amount of sugar and calories as a glass of soft drink (soda). A healthier type of sugar (fructose) of course, but sugar nonetheless.

3. Fruit Smoothies. The term ‘healthy smoothie’ can be an oxymoron with some smoothies (from well-known outlets here in Oz) having as many as 600 calories and 70 grams (14 teaspoons) of sugar. Wanna get fat? Throw down a couple of those bad boys each day.

4. Dried fruit. We take out the water, we leave the sugar and the calories and we’re left with dried fruit. A very energy-dense food. Fresh fruit is a much (much, much) better option. Compare 100 grams of fresh apricot (40 calories) with 100 grams of dried apricot (over 250 calories). Same weight, very different calories. If you’re going to eat dried fruit, do it sparingly.

5. Muffins. Somehow (not sure why), some people consider a muffin to be a healthy snack. Let’s be clear… it’s not healthy; it’s cake. It’s (typically) white flour, sugar, egg and some form of fat. Parents who (constantly) feed their kids muffins are irresponsible and pushing their offspring towards obesity.

6. Salads. Just the word ‘salad’ wreaks of health, vitality and goodness, doesn’t it? If only it were true. As a rule, the only salad you wanna eat is the one you make yourself with fresh ingredients and little or no dressing. Not all, but many salads that you buy when eating out are laced with high-fat dressings and high-sugar sauces. A Caesar salad can easily contain 50-60 grams of fat (the same as two Big Macs).

7. Muesli bars. The majority are high fat, high-sugar, high-calorie crap. Avoid them.

8. Toasted muesli. Like raw muesli but more calories, more fat and not as good for you. Go the raw option.

9. Sports drinks. A.K.A coloured water with sugar. Unless you’re an athlete who needs to replenish your depleted glycogen stores because you’ve just completed a massive training session, drink some water instead.

10. Protein bars. Some are okay but not many. Most are high in preservatives, interesting chemicals, calories and fat. Some are laced with artificial sweeteners and who knows what the long-term consequences of those will be. Many protein bars have a similar calorie and fat content to a Mars bar (of comparative weight). Read the labels and choose wisely if you must have one, but keep in mind that you can find protein in better places. Apparently there’s a new high-protein product on the market; they call it the ‘egg’. If you get a chance, check one out.

11. Cereal. In Australia, the vast majority of supermarket cereals are high-sugar, processed crap. Most of the popular cereals (in terms of sales) live somewhere in the twenty to thirty five percent sugar range. Great for the dentists, not so good for our kids. Or you. Look on the back of the pack and as a rule, the less ingredients, the better. My preferred cereals? Oats, raw muesli, Oat Brits, Vita Brits (or similar), unprocessed bran. The more natural and unprocessed, the better. My daily breakfast? Three Oat Brits (no I’m not sponsored), fifty grams of raw Muesli, thirty grams of unprocessed bran, skim milk. Or porridge (oats) and fresh fruit.

12. Flavoured rice cakes. Some people live on these things. I have to admit that I am partial to the odd flavoured rice cake. Unfortunately they have about as much nutritional value as eating your toenails. There’s a thought. Very processed and very high in sodium (salt).

13. Low-fat ice-cream. As with many other low-fat products, the lack of fat is usually compensated for with additional sugar. Won’t kill you but keep it to a minimum.

14. Low-fat frozen dinners. Apart from the fact that they’re tiny, expensive and taste like cardboard (in my opinion), they’re also jammed with preservatives and sodium. Apart from that, they’re fantastic.

15. Vegetarian meals. Some people assume that if a meal is vegetarian, it’s automatically healthy. Erroneous assumption. Some vegetarian meals are fantastic. Some are high in fat. Some are healthy. Some are not. Some vegetarian meals contain plenty of oil and other high fat ingredients like coconut milk. By the way, one cup of coconut milk contains fifty seven grams(!!!) of fat – more than most of us should consume in an entire day. Don’t avoid vegetarian food but know what you’re putting in your mouth.

The Last Bit

So grasshoppers, as is often the way with the human experience, things are not always as they seem. All I wanted to do today was to open the door on this subject and to stimulate and provoke you to be more aware and more considered when it comes to the choices you make regarding your (and possibly your family’s) nutrition. I have just scraped the surface but I would encourage you to investigate and read further. If you do nothing else, begin to read the nutritional information labels on the products you intend to buy.

Keep in mind that with many healthy products, we’re buying a concept more than we are a reality.

Ciao x

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