Thanks to Barb for pointing out this story to me. Kellogg’s has recently been under fire for conspicuously labeling boxes of sugar-laden cereals (including Cocoa Krispies) with the phrase, “Now helps boost your child’s IMMUNITY”. The company makes this claim based on the fact that the cereals have been fortified to contain 25% of the RDA for vitamins A, C and E. Critics say the company is capitalizing on parents H1N1 fears, and that fortified junk food is still …junk food. If parents really want to make sure their child has a good nutritious breakfast, I’d hope they’d think of whole foods first, rather than fortified junk in a box. Instead of the Cocoa Krispies, how about this breakfast:
A slice of toast with 1 tablespoon almond butter, and a handful of dried apricots. Not any harder to put together, and provides more immune boosting vitamins A,C, and E than the junk cereal.
Seriously, it’s sad how low food companies will stoop to put a health claim on a product. Kellog’s isn’t the only one. Ive also read in several places that the “Smart Choices” green and white checkmark is getting overhauled, and it’s about time. Sometimes I really wonder about the products I’ve seen them on… you can find the logo on Froot Loops, Cookie Crisp, Country Crock margarine, Hellman’s Mayonnaise, “Bagel-Fuls” stuffed with strawberry cream cheese, and Cheese Pizza Lunchables. Do they sound like Smart Choices to you? I hope they either scrap the program and logo altogether, or enact some actual standards that hold water. I think the logo in many of these cases is very misleading, and some people might be fooled into thinking these are healthful foods.
I recently saw a HUGE Baby Ruth candy bar at the convenience store around the corner. And right smack on the front of the label : 4 grams protein! I’d like to give the public enough credit to know that if you are looking for protein in the candy aisle, you need some dietary adjustments.
Here’s another example of misleading labeling: Today someone on a grocery tour I was leading pointed out a jar of peanut butter labeled Reduced Sugar – “33% less sugar”. Sure, the front label makes it sound decent, “33% less sugar” would be a big difference, right? Wrong.
Regular peanut butter by the same brand has 3 grams of sugar. C’mon math majors…you guessed it, the reduced sugar variety has …2 grams of sugar! A whole gram less! To clarify how insignificant that difference is, a packet of sugar you’d get on a diner tabletop contains 4 grams of sugar, so you’d save about a quarter of a packet of sugar. (The calorie, fat and protein content are all identical.) In this case, the difference was simply to get a small segment of the population to go “Ooooh, I’ll buy that one!” The same can be said for reduced fat peanut butter – you don’t save ANY calories, because they add sugar and carbohydrate in place of the fat they remove!
FYI: what’s a PB lover to do? Buy natural peanut butter – made without hydrogenated oils- full fat, and control the portion. 2 tablespoons a day fits in a healthy diet for most people. I get my 2 T daily without fail! Great brands are Smuckers Natural, Skippy Natural, Greenway, and Smart Balance.
So when a claim on the front of a package catches your eye…. check for real numbers instead of just percentages. Also, take it all into account, not just one nutrient. If the reduced-fat cookies have as many (or more) calories than the original, you might not want to get them. Extra protein or calcium in a food may not be worth it if accompanied by extra fat and calories too! So pay attention to all the numbers on the label, not just the big colorful type. You’ll never read a box of crackers that says “High in fiber, but not as good as an apple!” Even though it may be true.
Want an easy to way to foolproof your diet? You won’t be swayed by packages if you consume fewer packaged foods. Try to get as much of your diet as you can from fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, fresh meats, poultry and fish, and other unprocessed food. Despite the fact that these types of food often don’t have any marketing phrases on their packaging, they are the rich nutrient sources as is, without any doctoring or fortification! Eat abundantly from fresh, whole foods, and you won’t have to think twice about the health benefits of Baby Ruth candy bars or Cocoa Krispies.