The holidays are often a time for indulgence – baked goods around every corner, potato chips in every bowl – but recognizing and avoiding unhealthy foods the rest of the year can be just as tricky. No Baloney wants to take some time to rant and rave about those unassuming day-to-day foods that are prominently marketed as healthy but are really nothing but sugar, fat, and salt in disguise! We find this purposeful deception alarming and want to show their true (often artificial) colours.
At least with traditional “junk food” you know what you’re getting yourself into and can make an informed decision. The foods we unveil below are just the tip of the iceberg with respect to sugar/fat/salt masquerading as health foods but represent some of the most commonly consumed unhealthy “good-for-you” foods.
Check out the nutella.ca website. The majority of the content is focused on the benefits of a healthy breakfast for children. They don’t say you need to eat Nutella, but with pictures of Nutella splashed all over and a breakfast builder option that includes Nutella as the first item, I think they want you to make the connection. They go on to talk about Canada’s Food Guide as it relates to a healthy breakfast, but we’re not entirely sure where Nutella fits in the food guide. Meat and Alternatives? Maybe if the first ingredient really was hazelnuts and not sugar…
Take a look at the nutrition label below. There are a 100 Calories per tbsp, 2 g of saturated fat, 11 g of sugar and only 1 g of protein. The only vitamin or mineral on the list that provides greater than 2% of the daily value is vitamin E.
Post Selects Cereals
Post advertises their Select Cereal line as “Delicious………..and Nutritious Too”. So nutritious foods aren’t usually delicious? That aside, there are several different flavours available, none of which are very nutritious if you read the label. For the Blueberry Morning cereal (I couldn’t even bring myself to look at the Maple Pecan Crunch!) their website advertises:
- 11 g whole grains per serving*
- Low fat
- 0 g Trans Fat per serving
- Cholesterol free
- Provides 9 essential vitamins and minerals
Nutritionists recommend eating 3 or more servings of whole grain foods per day (about 16 g whole grains per serving or at least 48 g per day).
If you read the actual label the cereal provides 220 Calories per 55 g (without milk). They advertise the importance of whole grains but Blueberry Morning cereal only provides 2 g fibre per serving. Appearing second on the ingredient list – ahead of whole grain wheat – there are 16 g of sugar per serving. While the blueberries (which are also sugar-sweetened) do provide some natural sugar, the % daily value for vitamin C is 0% – always be suspicious when fruit is a selling feature, yet the product contains no vitamin C! Kind of like a Nutri-Grain bar…
Read the labels carefully for any Jugo Juice product and you’ll see what we mean! For example, the Acai Protein Shake. Here’s their Acai Protein Story verbatim from their website.
“THE AÇAI PROTEIN STORY – Created in 2009 along with Abundant Açai, this shake was pretty much a home run with our tasting team from the beginning, blending our premium quality (and premium tasting) strawberries and organic açai berries into an energy-packed protein shake. So if you’re looking for Oprah or Rachael Ray’s diet secrets online, this might come up [emphasis mine].”
Diet secrets! Interesting I don’t know many diets that suggest you drink (liquid calories don’t fill you up as much as solid food) 400 Calories including 6 g of fat, 277 mg sodium and 49 g of sugar.
Amount Per Serving (24 oz)
Calories 400 Calories from Fat 54.0
Amount % DV
Total Fat 6.1 g 9%
Sat. Fat 2.1 g 11%
Trans Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 46.8 g 46%
Sodium 277.6 mg 12%
Carbohydrate 59.2 g 20%
Fibre 2.4 g 9%
Sugars 49.0 g
Protein 26.8 g
Vit A 5% Vit C 23%
Calcium 25% Iron 5%
If you pair the shake with their Southwest Chicken Wrap (499 Calories) as suggested on their website, you get a whopping 899 Calories in one meal! The pounds should just melt away….
Ok, I’m sure many of you wouldn’t consider Kraft Dinner a healthy food but they have a new product line, Kraft Dinner Smart, heavily advertised as a way for parents to get picky eaters to eat healthy. As far as I can tell from their website they have three “Smart” options: KD Smart Vegetables, KD Smart High Fibre, and KD Smart Flax Omega-3.
If you were to feed your child (or personally eat) KD Smart Vegetables, in addition to the ½ a serving of vegetables from cauliflower-blended noodles, you would also be getting 200 Calories, 19% of your sodium intake, 6 g of sugar, and only 2 g of fibre. I’m pretty certain that a ½ serving of straight-up cauliflower doesn’t have 200 Calories and 19% of the DV for salt.
Image from: yourbestlifenutrition.blogspot.com
There are tons of different cracker and chips being advertised as healthy – baked instead of fried, added whole grains, trans fat-free, etc. Despite clever marketing, in most cases these options are not much healthier than the original. Take the Terra Exotic Vegetable Chips Original. On the front of the bag (in LARGE FONT) they advertise their veggie chips are trans fat-free and low in sodium. The chips appear healthy because they are made with vegetables: sweet potatoes, taro, yuca (cassava), batata and ruby root.
I don’t really get the vegetable hype. Last time I checked the much-maligned potato was still classified as a vegetable. All they have done is soaked exotic (but otherwise similar to the potato) starchy vegetables in oil, cut back the salt, and charged $7 a bag. Although these chips are lower in sodium than regular potato chips they still provide 250 calories per 50 g and 16 g of fat. They are higher in fibre than a typical potato chip but otherwise don’t seem to be much higher in vitamins or minerals. Eat them if you enjoy them but be aware what you are eating more closely resembles a traditional potato chip, particularly with respect to calories, than a plate of veggies!
No Baloney’s advice? A food manufacturer’s primary goal is profit, not your personal health. They pay advertising teams millions of dollars to tap into recent research, new marketing trends and convince consumers their otherwise-low-quality foods are good for them. Be an informed shopper by reading the nutrition label and don’t be fooled by the advertising and flashy commercials. Watch for information on the front of the package. Companies tend to prominently advertise one healthy aspect of their food on the front and hide the not-so-great parts in the ingredient list and Nutrition Facts table.
There are innumerable types of unhealthy-health foods out there: sweetened yogurts; MOST granola bars; commercially-prepared “bran” muffins; flavoured, sweetened and vitamin-enhanced water; sweetened cold teas; fruit gummies, etc. Those we have highlighted above only scratch the surface of what’s out there. If you have any particularly shocking examples, feel free to share in the comments section!