Check out a jar of Smucker’s Reduced Fat Creamy Peanut Butter. Its label claims: “25% less fat than regular natural peanut butter”. But although Smucker’s has indeed removed some of the fat from the peanut butter, they’ve replaced it with something called maltodextrin, a carbohydrate used as a cheap filler in many processed foods.
Warning: this means you’re being duped into trading the healthy fat from nuts for empty carbs, double the sugar, and a savings of a meager 10 calories.
The folks over at Fooducate, one of my favourite food/nutrition blogs, offer similar warnings. This site provides practical advice on buying healthy food at your regular supermarket – and it does so without selling any pills, food, supplements or diets, and more importantly, without any industry affiliations. They advise:
“Don’t bother reading these health claims. Check the nutrition label and ingredient list to get the real picture.”
Janel Ovrut, a Boston-based dietitian, explained recently in a Prevention interview:
“From a distance, some foods seem like healthful choices because of the way they’re packaged or labeled. But just because a product’s marketing gives it an aura of health doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you.”
Here are eight more foods hyped and marketed as healthy, when actually, they are not.
- Baked potato chips (high in calories, low in nutrients, with very little fibre to fill you up. Better for you: air-popped popcorn)
- Gummy fruit snacks (contain very little fruit, lots of sugar. Better: Fresh/dried fruit)
- Diet soda (2008 studies suggested that drinking just one diet soda a day contributes to the abdominal belly fat that’s linked to heart disease. Better: Flavoured seltzer water)
- Light ice cream (Häagen-Dazs Dulce de Leche Light ice cream has 220 calories per 1/2 cup serving, higher in calories than the average full-fat ice cream, which has around 140 calories per serving. Better: soy or coconut milk ice creams have a creamy, satisfying texture)
- ‘Calorie-free’ spray margarine (convenient spray format for baking, but discourages heart-healthy oils. Better: spray-it-yourself olive oil in an oil mister)
- Non-fat salad dressing (often packed with sugar and calories – plus we need a bit of good fat to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K and other nutrients. Better: oil-based salad dressings)
- Low-fat cookies (also made with extra sugar which means higher calories. Better: oatmeal cookies made with whole wheat flour, oil, honey)
- 100-calorie snack packs (researchers find that smaller serving sizes encourage study participants to actually eat more. Better: a small serving of almonds)
According to Fooducate:
“The less a food is processed, the more likely it is to be better for you. It retains the original vitamins and minerals. Trying to reduce fat by replacing it with sugars is not going to help you lose weight or improve your health.
“A healthy candy bar is simply an oxymoron. When you do want to indulge, do so with the tastiest ice cream or candy without remorse.
“Just don’t do it too often.”
- Big Tobacco’s lessons for Big Food
- “McStatins” with your burger and fries?
- Why we eat the breakfast we do
- Pyramid vs Plate: will this new image make Americans less fat?
- “Sugar is good for you!” – and for the people who sell sugar